One reason to love sunshine is it’s role in producing vitamin D in our body. That is why it’s called the sunshine vitamin! Vitamin D is getting a lot of attention these days for all the good things it does. It promotes calcium absorption, which is important for building bones. It is said to be involved in modulation of cell growth, neuromuscular and immune function and reduction of inflammation. These are of interest to all individuals, but especially for us with RA (rheumatoid arthritis).
There are three ways to get vitamin D, a fat soluble vitamin. Sunlight, food and supplements are the three ways. Let’s talk about each of them.
First Source of Vitamin D is Sunshine
Sunshine doesn’t contain vitamin D, but it promotes the synthesis of it in our body. When our skin is exposed to UVB light rays, the rays penetrate the uncovered skin and convert cholesterol, a cutaneous chemical, into vitamin D3. Vitamin D3, referred to as cholecalciferol, is the most biologically active form of vitamin D. (The other form is made by plants called vitamin D2, or ergocalciferol.) It is suggested that 10 to 15 minutes of sunlight exposure a day supplies the daily recommendation of vitamin D. Those of us living north of 40 degree latitude, (that would be north of Pittsburgh or Salt Lake City), don’t get sunlight strong enough to produce vitamin D in the winter months to meet this recommendation. Sunscreen would be a factor, as well, as it filters out UV rays. For that reason I look to the other two sources to augment the amount of vitamin D I get from sun exposure.
Second Source of Vitamin D is a Few Foods
Very few foods in nature contain vitamin D. Salmon, tuna, and egg yolks are some. Milk, some brands of orange juice and some dry cereals are fortified with vitamin D.
Third Source of Vitamin D is Supplements
Vitamin D supplements are available over-the-counter and by prescription only, depending on the strength. Vitamin D is included in many multiple vitamins. Over-the-counter strengths are from 400 International Units (IU) to 5,000 IU per tablet. You can get both vitamin D2 and Vitamin D3 at a dose of 50,000 IU by prescription.
The test measuring vitamin D levels in the body is the 25-hydroxy-vitamin-D blood test. It is measured in nanograms per milliliter. In general, you want your level to be between 20 and 50 nanograms per milliliter. There has been active debate on this issue and if you’d like to read more, here is an article for you from Harvard Publications!
Here are current daily recommendations for vitamin D:
- Child and Teen 600 IU/day
- Adults up to 70 yrs 600 IU/day
- Adults 71 yrs+ 800 IU/day
- Pregnant Woman 600 IU/day
- Breastfeeding 600 IU/day
Vitamin D deficiency can lead to rickets or osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a potential problem for those of us with RA to begin with. Taking prednisone can lead to weakened bones. I took prednisone for years, so I am definitely cognizant of my vitamin D intake, remembering it is needed for calcium absorption. Because Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin and can be stored in the body, it is possible to get too much. That rarely happens and is usually caused by high dosing supplements.
I love to see how nature provides for us! I am amazed by how our body synthesizes vitamin D from rays of sunshine. What is not to love about that!
So, we have these three sources of vitamin D. Although few foods contain the sunshine vitamin, the daily recommendation should be obtainable with a little sunshine and supplementation. And that is using Arthritis Wisdom!