For centuries ancient cultures worshiped the sun. These people saw the sun as a source of life that was necessary to grow crops for food. The sun became thought of as a god that gives energy to the world around them. In modern times we do not worship the sun as ancient cultures did, but it still plays a crucial role in our lives and our health. The sun is still necessary to grow the foods we need to sustain ourselves, as well as provide us with the best source of vitamin D. This vitamin functions as a hormone, and every single cell in your body has a receptor for it. Many of the natural mechanisms in the body require vitamin D like muscle movement and proper immune function.
Emerging research supports the possible role of vitamin D against cancer, heart disease, fractures and falls, autoimmune diseases, influenza, type-2 diabetes, and depression. The most recent evidence suggests that vitamin D supplementation could reduce the risk of COVID-19 infections and deaths. What's really concerning is about 1 billion people worldwide have vitamin D deficiency, while 50% of the population has vitamin D insufficiency. The prevalence of patients with vitamin D deficiency is highest in the elderly, obese patients, nursing home residents, and hospitalized patients.
So how do you know if you are deficient in vitamin D? Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency can include sickness or infection, fatigue, bone and back pain, depression, impaired wound healing, bone loss, hair loss, and muscle pain. Keep in mind that none of the symptoms can tell you for sure. You should always go to your doctor for a proper diagnosis. They can call for tests to measure your vitamin D levels and find out if you are deficient or not.
What do you do if you are deficient in vitamin D? While the sun is the best way for our bodies to get vitamin D by creating it from the absorption of sunlight through the skin, it is also present in foods and supplements. Getting vitamin D from sunlight is the easiest and cheapest way, but there is also danger in too much sun exposure.
Prolonged sun exposure can lead to an array of health concerns like sunburn, dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke. Over time, excessive sunburn can lead to skin damage, premature skin aging, and skin cancer. Sunscreen can help protect your skin while outdoors for long periods. Drinking water to stay hydrated is incredibly important as well. Most healthy people can tolerate between a 3% to 4% loss of body water without symptoms. After 5%, dizziness, headaches, and fatigue can develop. As the water loss exceeds 10%, severe symptoms can develop, including decreased urination, confusion, and seizures.
If you are in an area that doesn't get as much sunlight as most or are unable to be out in the sun enough, you can increase your vitamin D levels with food. Many foods are rich with vitamin D, including salmon, egg yolks, mushrooms, and fortified foods. These are great options, along with raw vitamin D supplements made from whole foods.
So get outside this summer and harness the power of the sun to stay happy and healthy! Make sure to use the right sunscreen when necessary and stay hydrated, with lots of water. If you are already deficient in vitamin D, work with your doctor to create a plan by incorporating certain foods into your diet or a vitamin D supplement. Keep your body healthy the way mother nature intended!