Unfortunately, for most people, the sun is not enough anymore. I have been checking vitamin D levels for 10 years in every patient that walks through my door. I have found that over the past several years, I am prescribing five times the amount of vitamin D in most of my patients to get the levels to the therapeutic range of 80 to 90. It used to be enough to tell patients to take 1,000 to 2,000 IU of vitamin D in the winter, and then make sure to get 10 minutes of summer sun a few times per week. That, combined with a trip to somewhere warm during the winter, was enough. This regimen is no longer enough for most of us New Yorkers. I explain it to my patients this way:
When skin is exposed to sunlight, 7-dehydrocholesterol, a hormone in the skin, absorbs UVB radiation and converts it into D3. This is a good thing. We also know that vitamin D3 has diverse properties and numerous important unique biological processes. Now in 2019, even my sun worshipers that spend the winters someplace warm and surf all summer long are not getting enough vitamin D from the sun. Even these bodies need a supplement of vitamin D in pill or liquid form. The amount varies, but for many patients 3,000 to 10,000 IU is necessary for the body to have enough of this vital nutrient. Some of this shortage can be attributed to stress—and we all know that New Yorkers have a lot of stress. But that does not explain why there has been an increase over the past few years, as New York stress is not a new phenomenon. So why are we seeing this increased need for more vitamin D, even in patients that manage their stress or live in sunny areas, like Florida?
Well, I think I have the answer. One day a patient came for a breast thermography, and she had an envious tan in New York in January. Obviously, I asked where she had vacationed, and to my surprise, she said her tanning bed, two times per week religiously for years. I checked her vitamin D, and it was right where it belonged: 70 ng/dl. This was all the more surprising to me because this patient was under a tremendous amount of stress, and did not take any vitamin D. Conventional wisdom, and even my own experiences, had taught me that a tanning bed was never the answer for a healthy person. But it worked. I discussed this conundrum with an environmental engineer from John Hopkins University, and she explained that because of pollution, the UVB rays no longer makes it from the sun to our skin—they are filtered out, so to speak, from the toxins and pollution in our sky. The result for New Yorkers (and for others in highly polluted environments) is troubling because it has become increasingly difficult for the body to get enough vitamin D without taking significant amounts as part of a regular supplement regimen. The other option, of course, is going to a tanning bed twice a week. But as alluring as that may be for some of us, it is not a practical fix for most of us.
Vitamin D is a very important part of living a healthy life and preventing disease. The benefits are of Vitamin D include:
Boosting the immune system function
Manufacturing hormones, like DHEA, progesterone and testosterone
Lowering the risk for autoimmune disease
Preventing the flu, cold, and virus
Preventing/treating depression and seasonal affective disorder
Pregnant mothers protecting their unborn children
You need to be very careful with vitamin D and consult your physician or healthcare professional because there are dangers if too much is taken because it is a fat soluble vitamin. My recommended treatment is to check vitamin D 25 OH and vitamin D 125 levels twice a year—once in the fall to help calculate your winter dose, and again in the spring to calculate your summer dosage. Vitamin D is an important part of cancer prevention. Numerous studies have shown that healthy levels of vitamin D can help reduce chances of breast, colon and prostate cancer.
So what can you do to make sure your body has enough vitamin D?
Ask your doctor to check your vitamin D 25OH levels.
Keep your vitamin D 25OH level between 80 to 90 ng/dl.
Actively work to decrease your stress.
Share this information with everyone you love (and those you like, and even those you tolerate!).