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  • Writer's pictureDr. Corina Kibsey

Why you probably need a vitamin D supplement... even in the summer

I’m sure that by now we’re all familiar with the importance of taking vitamin D. This is especially true if you’re a fellow Canadian. Canada’s high latitude means we don’t get very much sunlight, especially in the winter.

But how about the summertime? We get these heat waves with blazing sun, surely that’s enough vitamin D, right? Wrong! Read on to find out why you may need to take a vitamin D supplement, even in the summer.

Is there actually vitamin D in sunshine?

We have heard vitamin D referred to as “the sunshine vitamin”. But does that mean sunshine actually contains vitamin D? Let’s get this out of the way first: no. The idea that sunshine actually contains vitamin D is nothing but a myth.

What the sunshine does contain is ultraviolet rays. These rays are what convert vitamin D into D3. D3 is the active form that our body uses for various functions. So no, the sunshine doesn’t contain vitamin D in it, but it does contain the UV rays that are necessary for our bodies to be able to get the active form of vitamin D.

How much sunshine do we need to get enough vitamin D?

In general, here in Canada we need 30 minutes of sunshine per day on exposed skin in order to have sufficient levels of vitamin D.

Are certain people at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency?

30 minutes per day is not actually enough for most people. If you have a darker complexion, your skin contains more melanin. This prevents your skin from absorbing UV rays. This is why people with darker complexions are at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency.

Even if you are outside with exposed skin for 30 minutes each day, your skin isn’t absorbing as much of that sunlight that’s needed to convert vitamin D into its active form.

Can I still get vitamin D if I wear sunscreen?

Nope! Sunscreen may block out ultraviolet rays, but that’s also what we need in order to convert vitamin D to its active form. Now I’m not saying to ditch your sunscreen bottle. Skin protection is important, too. Just keep in mind that when I say you need at least 30 minutes per day in the sun with exposed skin, that means without sunscreen.

It’s important to protect your skin from ultraviolet rays to prevent aging and skin cancer. This is why you may want to continue using sunscreen and take a vitamin D supplement.

Do I still need to take a vitamin D supplement in the summer?

Ah, the question of the hour. My answer is yes! Chances are you aren’t getting at least 30 minutes of sunshine on exposed skin every single day throughout the summer. If you have a darker complexion and/or wear sunscreen, then you’re at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency. There’s nothing wrong with taking vitamin D in the summer. In fact, it can be helpful!

Is there such a thing as too much vitamin D?

Yes, there is. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, so there is what we call an upper toxicity limit. However, this amount is quite high. If you want to start taking a vitamin D supplement, speak to your healthcare provider first to determine what dose would be best for you.

How can I get the most out of my vitamin D supplement?

Like I said, vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. In order to enhance the absorption of your vitamin D, take it with a meal that contains fat. If you take a fat supplement, such as an omega-3, then take your vitamin D with it. It will encourage the absorption of vitamin D and you’ll get the most out of your supplement.

If you are interested in having your vitamin D levels tested or in taking a vitamin D supplement, click Contact at the top of this page and book an appointment with Dr. Corina, Naturopathic Doctor today!

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