Phil Carville: The need for Vitamin D
Special to The Union
Right now, we are all rightly concerned about the COVID-19 crisis. We need to “flatten the curve” with a national strategy, wear masks and practice social distancing. Hopefully, there will be a vaccine available by the end of the year.
With such a disaster, it is easy to forget about the daily heath practices that are important in our lives. You may not be able to control COVID-19, but you still can control what you eat and how you exercise.
During my last medical checkup, my doctor asked, “Do you ever feel depressed?” I said, “Maybe once in a while, but not really.” I asked, “What makes you ask that question?”
He said, “Your blood report indicates you are low in Vitamin D. You should be taking Vitamin D as a supplement. A Vitamin D deficiency is often associated with low moods or depression.”
Vitamins are nutrients that your body cannot produce, so you must get them from food. However, that said, your body can produce Vitamin D.
Despite its name, Vitamin D is not a vitamin. It is a prohormone which is a substance that your body converts into a hormone. Only about 10% of your Vitamin D needs come from food and the rest your body makes for itself.
The Vitamin D hormone is produced by your kidneys to control blood calcium and impact the immune system. This hormone is known as calcidiol and its levels are what doctors measure to assess your level of Vitamin D.
Your body also makes Vitamin D in a chemical reaction that occurs when sunlight hits your skin. This reaction produces cholecalciferol which your liver then converts calcidiol. Yes, your body is a magnificent machine… it is all done without you having to think about it.
However, sunscreens with a protection factor (SPF) of 30 can reduce your body’s ability to synthesize vitamin D by 95% or more. Obviously, clothing does the same.
Vitamin D is essential for several reasons, including healthy bones and teeth and may protect against a range of diseases (studies have shown that persons with a Vitamin D deficiency are more at risk for COVID-19). It plays a role in supporting immune, brain and nervous system health. It regulates insulin levels, supports diabetes management/lung function/cardiovascular health and positive mental and emotional states.
During this COVID-19 crisis, it is easy to focus solely the virus and forget about taking care of the “little things” of our health. Lack of Vitamin D is one of those “little things” that can cause big issues: regular infection, fatigue, bone and back pain, depression or “low moods,” hair loss, muscle pain and the list goes on. Presently 53 million people in America are at risk of osteoporosis (weakened bones) because of a lack of Vitamin D. Long term deficiencies can result in much more serious afflictions.
I usually do not recommend supplements because there are so many gimmicks out there. But since your body does not make all the Vitamin D that it needs, a reputable Vitamin D supplement is a good practice. But natural sources are always the better way to go.
Some natural sources I recommend are fatty fish (salmon, tuna, etc.), cheese, eggs, other dairy, fortified cereals, mushrooms, and most important of all … skinny dipping in the South Yuba River on these hot August days… for the sunshine, of course!
We live in a wonderful area. Take care of yourselves. We will get through this together. Peace!
Phil Carville is a co-owner of the South Yuba Club. He is happy to respond to questions or comments. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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