July is UV Safety Awareness Month, which means it’s a great opportunity to think about sun safety. Sunlight can make us feel good, lifting spirits and encouraging our bodies to produce vitamin D, which has a number of health benefits. As the name indicates, vitamin D is a nutrient we can eat, but it’s also a hormone that the body produces. But what does it actually do, and how can it help our health? Let’s take a look.
There’s a reason that companies use vitamin D to fortify milk, which is rich in calcium. Your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium, so they’re both essential for building strong bones. Healthy skeletons start young. So for kids who are still growing, vitamin D is an important part of their diet.
Without enough nutrients to help bones grow strong, kids can develop other conditions. Rickets is a disease that leads to weakening and softening in the bones of children. Fortunately, good levels of vitamin D can prevent and treat rickets.
But it isn’t just kids who need vitamin D. Bones in the human body are always losing and gaining new tissue. But with osteoporosis, the body can’t produce bone tissue fast enough to keep up with the loss. The condition is most common in women over the age of 50, but others can get it as well. Medical pros can prescribe medications to reduce symptoms, but a healthy diet that includes vitamin D can also help slow the effects.
In people with multiple sclerosis, the immune system destroys the protective covering of the nerves. That keeps the brain from communicating with the body. Common symptoms are difficulty walking, spasms and fatigue. But maintaining healthy levels of vitamin D has been shown to help lower the risk of multiple sclerosis.
The positive effects of vitamin D on the immune system are still being studied. But there appears to be a connection between lower numbers of certain diseases and living in sunnier climates. Even though the research is still in progress, it’s clear that keeping vitamin D at normal levels can help you stay healthy.
The scientific community’s understanding of vitamin D is still growing. Some lab studies point to the vitamin being able to reduce inflammation, help control infections, and even reduce cancer cell growth. While there isn’t direct evidence that over-the-counter supplements have the same effect, it doesn’t hurt to get your recommended daily amount of vitamin D.
Vitamin D can be found naturally in some foods, like fatty fish, egg yolks, some meat and mushrooms. It’s also often added to others, like fortified milk and infant formula. Your body can also produce it when UV rays hit your skin, or you can take a supplement. For most people, it’s hard to get enough vitamin D just from diet. And many people aren’t able to get enough from UV because of indoor jobs and limited time outside, as well as being sun safe.
Be sure to wear sunscreen or use protective clothing to protect your skin. If you feel like you’re not getting enough vitamin D, you can always check in with your healthcare provider to see how your levels look. If you’re low on vitamin D, they might recommend supplements instead. It’s good that there are plenty of ways to get enough, without being exposed to too many harmful UV rays. Staying safe in the sun is an important part of staying healthy.
If you have questions about what proper nutrition looks like for you, or you want to know if your vitamin D is at healthy levels, make an appointment with a CHP clinic in Bozeman, Belgrade, Livingston or West Yellowstone. Providers can help answer your questions, while offering affordable healthcare.