Vitamin D Deficiency, Fish, and the Sun

It began with twitching in my hands, then in my calves. Then, I felt the same sensation in my eyelids. At times, it bothered me so much that I could not sleep. Of course, my mind went to the worst places. Do I have ALS? A good friend had an ALS scare and was this the same thing? I scoured the Internet and that just made things worse. I was under a lot of stress with many things in my life and this was yet, another. I went to the doctor for some testing.

Supplements for Vitamin D deficiency

It turns out that I had hypovitaminosis D or rather, I was Vitamin D deficient. The tests showed that I needed more Vitamin D for everything to function correctly. This was a few years ago and it was in the dead of winter in Buffalo, NY. My doctor told me that this was actually quite common locally because of the lack of direct sunlight exposure during the winter. He gave me a prescription for Vitamin D supplements and that was that. The odd symptoms eventually went away, thankfully.

Impact of strict sun protection

When this happened again during the middle of summer, I began to realize that my strict sun protection regimen may have some unintended side effects. Once again, I went to the doctor and once again I was prescribed 50,000IU of Vitamin D supplements to be taken weekly. Once again, I was fine. But, then it hit me. What am I supposed to do with regard to getting enough sun for my Vitamin D needs and not getting too much with regard to sun protection?

Recommended intake of Vitamin D

I did some research on the subject and here is what I found. In its position statement on Vitamin D, the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention (NCSCP) recommends a total intake of 600IU daily (which can be achieved through diet and supplements) for people of all skin types from infancy to 70 years of age who protect their skin from the sun.1 They also recommend a total daily intake of 800IU for individuals over 70 years of age.1

Food sources of Vitamin D

The position statement lists selected food sources of Vitamin D, including various types of fish, fortified orange juice and milk, yogurt, eggs, some cereals, and cheese. So, according to these recommendations, I can expect to benefit from seafood beyond fighting heart disease. I can get vitamin D without UV radiation exposure. The NCSCP recommends that people avoid intentional exposure to the sun or any sort of unnatural UV radiation (tanning beds) as a means for obtaining Vitamin D.1

Ultraviolet lamps

I know of many people who have been prescribed time under Ultra Violet lamps as part of a regimen to mitigate the effects of Vitamin D deficiency. It is understandable that no one wants to feel the effects of hypovitaminosis D, many of which can be serious and devastating if ignored over time. But, this seems to be a cautionary tale, where the solution may, in fact, be as dangerous as the condition. Sun exposure is known to cause skin cancer and should always be considered as part of any medical prescription.

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