So recent routine bloodwork shows me to be deficient in Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency? Wasn’t that something that plagued Victorian slum-dwelling urchins? Who then developed rickets? How did I get a 19th Century condition? And does this mean I’m now destined to become a chimney sweep?
Surprisingly, Vitamin D deficiency isn’t as uncommon as you’d think in this century. No sooner had I posted this on Facebook than more than half a dozen women commented that they had been diagnosed as well. Then there is this: England, once the land of Gout and Rickets, is once again becoming the land of Gout and Rickets. So why are we suddenly losing all our Vitamin D?
You’ll remember from your seventh grade science or health classes that Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin. Your body synthesizes it fairly easily from certain of the sun’s rays, but not so easily from food. Although there are a number of foods rich in Vitamin D, most of which I eat heartily — such as salmon, tuna, eggs, cheese. (In fact, to demonstrate how much salmon I eat, note that we are still working our way through the two 20 lb. salmon Andy caught. And he tells me, this weekend, he’s going out again!) However, as I’ve been reading, it’s still not all that easy to get your Vitamin D from food. In response, governments decades ago began mandating or encouraging the fortification of things like bread, cereal and milk with additional Vitamin D. Since I’m lactose intolerant and not that interested in bread, none of this is helping me. And in this day of gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan eating, many other people aren’t getting that extra D either. Perhaps as a result, Vitamin D deficiency is, by some accounts, affecting a huge segment of our population. And as an aside, did anyone in that aforementioned seventh grade science or health class remember this little factoid teachers always used to lay on us: A polar bear’s liver is so full of Vitamin A and D, that if you ate it, you would die of vitamin toxicity. Not that I would consider sacrificing a polar bear to combat this condition. But the whole situation did bring up that little scientific nugget which has been filed away in my brain for decades apparently just for the purposes of regurgitating it on this post. Since it’s been so long, I did cross-reference this factoid on The Google. Apparently it’s the Vitamin A in polar bear liver that will kill you. No mention of Vitamin D. Scratch polar bear liver from my restorative diet.
So let’s get back to the sun, which is the best, most efficient way to get your Vitamin D. Apparently, it’s not just any sun, it’s certain kinds of rays. And if you live in latitudes more northerly than Atlanta, Georgia, the curve of the earth prevents you from getting those rays in the winter. There are two ways Mother Nature helps you out with that: 1) Seems ten minutes a day of full body exposure to the noon sun in summer will top up your reserves enough to get you through the winter. 2) Redheads — who are native to those northern climes — have the most efficient skin for absorbing and synthesizing Vitamin D.
But here’s the problem: who’s lying out in the sun these days? I’ve spent decades religiously slathering on sunscreen of the highest SPF I can find. I also don’t do anything in the sun without a large floppy brimmed hat. That includes swimming where I’ve perfected a sort of breast stroke/doggie paddle that lets me swim in a hat. I also wear long sleeved shirts hiking and long sleeved oversized rash guards in the pool. Because I don’t trust even the highest SPF not to wash off/sweat off/be wiped off within the first hour of activity. At least a little sun gets through judging by the fact that my legs and wrists manage to get a bit browner after a summer of working out in the vineyards. Imagine people who are working long hours in an office. They have even less sun exposure.
Unsurprisingly, Vitamin D deficiency is now being called a pandemic by some health agencies. I was inclined to be skeptical — as were some of my fellow diagnosees who commented on Facebook. Is Vitamin D deficiency the “Condition Du Jour” or is it a real thing? Well, the consequences of D deficiency are really scary and go on beyond Rickets. So for now I plan to take the 1000iu pills I’ve been prescribed, get a little sun exposure, eat all the salmon Andy can catch and wish I was a redhead.
But I’m laying off that polar bear liver.
NOTE: I try to use my own pictures — but it’s been ages since I photographed Victorian street urchins, Kate Upton or polar bears. I can’t find the photographer’s name attached to any of these images. Although the Upton photo is obviously courtesy of Sports Illustrated. If anyone recognizes these, let me know and I’ll make proper attribution.
Trust me, no self-respecting redhead (of which I are one) is going to be caught dead outdoors these days without nuclear sunscreen, hat (Columbia make wonderful UV ray-resistant hats, that are also very cooling), sleeves, etc.
I’ve been noticing recently that I really am freckle-coated, especially on my arms. I’m thinking I ought to have a lifetime supply of Vitamin D saved up. But I could be wrong.
Good luck. Enjoy salmon-fest!
Interesting. I have long wondered if we would see D deficiency as sunscreen has become so widely used and, sure enough, here it is. I guess I’m probably fine, since I don’t use it. Yes, I have extra wrinkles, but that’s okay. I’d rather be wrinkly that D deficient. It has been many years since I sunbathed, but I know that just a few minutes of sun daily on hands and face is enough for most white people to get their D up.
Zoomie, the Google tells me different. I read that it takes about 15 minutes of nearly full body exposure to noontime rays for most days in the summer to get your yearly D dosage. (Less if you are a redhead.) And if you are at certain latitudes, outside of summer, the sun you get isn’t even the rays that produce D.
I’ve been doing the suppplements for years, can’t trust veggies…I wear solum bra shirts and big hats too in the pools, and when with nieces they are so disappointed I don’t go “under” because well, floppy hats and sunglasses and coatings of face and sunscreen don’t do well underwater…so I”m debbie downer. But at least I go. I didn’t coat up enough ONE DAY and ALL the brown freckles came back on my arms that it took me two years plus to get rid of so be careful ladies! If you have the money, Great studies out of Stanford about IPL and BBL the light therapy that TRULY does literally pull the brown spots out of your skin, and as Stanford studies say, even pulls latent skin cancer right out. after a few days (I’ve seen photos) your skin surface looks like you have tiny coffee grounds covering it as you begin to slough off (I like that word, slough) the brown skin freckles and such. it also brightens and tightens!!!!! If only I could afford to do a ful body. or face. or arms! or décolleté !!! Santa? Can you hear me!?
Me too! I think it’s all a big load of BS. I’m out in the sun and have the skin damage to prove it. I did read something, however, that this deficiency can be an indicator of weak bones in the future. THAT makes sense to me when explained that my old bones aren’t processing elements like a Sports Illustrated model.
Life’s a bitch.
Taking supplements too. All the rage these days in medical community. Never minded any freckles. Also covered in moles. So it goes.
That I have made is to this age without skin cancer, amazing. Will happily pop the pills and slather on sunscreen. I remember first freckles on eyelids when visiting college friend in Florida (18 and stayed out wee bit too long – before sunscreen came to be). They faded out eventually, but felt fancy for a while.