Sunny day in San Diego, California. Photo taken by Christine McCully

As fall is approaching and the days are getting shorter. Are you making time for some fun in the sun?

Happy Autumn! Pumpkins need their sun too.

Pumpkin Patch Yucaipa, California. Photo taken by Christine McCully

About nine months ago I woke up feeling wiped out, my whole body ached like I wrestled with someone during the night and lost. I started to think of ominous conditions that run in my family- Diabetes, heart disease, and  cancer. I quickly made an appointment to see my primary care physician. After I received results of my thorough examination and blood work I was relieved to learn everything was normal, except that I was Vitamin D deficient! I live in sunny southern California and I am deficient from something I can get outside for free? I thought that between driving, walking in my neighborhood, and playing with my kid in the park that I should be getting more than the recommended amount of Vitamin D from sun exposure each day. I was wrong.

Getting some Vitamin D on vacation with my family.

Dealing with a Vitamin D deficiency seemed more like suffering from chronic disease than dealing with a temporary condition. I felt like something was terribly wrong. I was fatigued, suffered from aches and pains, and even at times felt depressed. It clearly infringed on the normal activities of my daily life. Studies have shown that Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to depression, insulin resistance, obesity, diabetes, and cancer.

The normal level for Vitamin D is between 30-100 ng/ml, and my test registered at a level 13 ng/ml. To treat my Vitamin D deficiency my doctor prescribed a mega dose of 50,000 International Units of  Vitamin D weekly for 3 months. After a few weeks I was feeling significantly better, and even had more energy. When I returned for a follow-up visit to my doctor  I had my Vitamin D level re-checked, and it came up to 20! Although this was an improvement, it was still on the lower end of  normal. Not being one to rest on my blood test laurels I wanted to bring it up even higher. So this summer I decided to do something radically different, and even considered dangerous by many in the medical field. I stopped using sunscreen. This still makes my fair skinned husband and friends cringe, but I was determined to bring my Vitamin D level up. To keep sun damage to a bare minimum I did try to avoid the peak hours of dangerous UV exposure, and would wear my Hollywood sunglasses and hat when I ventured in the sun. Throughout the summer I definitely soaked in some unfiltered UV rays. It appears this is just what I needed. I am happy to report that my Vitamin D level has come up to an optimal level of 42 ng/ml. I plan on maintaining this achievement with healthy doses of sunshine, and will keep a check on my Vitamin D level by getting it assessed during my routine yearly wellness exam.

As we get older our body is not as efficient in synthesizing Vitamin D. I thought I was getting enough sunshine in southern California, but perhaps in the effort to prevent skin damage, skin cancer, and wrinkles I slathered on too much sunscreen and overestimated how much sun I was actually getting.

What about you? When was the last time you had your Vitamin D level checked?



Life in the Blue Zone

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