by Sarah Johnson, RD, CFP®
The way people view retirement these days has changed. Individuals are seeking and planning for more active, fulfilling retirements than ever before. When working hard to save for retirement, do not forget that happiness and wealth are largely dependent upon the foundation of your overall health. Getting sufficient Vitamin D, the “Sunshine Vitamin,” is one easy step everyone can take.
How Vitamin D affects your overall health:
- Improves lung function in those with asthma.
- Lung health is especially crucial during Covid19!
- Keeps your bones strong.
- Over 55% of adults in the USA have low bone density.
- Promotes positive gut health, protects, and restores good bacteria in the gut.
- Reduces chronic inflammation.
- Helps keep you looking and feeling young.
- Lowers your risk of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, type I and Type II diabetes.
- Can reduce the risk of breast cancer by 50% and colon cancer by 75%.
How to know if you are deficient in Vitamin D
- You may have low Vitamin D if you:
- Live in the northern hemisphere (HELLO MINNESOTANS!)
- Are over the age of 50
- Suffer from or are at risk for obesity – BMI over 30 (calculate yours here)
- Have a diet low in fish and fortified dairy
Signs and symptoms:
- Look out for these signs and symptoms of low vitamin D – though this is not a complete list:
- Low bone density
- Depression and anxiety
- Autoimmune disease
- The best way to know your Vitamin D levels is to get tested. While all healthcare providers should be able to perform the test, check with your insurance first, to make sure you are aware of potential costs.
How to best get your daily dose:
Sun Is King (or sun lamps for winter in the northern hemisphere)
Hands down, the best and most natural way to get your Vitamin D is from the sun. While there are other issues with too much sun exposure, there is no way to get too much vitamin D from the sun, as your body transforms it into a non-toxic form. Isn’t the body amazing?
- Most people only need 15 minutes a day during peak sun hours (10am-3pm). A simple tip is to try waiting 15 minutes to apply your sunscreen. Upper body has more receptors than your lower body, so try to make sure it’s not just your legs that are seeing the light.
- You may also notice an improvement in your gut function when you get sufficient Vitamin D from the sun, and with 74% of Americans suffering from gut and digestion issues, this is a huge benefit.
If you have low levels of vitamin D, and your time in the sun is not cutting it, supplementation can be an option. When looking at supplements, ask your provider for a trusted brand and look for one that contains K2 in order to maintain proper calcium levels in your body.
Many people ask “what level of vitamin D should I be taking?” It is important to note that setting optimum vitamin D levels should be personalized, as your vitamin D requirement is unique. So many things from genetics, to magnesium levels, to inflammation can affect how well you absorb and metabolize vitamin D. A supplement intake that works for one person may not be appropriate for another. Talk with a registered dietitian or your MD, and get your levels tested.
Unlike most other nutrients our bodies need, Vitamin D is not readily found in high amounts in foods, though it is found in small quantities in cod liver oil, beef liver, and fatty fish such as salmon and tuna. As you can see, it can be difficult to meet your requirements day in and day out with food alone. While your diet may not reach your full daily requirements, it certainly is an important piece of the puzzle.
Just like with a financial plan, there is no “one size fits all” plan for your optimal health, but starting with some awareness about your Vitamin D intake is a great place to start, as your health truly is your greatest investment.