Songs are written about it. Psychologists have proven that it can lift our spirits. It warms us, mystifies babies with its dancing beams, and creates a perfect day for us at the beach. Without it, our solar system wouldn’t even exist! Of course we are talking about the sun! Sunshine provides all of us with Vitamin D, an amazing nutrient that plays an integral part in our overall health. So, why is Vitamin D so important and what do we do with the conflicting information about this essential nutrient and sun safety?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that during sunny days, our bodies can make sufficient Vitamin D with just a few minutes of midday sunshine minus any sunscreen. We all know that dermatologists are wary of too much sun exposure without sunscreen due to the increase of skin damage and skin cancer among young adults. Supplemental Vitamin D is a good alternative to this essential nutrient that does wonders for our overall wellness and bone health.
So, how does it work? From the physician-authored and evidence based website, UpToDate®, Vitamin D is a prohormone that is “synthesized in the skin after exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Less than 10 percent of vitamin D comes from dietary sources in the absence of food fortification or use of supplements. The prohormone is then converted to the metabolically active form in the liver and kidneys.” Essentially, Vitamin D is important because it helps our body’s ability to absorb calcium, giving us strong bones and healthy muscles. Because there is an insurgence of more sunscreen use due to a focus on skin cancer prevention, doctors are seeing more Vitamin D deficiencies.
Dr. Ellen Raney of Shriners Hospital is joining forces with other physician groups nationwide so that Vitamin D awareness is raised. Raney explained in a recent AAP article that “Vitamin D deficiency or nutritional rickets can show up in several ways. If the problem starts early, kids’ growth may be severely stunted. The arms or legs may not grow straight, or bones may be weak and easily broken.” A daily intake of 400 IU per day of Vitamin D during the first year of a child’s life and 600 IU for children over one year is generally recommended. However, always consult your physician about any questions you may have about supplements and appropriate dosages.
Nutritional deficiencies are commonly the result of an improper diet. With a Vitamin D deficiency, usual intake is generally lower than recommended levels over time because of a limited exposure to sunlight. What happens then is the kidneys cannot convert the absorption of Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency can also often be associated with milk allergies, lactose intolerance, vegetarianism, and veganism. Babies fed solely by breast milk may also suffer from a Vitamin D deficiency. Mothers who take Vitamin D supplements while breastfeeding pass those higher levels of Vitamin D on to their infant, benefitting their child. A new study has recently suggested that higher Vitamin D in infants is also proving to show a decrease in ADHD symptoms, as they become toddlers, offering one more reason to maintain a healthy dose of this nutrient.
Other groups that can often develop Vitamin D deficiencies include older adults that spend less time outdoors; people that limit their sun exposure either for religious reasons (a burqa, for example) or due to skin cancer awareness. Dark-skinned individuals and people with inflammatory bowel disease also have a reduced ability to absorb Vitamin D and may require the help of supplements.
Even though the sun is a potential source of Vitamin D, the AAP advises that parents keep infants out of direct sunlight and have them wear protective clothing and sunscreen during prime sunshine hours, which are 10am-2pm. If you are concerned about your child’s Vitamin D intake, please contact Dr. Shaw or Dr. Kellow for further information to ensure their optimal Vitamin D health. For more information on Association of Childcare Physicians, LTD., call 618-235-2311 or visit http://childcarephysicians.com.