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Embrace the sunshine vitamin: Natural sunshine stimulates the production of Vitamin D

I mostly get clients with elevated sugar levels, aches and pains in the body, mood swings etc. People are jumping onto painkillers, diabetic medicines, etc. And, I am constantly telling them – 'Can you please get your vitamin D3 checked?'

Most of the times I get resistance and they don't think that the problem lies there. Finally, when they agree to get the test and find out that their vitamin D3 levels are low, it takes me a while to explain to them that a lot of their other health issues are caused due to this low vitamin D3 level!

The world cannot exist without the rays of the sun and it's not surprising your life too can be messed up without this sunshine. The most important ingredient for the body to be at optimum levels is sunshine! Natural sunshine stimulates the production of Vitamin D in the human body. It's no wonder that Vitamin D is often called the Sunshine Vitamin - technically a hormone produced within the body when the skin is exposed to the ultraviolet B rays in sunlight.

It is so sad that people have just stopped being out in the sun! Gone are the days when you had homes with gardens. I remember my grandmother always sitting in her garden or balcony basking in the sun after her bath and encouraging all her grandkids to do so. Often in the Western world, we do see people crowding the beaches to sunbathe and rightly so! It is a natural reaction after being starved from sunlight leading to low D levels often causing one to feel gloom popularly known as the Seasonal Affective Disorder Syndrome or SAD syndrome.

What scares me, even more, is that even little babies are born with low levels of Vitamin D! I have come across infants and toddlers with Vitamin D deficiencies.

It is an epidemic through all ages! Unfortunately, once you hit your fifties your body doesn't produce Vitamin D as easily.

There are so many factors that come into play when it comes to the absorption of this vitamin. For example, Your skin colour plays an important role in the levels of Vitamin D. The darker your skin the more time is required in the sunlight as compared to fair skin. A very important factor to note is that you require more Vitamin D if you have more muscle weight.

You may take as much sunlight as you can but if you do not eat the good fats, your body will not absorb the vitamin as Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. And this is where the vicious cycle begins.

As I mentioned above, Vitamin D has been shown to decrease blood sugar levels. Studies show that low vitamin D levels are constantly associated with type II diabetes.

If your Vitamin D levels are maintained well, it may control your sugar. The same area in the brain that is important in weight regulation is also very important in controlling glucose. And this is where studies have suggested that Vitamin D may play a role in influencing the brain location that controls blood sugar levels. These same studies are determined by performing glucose tolerance tests; that Vitamin D in the brain could improve glucose tolerance.

Another very interesting study was that insulin resistance definitely improved with improved levels of Vitamin D. Therefore, women with PCOS/PCOD too must keep their levels in check.

So, we can definitely conclude that Vitamin D is a possible friend in the fight against diabetes.

It is very interesting to learn that Vitamin D acts as a regulator to your thyroid gland and low levels of D can increase hyperthyroid making you sluggish and gain weight. One of the root causes of calcium deficiency is insufficient levels of Vitamin D as it helps the absorption of calcium. Thus, D3 deficiency can cause osteoporosis and joint pains. The latest research is showing that heart health is too linked with D levels in the body. Alzheimer's, Memory and Dementia all can be prevented if there is sufficient production of Vitamin D in the body.

Today in cancer prevention and care Vitamin D plays a crucial role as it may prevent the cancer cells from forming and slows the progression of various cancers of the breast, prostate and pancreas. It is very important to consume good quality fat cow's ghee, coconut oil, nuts and seeds.

A lot of my clients who had cancer and were undergoing chemotherapy have been prescribed with a daily dose of 60,000 units of vitamin D during the course of their treatment.

Vitamin D2 and D3 are very important for the body. D2 is procured from plants and d3 from exposure to sunlight. Both are converted in the liver then transported to the kidney where it activates such that it can be used by the body. Oily fish, egg and shitake mushrooms are your only food sources for vitamin D.

We are lucky that we live in a country where the ultraviolet rays from the sun are not high enough to cause us harm and give us skin cancer. So, fear not the sun, embrace it and see that it is in your life every day. If you are not used to taking sunlight, begin slowly with 5 minutes a day gradually increasing to thirty minutes without any sunscreen is more than enough for your body to synthesise Vitamin D.

- The writer is a Mumbai-based nutritionist and health consultant

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