It’s not new that the Philippines gets really hot and sunny most of the time. And when the sun’s high, we automatically stay away from its harsh rays or lather on extra sunscreen to protect our skin (and avoid unwanted tan lines). But, did you know that avoiding the sun can actually weaken our immune system and soften our bones because of the lack of Vitamin D we’re getting?
During a recent visit to the LifeScience Center for Wellness and Health, I found out that there is such a thing as Vitamin D deficiency. To know more about it, we talked to Dr. Zoe Arugay on the cause, effects, and other details on this condition.
#1 20 to 30 minutes exposure to sunlight is needed
You might be thinking, “Are you serious? It’s too hot outside!” However, Dr. Zoe says that since our main source of Vitamin D comes from the sun, it is recommended that we stay under it for 30 minutes at most. “The old notion that it has to be in the morning is not applicable now. The recommendation now is 20 to 30 minutes full exposure, at noon. It has to be directly on top of you and it has to be bathing you with sun rays,” she says.
She also adds that a lot of experts disagree on this since it might put us at risk for skin cancer, especially given the high temperature. “This can be a cause for deficiency because you’re not getting exposed to sunlight,” she says. But if you’re not keen on staying under the sun that long, you can also take prescribed Vitamin D supplements.
#2 People with darker skin are more at risk
Dr. Zoe notes that a person with darker skin color have more melanin, which lessens the absorption of Vitamin D in the skin. “Moreover, we have to also consider that we have to have full exposure for that. If you have sunscreen or clothing [covering most of our shoulders and arms], it’s actually blocking the sunlight more,” she advises.
#3 Your diet might put you at risk, as well
Not eating fish, eggs, butter, and other Vitamin D-rich foods can also lead to deficiency. This means that vegetarians and vegans are at risk of this. For this, Dr. Zoe recommends, “They have to incorporate other sources like portobello mushroom, and some fortified products like milk. They just have to check the labels.”
She adds that since Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, it should be taken with oil and fatty foods for better absorption to the body.
#4 How to check if you have it
As of now, Dr. Zoe says it can only be traced through a blood test. However, she says there are also warning signs. “Your immunity [can be] compromised. You can even have mood problems or hormonal imbalance. These are signs that you probably need your Vitamin D to be checked,” she says.
#5 Some medications can hinder Vitamin D absorption
Aside from the causes mentioned above, Dr. Zoe says that taking certain medications can affect Vitamin D absorption. “[Mostly] cholesterol-lowering drugs. Because once sunlight hits the skin, it converts the cholesterol in your body into a form of Vitamin D that passes through our liver and kidneys,” she explains. Other medications she cited are anti-tuberculosis and anti-seizure drugs.
#6 Lack of Vitamin D can cause bone problems and cancer
“It regulates calcium in the body. Vitamin D is needed by calcium to be absorbed,” Dr. Zoe emphasizes. So if left untreated, Vitamin D deficiency can cause your bones to soften and lead to osteoporosis as we get older. For kids, it may lead to rickets or the bowing of the leg bones.
Besides that, it might also cause cancer since “Vitamin D is also said, in some studies, to have a protective effect on cancer.” This means that it can lessen the risk of contracting chronic diseases such as this.
LifeScience Center for Health and Wellness. 8/F ACCRA Law Tower, 2nd Avenue corner 30th Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City. For appointments, call (02) 828-5433. For more information, visit their website.