Vitamin D is an essential ingredient for a healthy human body, to absorb calcium and promote bone strength. The greatest source of Vitamin D is not found in any food or over-the-counter supplement; instead, this simple nutrient comes from the sun.
Sunlight is abundant in Vitamin D, delivering it to the earth each day through ultraviolet rays. The problem is, ultra violet rays have gained a bad reputation for causing melanoma, but in the right amount, sunlight actually sustains human life, and now, research supports, can even stop chronic pain.
Vitamin D Deficiency
The link between chronic pain and Vitamin D deficiency was discovered in Scandinavia. Because of it’s location close to the north pole countries like Finland, Norway and Sweden have long days over summer but during the harsh, northern winters, with short, dark days, it is impossible to get the Vitamin D needed through sunlight alone. A 1980s study of 2,600 Finnish men discovered that those deficient in Vitamin D had double the chance of experiencing chronic headaches. Subsequent reports attribute Vitamin D, or lack thereof, to a variety of conditions including musculoskeletal pain (experienced similar to growing pains), fatigue and weakness, sensitisation, lower pain threshold, depression, poor exercise recovery and lastly sweating above the neck. That’s quite a list!
Vitamin D Deficiency Diagnosis
Diagnosis for Vitamin D deficiency is not always a straightforward process. It is usually one of many contributing factors causing chronic pain, and is a challenge for any doctor to untangle all of the them. Added to that, Vitamin D deficiency is often mistaken for Vitamin B12 deficiency. Aside from a lab test, the only other way to distinguish between these two vitamin deficiencies is by paying close attention to the symptoms. Low B12 is often accompanied by strange, tingly sensations, whereas low Vitamin D is felt as a dull ache.
Vitamin D in sunlight
Sunlight is certainly the best way to get Vitamin D into the body. Increase your levels with early morning walk, exposing your forearms, face and legs to the light. Of course, under the Australian sun, the principles of slip, slop, slap need to be adhered to in the hottest parts of the day.
Vitamin D in food
You can also absorb Vitamin D through foods, although, you just have to eat a lot of Vitamin D rich food to get the required amounts. This is why spending time outdoors is non-negotiable. Vitamin D occurs naturally in fish-liver oils, fatty fishes, mushrooms, egg yolks and liver too. Consider adding these ingredients to your shopping list during winter. It is worth remembering that foods traditionally considered healthy, like fruit and veggies, have little to no Vitamin D.
Who is at risk
Some people get more Vitamin D than others simply because they have an outdoor job. But if you work in an office, take a lunchtime walk to get the sunlight vital for your body. Paler skins absorb Vitamin D more readily, and those with darker skin are better at blocking UV rays. Understanding your skin type can help you decide if you need to spend more or less time outside, or wait a little longer to apply sunscreen which blocks UV rays by around 98%. If you are going to be spending a winter skiing in Siberia, Scandinavia or Canada, beware that these higher latitudes carry inherent risk of Vitamin D deficiency. The elderly and babies and are at higher risk as well of developing Vitamin D deficiency, and obese people and pregnant women require higher levels of Vitamin D to function. It is always worth asking your GP for a blood test to monitor the levels of Vitamin D in your body.
Because the human body cannot create its own Vitamin D, we have no choice but to get outside and enjoy the sunshine. If you suffer from chronic pain, catching a few rays might be the simple, effective therapy you need.
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