I went for a bunch of blood tests about a week ago. Again, nothing serious. Just a check up. The doctor’s office called this morning. Everything was normal except my Vitamin D levels. I was stunned. Well…maybe not.
Vitamin D comes from two main sources: Sun exposure and certain foods like milk and fish. Most days I am locked up like a veal in front of this computer or slathered with sunscreen so I’m not getting my recommended daily allowance of rays. Meanwhile, I don’t drink milk or eat fish. This means my body probably isn’t keeping my bones as strong as they should be. It also means I am compromising my health unnecessarily since, recently, researchers discovered that Vitamin D helps the immune system ward off disease — little sniffles as well as the big C. (Cancer to you and me.)
When our bodies don’t have enough Vitamin D, our T-cells — the body’s big guns when it comes to fighting infection — can’t react the way they should, according to a March 2010 study out of the University of Copenhagen. From the press release: “…when a T cell is exposed to a foreign pathogen, it extends a signaling device or ‘antenna’ known as a vitamin D receptor, with which it searches for vitamin D. This means that the T cell must have vitamin D or activation of the cell will cease. If the T cells cannot find enough vitamin D in the blood, they won’t even begin to mobilize.”
The USDA’s 2005 Nutritional Guidelines suggest that women get about 1000IU of Vitamin D daily. (This is a LONG guide, but if you search ‘Vitamin D’ the chart showing the recommendation is the second instance of the term.) One cup of milk provides 38 percent of your daily needs. As I mentioned, I don’t drink milk. Strike one. And milk is really the best option for me since I flat out don’t eat fish.
I’m going to go to the drug store later on and get some Vitamin D supplements. I’m also going to call my dermatologist and ask him what he thinks about the risk/reward ratio when it comes to sunshine. I am so fair I glow. I’m not kidding. Add in the fact that, as a child, my skin took a beating, and I’m not sure it’s worth it to go out sunscreen-free to get my Vitamin D. But I’m also not sure store-bought supplements are enough. So while I’m figuring this all out I’m going to drink a glass of milk. My T-cells and bones, I’m sure, will thank me, but my poor family, who has to deal with my lactose intolerance, will not. (TMI, I know!)