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04/27/2010

Blame It On The Rain

J0403076 Did you know that if you live in Northeast Ohio it's been recommended you get tested for Vitamin D deficiency? A recent article on Cleveland.com, quotes a nutritional biochemist who states, "I would assume that everyone is deficient without even doing a blood test." Vitamin D is found in some foods and it's manufactured by the body in relationship to sun exposure. Therefore, it's commonly called the "Sunshine Vitamin." Unfortunately for us, living in Cleveland doesn't grant my family many opportunities to get outside and enjoy direct sunlight. We have, on average, 156 days of rain and only 49 days of sunshine a year.

All this talk of Vitamin D deficiency sounds encouraging. Recent headlines have claimed that it may provide protection from a multitude of conditions including: diabetes, autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, multiple forms of cancer, obesity, cardiovascular disease, depression, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and the flu.

I've always found that I'm a much happier person on warm, sunny days. While other people complain of heat and humidity at the highpoints of our Cleveland summers, I can sit outside for hours. However, since having kids, I have found our cold winters to be brutal. I hardly left the house this winter unless absolutely necessary. I finally got tired of missing out on life and I spoke to my doctor about my cold intolerance and the fatigue I was also plagued with. He suggested testing my Vitamin D level and I was surprised to find that it was very low. My doctor thought it might be the cause of my complaints, but couldn't be certain. He recommended I take 1000 IU's a day and come back in 6 weeks to test again. I returned and my level was still low, so he upped my dose to 2,000 IU's. Most recently a follow-up test revealed that my Vitamin D levels have returned to normal.

We've been warned for 20 years about the dangers of skin cancer. Being out in the sun without sunscreen was risky and dangerous, or so we thought. Now I am reading articles that state things like, "Even if too much sun leads to skin cancer, which is rarely deadly, too little sun may be worse." I'm hearing that even the American Cancer Society is reviewing it's sun protection guidelines. Everywhere you turn supplementing with Vitamin D pills is being encouraged.

While I continue to take my extra vitamin each day per my doctor's recommendation, I don't feel much different. However, I am looking forward toward those 49 days of sunshine wearing just a bit less sunscreen than usual. The big question though is what I'm going to do with my kids. I don't want them relying on supplements at such a young age, but I also don't want to be the contributing factor in their contracting a preventable condition due to lack of sun exposure as children. Lucky for me, we have the other 314 cloudy days in the year to figure it out.

What are your thoughts on the new Vitamin D craze? Are you going to lighten up on the sunscreen this summer or wait it out to see the results of more studies?

Original Ohio Moms Blog post.
When not daydreaming about moving to a tropical island, Tésa also blogs at 2 Wired 2 Tired and Westside Cleveland Mom and runs the Cleveland area family friendly events site, Kidburst. She tweets @2Wired2Tired as well.

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