Which way to get vitamin D is best: food, supplements, or sunshine? Find out why people on prednisone need vitamin D and which way is best.
Why Vitamin D?
Prednisone depletes vitamin D, shown by lower blood levels of vitamin D in those taking corticosteroids like prednisone. Vitamin D is vital for bone health. Without vitamin D, the body cannot use calcium. Prednisone also depletes calcium. This is a big problem for people on prednisone because it is the #1 drug that causes osteoporosis. To prevent this silent side effect, we need both calcium and vitamin D.
Food Sources of Vitamin D
Can’t I just get the vitamin D I need from the food I eat? Unfortunately, no, you need more vitamin D than you can eat. Some good sources of vitamin D include:
- Fatty Fish
- Fortified juice
- Fortified cereal
Supplements for Vitamin D
The #1 doctors that prescribe prednisone, rheumatologists, recommend that everyone on prednisone for more than 3 months take calcium and vitamin D supplementation.
They recommend Vitamin D intake of 600-800 IU or 15-20 mcg every day.
Supplementation is super helpful during the winter months when you can’t get vitamin D from sunshine. So what’s the BEST way?
Our bodies are miraculous machines that can convert sunshine into the active form of vitamin D hormone we need for strong bones. I don’t think it’s an accident that the summertime is when we spend time outside doing fun things like go to the beach or go on a hike. These activities can keep us outside during the prime vitamin D time, midday.
When does Sunshine turn into Vitamin D?
The type of solar radiation, UVB, that must hit our skin can only do so when the sun is high in the sky. This is in the summertime and during the middle part of the day.
How Much Time?
The amount of time depends on many factors, including the latitude away from the sun and your skin coloring. It takes about half as long to make vitamin D as it does to get a sunburn. Get enough sunlight that you won’t burn.
For me, I have fair hair and fair skin, so I’m a skin type II-III, which means I need to stay outside for 15-30 minutes between 11 am and 4 pm.
What about Skin Cancer?
If you get enough to convert vitamin D then you won’t expose yourself long enough to burn. Once you’ve reached that point, cover up with clothes or go in the shade. Sunscreen is the last line of defense.
Tips for Vitamin D
- Go outside when your shadow is shorter than you are tall. That’s when the sunshine includes UVB rays.
- Only stay out long enough to convert vitamin D.
- Supplement when you need to.
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