Vitamin D has been linked in a recent article, to play an important contributing factor as to why people might be suffering from chronic lower back pain. You could be asking yourself “what is it?” and “Why is it so important for keeping our spines healthy?”.
That is what I wanted to look further into today. I wanted to help explain the role that Vitamin D plays in helping to keep our spines healthy and why it can help to prevent chronic back pain.
How Do We Make Vitamin D
Vitamin D is the most freely available vitamin in the world, no jokes. It comes from a sky near.
Vitamin D is the cheapest vitamin to produce in the world because we can get our daily recommended allowance directly from sunlight. If we practice managed exposure to sunlight then direct sunlight for about 5-15 min per day should be enough for our skin to create all the vitamin D we need for a day.
However, remember not to burn and give yourself sunburn. More sensitive skin types, like redheads, and other typical fair skin British genetic traits people, may need gradual a build up of sunlight exposure to get up to 5-15 minutes per day.SPF (sun protection factor) of 15+ cream has the ability to block 99.9% of sunlight needed to produce vitamin D from our skin. This means wearing a sunblock that is too strong can stop you from producing enough vitamin D directly from the sunlight on your skin. It is important with long exposures to the sun, like on a beach holiday in Spain or Greece, not to get a sunburn by avoiding wearing sun cream. Try UV protection clothing and a hat during the mid-day sun and look at what the UV index for any city or country is on this weather website for that day.
It has been suggested we are living in a Vitamin D pandemic. It is thought that around a billion people are Vitamin D deficient or insufficient worldwide.
Vitamin D is important in lower back pain. It is important to our spines as it is involved with bone metabolism and calcium absorption.
Conditions related to our backs that can occur with low D levels are:
- Muscle weakness/aches,
- Boney fractures & osteoporosis.
If you are taking a calcium supplement to help or prevent osteoporosis then you need to have good Vitamin D levels in conjunction with the calcium tablets. Ideally have high Vit D blood levels coming naturally, from the sun.
How Much Vitamin D Do We Need
The sun is continually recommended as the best source of vitamin D. It is impossible to overdose on vitamin D from the sun, whereas you can get vitamin D toxicity from taking too many supplements.
The amount of vitamin D that we need per day has been suggested to be 800-1000 IU/day. However, some functional medicine doctors and organisations, like the Vitamin D council in the US, say that number is way too low. They say to achieve a clinical benefit that adults need 5000 IU/day supplement levels. This is if they are not getting good vitamin D blood levels from natural sun exposure.
What’s The Best Food Source?
The best dietary source of vitamin D is from oily fish, like salmon or cod. However, it has been shown that due to commercial fish farming methods we have changed fish so that farmed salmon can have 10-25% only of vitamin D compared to wild caught salmon.
Optimal Sun Exposure Time of Day
Adequate sunlight exposure to be able to create enough vitamin D in your skin is dependant on where you are in the world. The closer to the North or South Poles you are the harder it is to make good blood levels even if it is sunny all the time in Summer.
In the Northern hemisphere, like in the UK, the best sunlight production starts about March and ends in October time during 10am to 6pm in a day. So that means in this months, during your lunch break, maybe go outside the office for a healthy walk and get a little sun to boost your spinal health.
Image Credit: atlih on Flickr
- Al Faraj, S., Al Mutairi, K. (2003) Vitamin D deficiency and chronic low back pain in Saudi Arabia. Spine Volume 28 Issue 2 pp 177-179
- Horlick, M.F., (2008) Vitamin D: a D-Lightful health perspective. Nutr Rev. Oct;66 (10 Suppl 2):S182-94.