I own a really huge hat. I mean HUGE. This thing should have reflector lights on it to ensure the safety of passersby, it could house several families of small marsupials, it could double as a landing strip for light aircraft and I have been considering lobbying council for its own postcode.
Why do I own such a large hat you may ask? The answer is simple. The answer is that I was born roughly the colour of sand, a shade of pale so astounding I was once told at the beach that my skin was so white it glowed, giving off a luminous, moon-like quality…and that’s not a compliment.
With the albatross of pasty white hung around my neck from birth I was constantly made aware of the spectre of the sun. First by well meaning parents, aunts, uncles, siblings and later by friends and caring partners who did not want to be responsible for having to lather me in Aloe Vera for days on end if I got burnt (which happened very easily). I, of course, made mistakes and got so burnt I had sunstroke on at least one occasion, but as the years went by I developed a very strict sun care strategy (hence the giant hat). In fact my sun safe obsession has gotten to the point that I find myself forcing it upon others and having to fight the urge to rub sunscreen onto the bare backs of drunken teens at music festivals who are starting to look so brown they might just be radioactive. In a strange way it has become something I am quite proud of, I am always known for having sunscreen on hand and a secret hat stashed away in the depths of my bag ‘just in case.’ So it came as quite a shock to realise that my one-woman-mission to get no sun exposure whatsoever turned out to be doing more harm than good.
One day, out of the blue, my doctor suggested running a few tests to see what my vitamin levels were like. I had been feeling tired and thought perhaps my iron was low. A few jabs, a few swear words, a bandaid and a few days later I sauntered back into my doctor's office to be told something very unexpected. My Vitamin D levels were low, not scary low, but low enough for me to need to make some changes. Changes? What kind of changes? Well, I would have to find a way to get some Vitamin D into my body and the number one way was the sun.
I found myself asking ‘but what’s the big deal?’ I was then told that low Vitamin D levels can have long terms consequences including brittle bones as it is essential for the body to absorb calcium. So all that milk I drank meant nothing? Not without Vitamin D it seems. And as it turns out, low levels can also affect the proper functioning of my immune system. But how was I supposed to change a lifetime long habit of staying out of the sun? And what about my giant hat? I was not ready to give up the hat. So I decided to look for some alternative ways to get some Vitamin D into my whiter than white body.
And here’s what I found I could do:
- Load up on fatty fish like salmon pretty much all the time.
- Stick to milks fortified with Vitamin D.
- Gulp down some eggs, especially the yolks.
- Find a way to make a meal with beef liver in it that won’t make me gag.
- Drink more orange juice fortified with Vitamin D.
- Try a new breakfast cereal fortified with Vitamin D.
- Spend a tiny bit of time in the sun without my giant hat on, but I am sticking to morning and afternoon when the sun isn't so harsh.
- Invest in a good quality Vitamin D supplement.Advertisement
Ok, so you are sitting here reading this on the beach with your perfect golden tan wondering what the hell I am babbling about. Or maybe, just maybe, you too are one of the moon tan crew and you are starting to wonder about your own Vitamin D levels? Essentially anyone not getting out in the sun enough or anyone with very dark skin could be at risk. The great thing is that it is so easy to do something about it, and you may find in a few months you will start to feel better than you did the day you first found that giant hat.
Are you getting enough Vitamin D?