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As summer quickly approaches that means more time with our Type 1 Diabetic grandson, I really got thinking about Diabetes and Vitamin D.
Most of us are aware that we get our Vitamin D from the sun.
Just what is the effect of Vitamin D on Diabetes?
Does it affect Type 1 and Type 2 differently?
How much is too much?
What precautions should be taken?
What is Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble micronutrient that the body produces and uses.
It is essential in order for us to be able to absorb other nutrients such as:
How Do I Get Vitamin D
The largest source of Vitamin D is through skin absorption resulting from exposure to the sun’s UVB radiation. This is why it is commonly called the sunshine vitamin.
Be careful though. Those same UVB rays that give you your vitamin D can also cause painful sunburn.
A century ago many people, especially in northern climates, couldn’t get enough vitamin D causing many to develop rickets (soft bones).
Today it isn’t quite as difficult to get our vitamin D.
We can also gain some Vitamin D by eating the flesh of fatty fish.
Many countries also fortify milk products and breakfast cereals with vitamin D.
When mushrooms have been exposed to ultraviolet light they can also be a source of vitamin D.
Vitamin D is known to be a major regulator of calcium levels and bone metabolism. It also influences the immune system. Studies have shown that patients recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes have significantly lower levels of vitamin D.
Vitamin D can also have a significant effect on both our mental health and heart health.
Studies have linked depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and heart disease with insufficient levels of Vitamin D.
It is for this reason that many health care providers prescribe sun exposure to help combat these conditions.
Getting enough vitamin D can boost mood while also decreasing the production of harmful cholesterol.
How Does Vitamin D Affect Diabetes
Results from certain studies have shown that children with low levels of Vitamin D had a higher risk of developing islet autoimmunity.
Islet is when the immune system mistakenly attacks the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas causing type 1 diabetes.
According to a 2011 research article, vitamin D is linked to insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes. They have discovered the presence of vitamin D in the beta cells of the pancreas.
Beta cells depend on calcium in order to produce and secrete insulin in order to properly manage blood glucose.
Our bodies require vitamin D to be able to absorb calcium and for this reason, it is important to correct vitamin D levels which may increase natural insulin function.
“For people with insulin resistance, vitamin D can make a big difference. This is a cheap, safe, effective solution that could make a real impact.”
– Dr. Meredith Hawkins, Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Protect Your Skin
I love spending a day in my gardens or relaxing poolside. Sometimes heading to the local beach for the day is fun. Who wouldn’t love those things?
I am sure we can all agree that living with that painful sunburn after the fact is no fun at all.
In order to prevent sunburn, it is advised to wear a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15.
It is also advised to stay in the shade between 11 am and 3 pm. A sun umbrella will help if you are at the beach.
Be aware that taking oral anti-diabetes medications can increase sensitivity to the sun so try to limit your exposure.
Protect Your Feet
Diabetics need to take extra care of their feet. This is because diabetes can cause neuropathy or nerve damage.
Nerve damage of the feet can cause you not to feel burns from walking on hot sand or decks. It can also mean you don’ feel small cuts or scrapes that can lead to infection or even amputation if left untreated.
It is advised that diabetics don’t walk around bare-feet and ensure they wear comfortable shoes that don’t rub or cause blisters.
If you are spending the day outdoors, check your feet often so you can immediately treat any potential problems.
Remember to apply sunscreen to the tops of feet and toes if wearing sandals.
If you discover any damage to your feet be sure to consult with your doctor.
Protect Your Eyes
Whether we have diabetes or not, we should not look directly at the sun as that can cause solar retinopathy (damage to the retina).
Diabetics already face a heightened risk of developing retinopathy so proper eye protection is imperative.
There are a lot of options available when choosing sunglasses so aside form personal fashion taste also look for a ‘CE mark’, states UV 400 or they provide 100% UV protection.
Protect Your Supplies
One thing can easily be overlooked is your supplies. Insulin and other diabetes medications can be sensitive to the sun and heat of summer.
Even insulin pumps and CGM’s can be affected by the sun and heat.
Don’t keep your supplies in direct sunlight. It is a good idea to keep your supplies in an insulated bag. If it is quite hot it is a good idea to put a cold pack in that bag but remember not to set supplies directly on ice or gel pack.
Insulin and other medications may not work as efficiently if overheated or too cold.
After spending some time researching Diabetes and Vitamin D it is great to know that diabetics really don’t need to do anything too different from the rest of us in order to spend a day in the sun.
We all need vitamin D and diabetics are no exception.
In fact, vitamin D may actually help the body produce and use insulin more efficiently preventing insulin-resistant people from developing type 2 diabetes.
We can easily reduce any possible risks from sun exposure by:
- frequently applying a sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15
- wearing quality sunglasses that offer protection
- wearing properly fitting shoes
- keeping medications and supplies in an insulated bag
- checking feet for any damage frequently
Diabetics like anyone can certainly enjoy being outdoors throughout the summer.
Planning your day and ensuring you have all supplies with you will go a long way to making it an enjoyable experience.
What are your favorite summer outdoor activities? How do you protect yourself and your supplies from the sun and heat?
I’m looking forward to your suggestions and tips. Feel free to leave your ideas in the comment sections below. Stay safe.
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