Getting fresh air and exercise are part of any healthy routine, but being outside enjoying sunshine is so much more than just getting a healthy tan. With the rise in melanoma awareness, and the increased use of sunscreen, research studies have shown that many of us are lacking in Vitamin D. Vitamin D is often called the sunshine vitamin since that is it’s primary source.
So why is it so important? According to breastcancer.org:
“Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, which is essential for good bone health. Vitamin D also helps the immune, muscle, and nervous systems function properly. … Research suggests that women with low levels of vitamin D have a higher risk of breast cancer.”
As part of your treatment plan, ask your oncologist to test your Vitamin D level. This is accomplished with a simple blood test and satisfactory levels should be in the 40-60 ng/ml (nanograms/milliliter). Some studies even recommend levels higher.
Some other steps you can take include:
Getting more direct sunlight exposure and taking vitamin D3 supplements. If you’re going to take a vitamin D supplement, most experts recommend taking the D3 form of the vitamin, not the D2 form. Be careful that the product you purchase is not encapsulated with soybean oil, especially if you had ER+ breast cancer.
Eating foods rich in vitamin D can help, but is less effective.
Foods rich in vitamin D include:
- steelhead trout
Remember to choose your fish carefully to avoid any species that may have high levels of mercury. The link below has up to date information on which species to avoid.
My oncologist suggested that I take a 20 minute walk each day without sunscreen. It served a dual purpose; I was getting some needed exercise and was absorbing Vitamin D. As with any supplement, discuss what you are doing with your medical team. They should always monitor anything you are taking. They can also recheck to see if your Vitamin D levels need to be further adjusted.