In humans, melanin is the primary determinant of skin color.
The melanin in the skin is produced by melanocytes, which are found in the basal layer of the epidermis. Generally, humans possess a similar concentration of melanocytes in their skin. However, the melanocytes in people of color produce variable amounts of melanin.
Some humans have very little or no melanin synthesis in their bodies, a condition known as albinism.
Exposure to sunlight stimulates the skin to produce vitamin D. Because high levels of cutaneous melanin act as a natural sun screen, dark skin can be a risk factor for vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D exerts a wide range of influences on immune functions. Low levels of vitamin D are associated with autoimmune diseases, especially lupus.
Vitamin D has been in the news lately for its positive impact on everything from Lupus to cardiovascular disorders.
The major biologic function of Vitamin D is to maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium, helping to form and maintain strong bones.
It is used, alone or in combination with calcium, to increase bone mineral density and decrease fractures. Recently, research also suggests that vitamin D may provide protection from osteoporosis, cardiovascular disorders, hypertension (high blood pressure), cancer, and Lupus.
It is important to know that it is possible to take too much Vitamin D. People often need to take large amounts of Vitamin D to reach the recommended levels in the blood. Some people may take a prescription strength dose of Vitamin D as high as 50,000 IU once a week. (This high dosage MUST be prescribed by a physician.)
Others use 2,000 to 3,000 IU of Vitamin D over the counter and do not take prescription doses of Vitamin D. Vitamin D levels in the blood should generally be between 30 and 100 nanograms per milliliter. But, between 20 and 30 nanograms per milliliter is considered an intermediate level according to the Endocrine Society clinical practice guidelines.
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin so it sticks around for a longer time than water soluble vitamins, like Vitamin C which helps explain how you can take too much of it. If your Vitamin D level is quite low, or doesn’t respond to 2,000 to 3,000 units of Vitamin D over the counter, a prescription for the higher dose is usually recommended.
In any case, it is wise to have the Vitamin D level in the blood checked periodically to make sure your levels are in an appropriate range.
For all my Lupus warriors with an abundance of melanin, it is crucial to have your Vitamin D levels checked. The fact that we have to avoid the sun further limits our Vitamin D absorption. Be sure to speak with your healthcare provider to assess your current Vitamin D levels. He/she will be able to prescribe a sufficient amount of this crucial vitamin to help reduce Lupus flares.
Be strong. Be fearless.
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