Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D?
We know Vitamins and minerals are super-important for good health.
But Vitamin D is in a class by itself.
And it’s tough to get enough Vitamin D;, especially during the winter months unless you live where it is warm and sunny year-round. Otherwise, Vitamin D deficiency is an all too common occurrence.
So, how much of this critical nutrient do you actually need, and how can you ensure you get enough?
You can get vitamin D one of three ways. Through exposure to the sun (this is why it is often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin”), by eating foods rich in vitamin D, or in supplement form.
Why is vitamin D necessary for health, and how much do you need?
Calcium is the building block of bone, it is crucial for building and maintain bone mass, and vitamin D helps us absorb the calcium we get from our food. And Vitamin D is not just for strong bones, it also strengthens the immune system and helps us ward off infectious disease. It plays a roll in growth at the cellular level and helps prevent depression and seasonal affective disorder.
Inadequate levels of Vitamin D can lead to bone diseases including Osteoporosis, and the less common osteomalacia. Being deficient also increases your risk of heart disease, autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and others, and even some cancers. The “official” recommendation currently stands at just 400-600 IU daily and 800 IU for adults over 70. But many experts in the field now believe this is not nearly enough to fend off these health issues.
(WebMD gives lower and upper level recommendations based on age )
Getting vitamin D from the sun
When exposed to the sun your skin will make Vitamin D. But how much your skin can produce is reliant on several factors. Where you live, what time of year, the weather, what clothing you wear, these all affect how much vitamin D your skin will be able to make. Obviously, you still want to avoid getting sunburned. A general guideline is to get 5–30 minutes of sun exposure between 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. to the face, arms, legs, or back. This should be done without sunscreen, at least twice a week. Yet, if you live in the northern hemisphere getting adequate Vitamin D from the sun can be difficult to achieve year round. So, how can we get our vitamin D when the sun just isn’t enough?
Getting vitamin D from food
Fatty fish, liver, and egg yolks are all good sources of dietary Vitamin D.
Some foods including milk, orange juice, cereals, and yogurt have been “fortified” with vitamin D. Check the labels to see if, and how much, vitamin D has been added.
Something to note; There is a class of vitamins known as fat-soluble vitamins, this simply means you need to consume fat ( healthy fat 😊 ) along with them in order to absorb them. (Vitamin D along with A, E, and K are all fat soluble vitamins).
Because it can still be difficult to get even your minimum recommended amount of Vitamin D from the sun and/or food, vitamin D supplementation may be necessary.
Filling in the gaps with supplements
Vitamin D supplements are easy to find either in pill form or liquid as in cod liver oil. They are inexpensive and easy to take to ensure you get an adequate amount.
One note of caution:
Although rare, Vitamin D toxicity can occur with excess supplementation, and too much can increase the amount of calcium in your blood enough to adversely affect your heart and kidneys. ( to be clear, you cannot overdose on vitamin D strictly from sun exposure or food).
A simple blood test is all it takes to know where you stand. As always, work closely with your health care team and follow the recommendations that are specific to your situation. They will be able to provide guidelines about proper dosage along with potential interactions that may occur with other medications you take.
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