Vitamin D, a group of fat-soluble vitamins, is responsible for helping the body absorb calcium, magnesium, and phosphate, all of which are essential for the formation of healthy teeth and bones and maintaining good overall health. Vitamin D is mostly produced in the skin in response to sunlight and is also absorbed from food (about 10% of vitamin D is absorbed this way). The normal range of vitamin D is between 20-40mg/mL. Our lifestyle can prevent us from getting enough vitamin D.
Some common causes are not enough exposure to the sun because we spend most of our time at work or inside our homes, obesity, darker skin tones and not getting enough vitamin D rich foods in our diet. According to a 2011 study, 41.6% of adults in the US are deficient. This number goes up to 69.2% in Hispanics and 82.1% in African-Americans.
How can low vitamin D levels affect your body?
- Frequent colds
- Muscles weakness
- Cognitive impairment
- Increased bone loss and fractures
- Greater pain sensitivity
How can we get more Vitamin D?
Treatment for vitamin D deficiency involves getting more vitamin D through diet and supplements. Some examples vitamin D rich foods are:
- Fruits: mangoes, apricots, melons and peaches
- Vegetables: broccoli, peppers, squash, avocado, sweet potatoes, mushrooms and carrots
- Fish, eggs, dairy and juices, cereals and yogurt fortified with vitamin D
You can also add supplements to your diet to ensure you are getting enough vitamin D. There are two types of vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. D3 is more efficiently absorbed by the gut. The recommended dose is 600-800IU per day. You may require more if you have a gut disorder that inhibits absorption of vitamins.
What are the benefits of Vitamin D?
- Lowers the risk of breast and colon cancer
- Lowers the risk of multiple sclerosis
- Decreases risk of type 1 diabetes
- Decreases the risk of bone fractures
- Decreases memory and brain decline
- Improves muscle strength
- Decreases blood pressure
- Decreases risk of gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia and small gestational age in pregnancy
- Decreases risk of depression
If you are feeling any symptoms of vitamin D deficiency, ask your practitioner to check your levels. In the meantime, eat more vitamin D rich foods and make sure to take a break, get outside and get some sun.
Dr. Jodie Horton