Do you know your D?

Vitamin D is getting a lot of press these days.  Why? Because vitamin D deficiency has been linked to many forms of cancer as well as heart disease, stroke, hypertension, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, depression, chronic pain, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, muscle wasting, birth defects, periodontal disease, and more.

How do you know if you’re deficient? The first step is to get your vitamin D level checked with a simple blood test, called 25-hydroxyvitamin D.  Ask for it when you go to the doctor. If your results show that your level is below 50 ng/ml, then you are deficient. At that level,  the body uses up vitamin D as fast as you can make it, or take it, unable to store it for future use.

Where do you get Vitamin D?

Ideally, you get your vitamin D from exposure to the sun. The skin produces approximately 10,000 IU vitamin D in response 20–30 minutes summer sun exposure. Unfortunately, we have all become so scared of skin cancer, that we’ve become so good about putting on sunscreen. Yea! You’re reducing your chances of skin cancer! However, the sun’s rays can’t penetrate the sunscreen, so our bodies can’t absorb the vitamin D.

If healthy adults and adolescents regularly avoid sunlight exposure, research indicates a necessity to supplement with at least 5,000 units (IU) of vitamin D daily. To obtain this amount from milk one would need to consume 50 glasses of milk!

Very few foods in nature contain vitamin D. The flesh of fish (such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel) and fish liver oils are among the best sources. Other foods include fortified foods, such as cereal, milk, orange juice, and yogurt.

The bottom line…

  1. Get your vitamin D level checked. If it’s less than 50 ng/ml, then supplement with vitamin D3.
  2. Limited exposure to the sun is encouraged, around 10 am or 3 pm, when the suns rays are strong enough, but not so strong to cause major skin damage. Limit your exposure to 5-10 minutes and alternate body parts to expose to the sun without sunscreen.
  3. How much of a supplement to take? It’s best to ask a Registered Dietitian or Medical Doctor, who is well-versed in Supplements, for advice. Vitamins at high doses can act like prescription medication – don’t self-prescribe. Get advice from someone who knows what she is talking about!
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