Monday, December 20, 2010

Vitamin D.....Are you Deficient???

Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin.  The reason being is that the body produces vitamin D in response to sunlight.  Of course we don't want to bake in the sun so, hence, one reason that we could be Vitamin D deficient.  Diet can be a reason for a deficiency.  Vitamin D occurs naturally in a few foods such as fish, fish liver oils,  egg yolks and fortified dairy and grain products.  If someone is a strict vegetarian then they would not get a good supply of Vitamin D.  Other reasons for Vitamin D deficiency are if we have a profession or lifestyle that doesn't allow us to get sunlight.  Another reason for vitamin D deficiency could be if you have a darker complexion.  Having a darker complexion means that you have more melanin in your skin which inhibits vitamin D production.  Being obese can cause vitamin D deficiency.  Fat cells take vitamin D from the blood.  Certain medical conditions such as Crohn's disease and Celiac disease can hinder your intestine's ability to absorb vitamin D from the foods you eat. 
Whatever the reason for your vitamin D deficiency it is important that you remedy the problem.  Vitamin D deficiency contributes to a host of problems. 
Vitamin D is crucial for strong bones as it helps the body use calcium.  So taking calcium alone is not going to help your bones.  (we will discuss this in another post).  
Inadequate levels of vitamin D have been associated with increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment in older adults and cancer.  Now research suggests that vitamin D can prevent and treat many diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and multiple sclerosis. 
Some symptoms of vitamin D deficiency can be muscle and bone soreness.  You may not have any symptoms so it is so important to get a blood test.  That will tell you if you have a vitamin D deficiency.  Then your doctor will prescribe the proper dosage of vitamin D for you depending on your results.  There is no set amount of what we should be taking.  ( I recently had a blood test and my vitamin D level was extremely low.  Now I know why my joints have been sore and tender.  After two doses of 50,000 International Unit's ( one dose a week) my joints no longer bother me.  You may not need as much vitamin D as I do.  You must get a blood test and then your doctor will go over the results with you.)
Of course it is great if we can get some of our requirement of vitamin D from the sun.  But limit that to 15 minutes in the morning and late afternoon when the sun is not the strongest.  Also limit the amount of time because you will not be using sunscreen (sunscreen will inhibit the production of vitamin D).  I love the feeling of the sun on my skin but in the summer I try to use sunscreen as much as possible and in the winter we are definitely sun deprived in the northeast.  So a supplement would be in order.

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