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Don’t Be Deficient – Vitamin D Benefits

Do you have a vitamin D deficiency? According to the American Osteopathic Association, nearly 1 billion people worldwide probably do, including much of the US population. That’s a huge number—with potentially big consequences for our health because of the many ways vitamin D helps the human body. Besides allowing your body to use calcium and protect against bone loss, vitamin D is also used by your immune system, brain, cardiovascular system, muscles, and respiratory system. It may also have anti-cancer properties.

“The problem is that it goes unrecognized and contributes to bone loss. Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency are generally none. Regular screening for vitamin D deficiency should be encouraged,” says Joan Lunzer, MD, an Internal Medicine physician at Glacial Ridge Health System.

People who aren’t outside much may need vitamin D supplements, but not nearly enough of us take them. Many kids grew up hearing advice to “take your vitamins!” everyday but fell off the bandwagon as adults. Now, they may spend most of their time working at desk jobs away from vitamin D-producing solar rays.

Vitamin D deficiencies are probably on the rise, thanks in part to sunscreen use and chronic diseases, according to a recent article published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. With vitamin D’s many health benefits, you may need to be tested for deficiency of this amazing vitamin.

Fun in the Sun, Fish, and Fortified Foods

While it’s certainly very important to use sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays, some people may not be getting enough time in the sun without sunscreen. Not eating enough vitamin D-rich foods like fatty fish can also make it difficult for your body to get the nutrition it needs.

If you’re thinking of taking a supplement, ask your doctor if you need one. “My general recommendations are for patients who are elderly or postmenopausal to take vitamin D supplements,” Dr. Lunzer added.

Dr. Lunzer also suggests that other people consider vitamin D supplementation if they need it, and mild sun exposure to help your body produce its own. “The general consensus is that people who live in the northern hemisphere, or north of Atlanta, Georgia, should be taking some supplement of vitamin D. I think 1,000 IU (International Units) of vitamin D is safe for most people. I also encourage 15 minutes of sun exposure to the face and forearms daily without sunscreen and not through a window,” she notes.

Other Vitamin D Sources:

  • Fatty Fish—Salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, herring, halibut, and other fatty fish are great sources of vitamin D.
  • Fortified Foods—Some cereals, milk products, grains, nut milk, and other enriched products have had vitamin D added to them, so they’re also great ways to get more ‘D.
  • Other proteins such as egg yolks, beef liver, and cheese provide vitamin D.

Keep in mind though, if you truly are deficient you’ll probably need supplements. Dr. Lunzer says that people with deficiencies may need to take supplements until normal levels of vitamin D are completely restored.

Do You Need Vitamin D Deficiency Testing?

If you think you have a deficiency, you may need to be tested by your doctor. While Dr. Lunzer says there typically aren’t symptoms of deficiency, you may experience symptoms in some cases.

Possible Vitamin D Deficiency Symptoms:

  • Muscle Weakness
  • Leg Cramps
  • Easy Muscle Fatigue

If you have questions, your doctor or nurse practitioner can answer them and help you figure out the right amount of vitamin D for your own health needs.

Contact us for more information about deficiency testing, or to schedule an appointment at 320.634.5157.