Our body naturally makes this nutrient and it's triggered when our skin is exposed to sunlight. Nonetheless, did you know that over a billion people around the world have Vitamin D deficiency?
So let's take a look at some facts regarding Vitamin D and how you can make sure your body doesn't become deficient in this essential nutrient.
Vitamin D: The Facts
Vitamin D promotes strong bones – Besides being a nutrient, Vitamin D is a hormone. Not only does it help build strong bones and teeth and regulate the body's calcium absorption, it lowers your risk of developing osteoporosis as well.
Vitamin D keeps you healthy – More and more studies are discovering that the sunshine vitamin has a lot of health benefits. Studies show that it can prevent certain types of cancers, asthma, heart disease, hypertension, and type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Vitamin D promotes mental health – When your body is getting the right amount of Vitamin D, you tend to feel and think better. Some studies found that Vitamin D helps improve cognitive functions and alleviates depression in older adults.
There are risk factors if you have low Vitamin D – As we get older, converting Vitamin D into its active form becomes a much harder job for our kidneys to perform. This is the reason we may have to take supplements.
Other people who are at risk for vitamin D deficiency are nursing mothers, dark-skinned individuals, and those who have certain health conditions such as milk allergies and Crohn's disease.
Get the right amount of Vitamin D that your body needs – The recommended amounts of Vitamin D are based on age. For instance, babies who are 12 months or younger need a minimum of 400 IU of Vitamin D. Children and adults need 600 IU, and seniors 71 years old and up need 800 IU. Then there are people who may need as high as 2,000 to 4,000 IUs of Vitamin D. So check with your physician to confirm your required amount.
Testing for Vitamin D deficiency is important – Muscle weakness and bone pain may indicate a Vitamin D deficiency. The only way to be sure is to have a blood test done.
The test for Vitamin D deficiency is called the 25-hydroxy vitamin D test. There is Vitamin D deficiency if the nutrient is less than 20 nanograms per milliliter of blood.
Vitamin D could interact with certain drugs – Steroids and similar drugs can have a lowering effect on the levels of Vitamin D in your body. Statins, on the other hand, can raise these levels. Your doctor will be able to determine what is a safe Vitamin D level for you.
How to Get Adequate Amounts of Vitamin D
Be smart when you're out and about – You can stimulate your body to make Vitamin D by going outdoors in the sun. However, make sure you protect your skin with sunscreen.
If you're fair-skinned, you may need just 10 minutes of sun exposure every day to get your body producing Vitamin D.
Drink milk – There's not a lot of foods that have Vitamin D, although you'll find many of them that have been fortified with the nutrient.
In the US, nearly all milk has a minimum of 400 IU of Vitamin D per quart. This is one reason rickets, a bone disease, has been eradicated in the country. So drink up.
Consume more fish – Vitamin D can be found in fish and fish oil. In fact, just 3 ounces of salmon will have the amount of Vitamin D you need for the day.
Eat foods that have been fortified with Vitamin D – Other sources of Vitamin D are orange juice, breakfast cereals, and yogurt. However, it's a good idea to read the labels so you know for sure what's in the food you're eating.
Get to a healthy weight – Did you know that when you're overweight, your body can't easily and efficiently absorb Vitamin D? This is yet another reason you should keep an eye on your calorie intake and get on an exercise program.
Take Vitamin D supplements – You can take either Vitamin D2 or Vitamin D3 supplements. However, whenever possible, go with Vitamin D3 because it's a lot closer to the Vitamin D that the body makes, which means your body will absorb it faster.
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that helps to keep your bones strong and your body healthy overall. If you spend enough time in the sun and eat a healthy diet, you can easily meet your daily Vitamin D requirements.
However, if you're not sure or if you think you are low in Vitamin D, talk to your doctor and see if you need to take a Vitamin D supplement.