Have you heard increasing discussions about Vitamin D in the news? A growing number of researchers believe that many people (especially those in the Northern latitudes) are deficient in this critical vitamin. Prescribed amounts necessary for healthy body function have risen over the last few years. What’s the big “D” all about anyway?
Vitamin D deficiency appears to be more widespread than people may think. A lack of this organic compound has been originally associated with rickets, but more recent studies have shown it is related to many more health concerns such as osteoporosis, depression, heart disease and stroke, cancer, diabetes, parathyroid problems, immune function and even weight loss.
Just what does Vitamin D do for your body? It is actually the building block of a power hormone in your body called calcitriol. Vitamin D partners up with other nutrients in your body to support healthy bone renewal. It also promotes healthy cell growth and works as a key factor in hormone balance and a healthy immune system.
Your body cannot create Vitamin D on its own. It is made through exposure to the sun. Your body can produce what it needs (theoretically) in just a few hours of sun exposure each week. You can also get Vitamin D through certain foods and in some foods that are fortified. Yet many health care professionals still believe many people are not getting enough Vitamin D and recommend taking a supplement. You can determine your Vitamin D levels through a blood test.
How much Vitamin D does your body actually need? We encourage you to work with your own healthcare professional to determine your specific needs. It appears most people need more than what is often recommended, especially with more people working indoors. Of special concern are those who live above latitude 40 (a line that runs just below New York City west to the Northern California border) when the sun is only strong enough between March and October.
Here is a brief summary of things to consider regarding adequate amounts of Vitamin D:
1. Get plenty of sunshine each day. About 15 minutes a day, especially before 11 a.m. or after 2 p.m. can provide what you need to produce Vitamin D. This is the best way to get Vitamin D (though this may not be enough for some). But be careful not to overexpose your skin to the sun which can be harmful.
2. Have your Vitamin D level checked. Your doctor can request a simple blood test to determine if you have an adequate amount in your system.
3. UVA lights from tanning booths are not the same as the UVB lights from the sun and will not provide the type of light you need to produce Vitamin D.
4. Take a Vitamin D supplement. Work with your doctor on what amount would be adequate for you. And be aware that there are upper level limits to how much you can take. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and can be toxic at high levels.
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