Vitamin D:: What You NEED to Know!

Vitamin D:: What You NEED to Know!

Working in family medicine, I get asked all the time about what vitamins a patient should be taking. And in general my advice is… it depends. I liken it to a car. How do you know your car needs more oil? You have a sensor that goes off, or it has been so long since you changed the oil, and you get it checked. If it is low, you add more; if it looks ok, you don’t need any. What happens if you put too much in? Engine trouble.

So how do you know what vitamins or supplements you should be on? There is no generalized answer for everyone. You don’t know what might be recommended until you have the discussion with your medical provider to see if you are having any signs or symptoms of a nutritional deficiency and possibly get some bloodwork. But I will tell you one that comes up time and time again as showing up low:: Vitamin D.

You are likely low in Vitamin D

It is estimated that almost 40% of the population in the United States are deficient in Vitamin D. That is A LOT of people! And I will say, in my practice, it feels like a lot more. I see this deficiency more than any other. But why is Vitamin D so important? And why are so many people deficient?

Vitamin D is crucial for bone health and immunity, and a lack of it has been correlated with an increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular problems, diabetes, blood clots and fractures. Having an adequate or higher amount can also improve fatigue and depression, and let’s be real, who isn’t tired and grumpy lately, amIright?! And probably most relevant at this time is that adequate levels of Vitamin D can help reduce risk of respiratory infections {hello, COVID19}.

Where does it come from?

Vitamin D:: What You NEED to Know!

How do you get vitamin D? Either from sun exposure, food, or supplementation. But to be honest, it is VERY hard to get enough from the sun and food, and many people need to take supplements. Vitamin D in food is really only found in abundant quantities in fortified milk {1 cup = 100 IU} and salmon or tuna, and most people don’t consume enough of those products on a daily basis. And it is very hard to get enough exposure to sunlight for your body to make enough Vitamin D due to where you live and weather and seasonal changes. 

Who is at risk for a Vitamin D deficiency? Certain common factors that can also contribute are::

  1. African American or Mexican American ethnicity – Higher amount of melanin in the skin impedes with Vitamin D synthesis
  2. Low education – Individuals not realizing the need to supplement
  3. Smoking – Impedes production of Vitamin D
  4. Obesity – Reduces absorption and metabolism as well impedes mobility
  5. Diet low in or absent of fortified milk products
  6. Less sun exposure due to a number of factors

Supplement!

vitamin d

So how much Vitamin D supplement should you be taking? Here is the general consensus for most healthy individuals::

  1. Babies that are breastfed = supplement with drops that contain 400 IU daily
  2. Babies that are formula fed = if less than 32 ounces a day, supplement with drops that contain 400 IU daily
  3. Ages 1+ = 600 IU daily minimum, usually as a tablet or capsule

Some individuals may need 2000-5000 IU daily, or up to 50,000 IU 1-2 times a week. Of course everyone is different, and various medications and medical conditions can interfere with Vitamin D. As always, before starting any vitamin, supplement or medication, consult with your medical provider. Consider having a level checked, although be warned that many insurance plans do not cover routine screening so you may be paying for it out of pocket. You CAN take too much and have potentially harmful side effects, so you need to tailor the right dose for YOU.

Vitamin D is SO important, and we don’t talk about it often enough. If you are looking for ways to BOOST YOUR IMMUNITY and keep you and your family healthy, this can be a great start!


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