Vitamin D is called the “sunshine vitamin” because the body makes vitamin D from exposure to the sun. However, about 90% of adults in the United States are vitamin D deficient. You have a greater chance for D deficiency if you spend most of your time indoors, wear sunscreen when outdoors, live in northern regions or those that are overweight. Because a lot of people fall into one of those categories, this means people are supplementing with vitamin D more now than ever. As we move into colder, gloomier weather we wanted to share some information about Vitamin D deficiency, the risks, symptoms, sources of Vitamin D and supplementation.
Why is vitamin D important?
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that is stored in the liver and fatty tissue in the body. D helps with calcium absorption and it affects skeletal structure, blood pressure, immunity, mood, sleep, brain function and helps protect against some cancers. As you can see, it is a pretty important vitamin.
The symptoms associated with vitamin D deficiency are non-specific and can be subtle, often getting overlooked as the cause. Here are the most common symptoms of vitamin D deficiency:
- Getting sick or infections often
- Feeling fatigued and tired
- Bone and back pain
- Slow wound healing
- Bone loss
- Hair loss
- Muscle pain
There are other ways besides soaking up the sun to get more of this important vitamin. It is found naturally in small amounts in some foods. The best sources are fatty fish (halibut, salmon, swordfish and sardines) egg yolk, cod liver oil and raw milk. It is fortified in pasteurized milk, some milk alternatives and cereal. Supplementing with vitamin D supplements may be necessary.
Vitamin D supplements come in two forms, D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol). Because D3 is much better absorbed, we recommend this form of D to our patients.
If you suspect a deficiency, it is important to see your doctor. They can draw blood to determine your level and prescribe a supplement if necessary. Optimally, you want your level to be between 50-70ng/mL. Talk with your doctor about how much to take. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is 600 IU per day for adults, but most doctors consider that too low and recommend 2000 IU per day. If you are overweight, it may take more to get your levels up. Since D is stored in fat, if you have excess fat, the body tends to store more and it can difficult to access the D stored. Also, since vitamin D is fat soluble, make sure you take vitamin D supplements with food that has some fat in it, your body will absorb it better.