Know the signs of a Vitamin D deficiency and how to boost your intake

You probably know that Vitamin D is vital for proper bone development and can help alleviate depression. But did you know that a Vitamin D deficiency can have some other serious consequences, including an elevated risk of certain cancers, autoimmune disorders and cardiovascular disease?

In fact, experts believe that every tissue in the body – including the brain, heart, muscles and immune system – have receptors for Vitamin D. Without the nutrient, these tissues cannot function well. Recent studies show that it plays a much greater role in fighting disease than once thought.

Reasons why you might be Vitamin D deficient

If you live above the line on a map that would connect San Francisco to Philadelphia, chance are you do not get enough Vitamin D from sunlight.

If you live above the line on a map that would connect San Francisco to Philadelphia, chance are you do not get enough Vitamin D from sunlight.

If you live in North America, there is a very good chance you have a Vitamin D deficiency. Three quarters of teens and adults in the U.S. have a Vitamin D deficiency, and the amount of people who are deficient in the nutrient has steadily increased over the course of the past several decades.

You may be especially at risk if:

  • You live over the line on a map that would connect San Francisco to Philadelphia and Athens to Beijing, chances are you do not get enough Vitamin D from sunlight.
  • If you don’t get outside for at least a 15-minute daily walk in the sun.
  • If you are African American or have dark skin
  • If you are older, overweight or obese.
  • If you don’t consume dairy products or oily fish, like salmon.

Signs you might be Vitamin D deficient

If you are experiencing any of the following, you may have a Vitamin D deficiency. You:

  • Feel depressed
  • Often feel lethargic
  • Feel your muscles are weak
  • Have soft bones that are prone to injury
  • Sweat, or have a consistently high body temperature

How much Vitamin D do we actually need?

The US Institute of Medicine recommends that most adults and children take an average of 400–800 IU, or 10–20 micrograms, every day. However, many experts recommend that if you do not get daily sun exposure or fall into any of the categories above, an intake of 1000-4000 IU, or 25-100 micrograms, is more in line with what you need.

How to get the Vitamin D you need

One way to get the Vitamin D you need is through food. One serving of salmon contains 360 IU.

One way to get the Vitamin D you need is through food. One serving of salmon contains 360 IU.

So what does that mean? Here is how various sources of Vitamin D stack up and you can make sure you are getting the amount you need:

Sun exposure

During the summer, most people can meet the Vitamin D daily requirements they need through sun exposure. Most experts recommend 15 minutes of sun, preferably when the sun is overhead, or 50 degrees above the horizon. A great way to determine how the sun is positioned is to look at your shadow: if your shadow is slightly shorter than you are tall, then the sun is in a good position to stimulate Vitamin D production in your body.

If it is cloudy or overcast, your skin is probably not going to be able to produce the Vitamin D it needs for the day, since clouds block the UVB rays the body needs for Vitamin D production. So it is best to supplement on rainy days. Additionally, UVB rays do not penetrate glass, clothing or sunscreen, so be sure to soak up the sun unfiltered.

Food that contains Vitamin D

Here is the Vitamin D content of some common foods. Try to incorporate these into your daily diet:

Salmon (1 serving): 360 IU

Canned tuna: 200 IU

Milk 90: IU

Soy beverages (1 serving): 90 IU

1 Egg: 20 IU

Supplements

There are two types of Vitamin D supplements: D2 and D3. D3 is the type that your body produces, and is 87 percent more potent than D2 because it is easier for your body to absorb. So be sure to stick with a D3 supplement, and make sure it has a USP verification seal, which indicates that it went through voluntary independent quality testing. Always be sure to consult your doctor before starting a supplement regimen, and consider testing your blood to see what your current levels are. In general, usually taking 1,000 IU a day is a good place to start.

What are the benefits of Vitamin D?

What if there were one supplement you could take that would improve your mental health and reduce your chance of disease at the same time?

What if there were one supplement you could take that would improve your mental health and reduce your chance of disease at the same time?

Improves mental health

Researchers have found that Vitamin D deficiencies are more common in people who struggle with stress and anxiety. Studies show that people who received Vitamin D supplements notice an improvement in their overall mental health and depression symptoms.

Maintains bone health

Our bodies need Vitamin D in order to absorb calcium in the intestines. Without it, we are more prone to osteoporosis, as well as pore dental health. In children, Vitamin D deficiencies are especially dangerous, as they can lead to soft bones.

Fights disease

In addition to protecting your bones and mental health, Vitamin D plays an important role in fighting disease. Studies show that having healthy levels of Vitamin D can reduce your risk of multiple sclerosis, decrease your chance of developing heart disease, and reduce your chances of getting the flu.

Reduces our risk of diabetes

A growing body of research suggests that there is a relationship between blood concentrations of Vitamin D and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Prevents cancer

Vitamin D is extremely important for regulating cell growth and for cell-to-cell communication. Some studies show that Vitamin D can help reduce cancer progression by slowing the growth of new blood vessels in cancerous tissue.

By preventing disease and improving your mental health all at once, popping a quick Vitamin D supplement – or finally taking that 15 minute sun break during lunch – could be the key to longevity.

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What has been your experience with Vitamin D?

Do you get enough, or need more? Let us know any tips you have in the comments section below.