Most of us know that calcium is an important mineral for strong bones, but there’s another vitamin that many of us don’t get enough of that is just as necessary.
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and use it to its full potential. The likelihood of breaking bones as we age, and losing muscle mass (which protects our bodies from falls), increases if we don’t get enough vitamin D.
While it’s generally recommend that most people under 50 years of age get 400 – 800 international units (IU) daily, and people 50+ get 800 – 1000 IU daily, many of us actually could use more than that — especially those of us who live in cities or who don’t get a lot of regular natural sunlight. The Institute of Medicine says that up 4,000 IU of vitamin D supplementation is safe.
How to Get More Vitamin D
Vitamin D doesn’t exist naturally in a lot of foods, but you can eat more of it by consuming fatty fish like salmon and tuna, egg yolks, and foods that are fortified with the vitamin like orange juice, cereals, and milk.
A vitamin D supplement is usually the best way to increase your daily dose; just make sure you’re buying a reputable, “clean” brand.
Sunscreen is important if you’re going to be outside for long periods of time, but unless you’re at risk for or have had skin cancer in the past, consider forgoing the SPF if you’re only going to be out for a little while. SPF can reduce helpful vitamin D from the sun by 95 percent.
Harvard Medical school recommends “about five to 30 minutes of sunlight between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. twice a week to your face, arms, legs, or back without sunscreen,” to help your body manufacture its own vitamin D.
Signs of Vitamin D Deficiency
A 2011 study published in Nutrition Research claimed that about 42 percent of Americans are deficient of vitamin D, but the signs of vitamin D deficiency are not always easy to spot.
If you’ve recently noticed a dip in your energy or a lower sense of physical strength, it may be a good idea to have your vitamin D levels checked.
Many people diagnosed with fibromyalgia may actually be suffering from osteomalacia, an often painful and achey process of the slow softening of bones due to lack of vitamin D and calcium.
Feelings of depression can also be symptoms of vitamin D deficiency. While more research needs to be done on the reasons for this correlation, many scientists believe that Seasonal Affective Disorder may actually be from lowered levels of natural vitamin D. There is also some research to suggest that vitamin D levels are connected to the production of both serotonin and dopamine.
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