There are two types of vitamin D important to humans: D2 is from plant-based sources, and D3 is made by the body when the skin is not protected by sunscreen and is exposed to ultraviolet rays in sunlight.
Vitamin D serves many purposes in your body:
- Helps build bones and absorb calcium, which is also crucial for healthy bones.
- Reduces inflammation.
- Can help prevent muscle cramps and spasms.
- Supports a healthy immune system.
- Some health experts believe that vitamin D may lower your risk for certain types of cancer, such as colorectal cancer.
- Research in this area is ongoing.
The recommended daily allowance for vitamin D for children and adults is 600 IU (15 mcg) until age 70. Starting at age 70, the RDA is 800 IU (20 mcg).
Vitamin D Deficiency Is Common
Many Americans are believed to be vitamin D deficient. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that 8.1% of Americans are deficient in vitamin D, although other studies and estimates cite a much higher percentage.
A wide swath of the population that commonly has vitamin D deficiency, include:
- Older Americans.
- It’s harder to absorb vitamin D as you age. This is one reason why higher vitamin D amounts are recommended for adults age 70 or older.
- Those who have indoor jobs because they aren’t outside in the sun a lot.
- Those who have darker skin.
- Those with inflammatory bowel disease or cystic fibrosis because these diseases make it harder for the body to absorb vitamin D.
- Those who are vegan or lactose tolerant and certain types of vegetarians could struggle to get enough vitamin D.
- That’s because the food sources that provide vitamin D are often from animals, such as dairy and fish.
- Those who are obese.
- Body fat can isolate vitamin D instead of spreading it to other parts of the body.
- Obesity is considered a body mass index of 30 kg/m2 or higher.
Signs of Vitamin D Deficiency
There are several signs of vitamin D deficiency, including:
- Bone and joint pain.
- More frequent infections and illnesses.
- Lower back pain.
- Mood changes.
- Muscle aches or cramps.
- Chronic vitamin D deficiency can put you at a higher risk for fractures and degenerative diseases like osteoporosis and spondylosis.
- An overall sense of feeling tired, not feeling like being productive and wanting to lay down all day.
What to Do If You Are Vitamin D Deficient
If a lab test indicates that you’re not getting enough vitamin D, there are a few things you can do.
First, turn to food. Some good food sources for vitamin D include:
- Fatty fish such as salmon.
- A 3-ounce serving of sockeye salmon provides 71% of the RDA for vitamin D.
- Dairy products and non-dairy milks, all of which are usually fortified with vitamin D.
- A cup of 2% cow’s milk provides 15% of the vitamin D children and adults need daily.
- For non-dairy milks, a cup will provide 13% to 18% of an adult’s RDA for vitamin D.
- One egg has 6% of the RDA for vitamin D.
- Three ounces of liver provides 5% of the RDA for vitamin D.
- Orange juice and cereals that are fortified with vitamin D.
- One regular-sized serving of cereal usually provides 10% of the daily value needed of vitamin D.
Next, aim to get just a few minutes of sunlight a day. After all, vitamin D is often called the sunshine vitamin. However, this sun exposure sans sun protection requires just a small amount of time – 10 to 15 minutes a day should be enough, with some of your skin (like your arms or legs) exposed.
A third option in place of or in addition to food and sun exposure is a dietary supplement. This is best done in collaboration with your health provider, who can help decide on the right dosing for you. In general, 1,000 to 5,000 IU is considered to be safe. These higher doses are used because many people won’t absorb all of the vitamin D that their body gets. Some people receive vitamin D supplement prescriptions of up to 50,000 IU weekly. You can use either D2 or D3 supplements, although D3 supplements are more common.
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Read the full U.S. News & World Report article here: https://health.usnews.com/wellness/food/articles/signs-of-vitamin-d-deficiency