Learn how to boost your vitamin D

Your body needs vitamin D. Living in the Midwest may present challenges receiving what’s necessary.

Vitamin D is referred to as the sunshine vitamin. Vitamin D is necessary for your body’s health and wellbeing. Getting too much of it can cause your blood to have too much calcium, which is harmful to your kidneys, lungs and heart. Getting too little can cause bone diseases (often called rickets), muscle aches and weakness. Studies suggest vitamin D can be instrumental in helping treatment and prevention of Type 1 and 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis, severe asthma in children and cancer.

The body produces vitamin D after being exposed to sunlight. Those who live in areas with long winters with early sunsets, and limited sunlight often face challenges for receiving enough.

A vitamin D supplement in the proper dosage can be prescribed by your doctor based on your gender and age. Doctors often prescribe supplemental doses of 1,000 to 2,000 International Unit (IU) a day.

If you choose to increase your vitamin D intake based on your diet alone, remember that this may be a challenge. Some of the foods which are rich in vitamin D are:

  • Salmon, sardines, oysters, mackerel
  • Vitamin D fortified milk
  • Vitamin D fortified juice
  • Vitamin D enriched cereal
  • Dairy (including cream and cheese)
  • Margarine, butter

In order to get the vitamin D you need from sunlight, you’ll need to spend five to 15 minutes, three times a week in the sun with direct, not filtered sunlight. Be sure not to over-expose and cover your extremities. If this is a problem and/or concern, ask your doctor about taking supplements along with vitamin D enriched foods.

Remember also that individuals with darker skin tones have more difficulty absorbing vitamin D from sunlight, so supplements may be necessary. Michigan State University Extension recommends asking your medical provider for suggestions that will help you get what you need to maintain your health.

Maintaining a healthy weight is also beneficial. If you have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater, you have low blood levels of vitamin D. A healthy weight and BMI is from 18.5 to 24.9 (25-29.9 is considered overweight). A BMI of 30 is considered obese. A BMI of 40 is considered to be morbidly obese.

Those who are home-bound or work inside have limited exposure to sunlight. These individuals are also considered to be high risk for vitamin D deficiency.

If you are unable to get enough sunlight, see your doctor. If you are experiencing the symptoms such as tiredness, muscle weakness or achy bones, ask about testing for vitamin D deficiency. Your provider will order lab work and will explain the results to you.

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