The Deal with Vitamin D
Scientists estimate that over one billion people in the world are vitamin D deficient. That means that at least one-eighth of all of the people on earth are suffering from a lack of this essential vitamin. Despite the “urgent need” for vitamin D intervention worldwide, many people are unaware that they are deficient in the first place. Why is that?
For one, many of the side effects of vitamin D deficiency can be easily written off as common ailments. Symptoms include fatigue, muscle weakness, mood swings, body aches, back pain (specifically lower back pain), and weakened immunity. The most dangerous symptom is the silent one: vitamin D is vital to the proper absorption of calcium, meaning that without it, bones can become brittle and fracture easily. This is especially important to protect against as aging occurs.
To complicate things further, deficiency cannot be self-diagnosed. The only way to know if you need a boost is to get your blood tested by your doctor. There’s no easy over-the-counter test for measuring blood vitamin levels, so unless a deficient period and a blood test happen to align, diagnoses rarely happen. And without a sure diagnosis, there can be no sure treatment.
However, that doesn’t mean that nothing can be done!
How do I increase my vitamin D intake?
Do you suspect you’re in need of a little sunshine vitamin? You’re not alone! With millions confined to their homes over the last year and a half, more people than ever before are looking for ways to be their healthiest and get enough of what their bodies need to function. Here are a few things you can do to let the sunshine in:
- Eat vitamin-rich foods. The best sources of vitamin D come from what you eat. Wild mushrooms and fatty fish are the most reliable, naturally-occurring sources. Adding a cup or two of wild mushrooms to a stir fry or a rice dish or switching out your regular protein choice with salmon or halibut are fantastic ways to supplement your vitamin D level organically. If you’re okay with eating artificially fortified foods, animal products like milk, cheese, and eggs are also great sources.
- Take vitamin supplements. Supplements are fantastic options for the vitamin-deficient as they make it incredibly easy to get the vitamins and minerals you need quickly. In our busy world, food prep is often left by the wayside, so adding a few supplements to your morning routine is a good get-out-of-jail-free card. Plus, there are a wide array of vitamin D supplements made from both traditional and vegan ingredients for people of all dietary preferences. However, it’s quite possible to overdose on supplements, so be careful to follow the serving sizes on the packaging (600-4,000 IU is considered the healthy range).
- Spend time in the sun. Your body makes vitamin D naturally when cholesterol in your skin interacts with UVB rays. Dermatologists do not recommend that you get your vitamin D from sun exposure because ultraviolet rays are known to cause cancer, but if you are unable to avoid it, spending just ten minutes of time outside (without sunscreen, wearing a tank top and shorts) may be all that you need for the day. If you have naturally darker skin, the amount of time you need to spend outside without sunscreen increases, so proceed with the utmost caution. Trading a vitamin D deficiency for melanoma is not a fair deal. Read more here and here to learn more about how to be safe in the sun.
It never hurts to rule out a vitamin D deficiency as the cause for a little ache, lasting tiredness, or a case of the blues. If you’re experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms and you think it could be because of low vitamin D levels, reach out to a medical professional for a sure diagnosis and collaborate on a treatment plan. There’s no time like the present!
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