If you aren’t getting enough sun (hello, winter!) then you might be deficient in Vitamin D. This deficiency has become very common in the US and is considered a pandemic. Vitamin D is essential for strong bones, strong muscles and a healthy heart, while low levels of Vitamin D can be associated with cardiovascular disease, some cancers, diabetes, hypertension & cognitive impairment.
The best source of Vitamin D is the sun, which is why this vitamin is lovingly referred to as the “sunshine vitamin”. Limited sources of food have Vitamin D making it easy to become deficient. Foods that are good sources include egg yolks, beef liver, fatty fish such as salmon and tuna and fortified milk, cereal and juice. Since very few foods contain this important nutrient, and the sun isn’t shining for most of us these days, many are likely to be deficient.
What causes Vitamin D deficiencies?
The recommendation for Vitamin D per day is 600 IU for both males and females. Based on previous research, an average person usually gets a range of 150-280 IU from food per day. Getting enough sunlight usually makes up for this, but if you are soaking up the rays and still have a deficiency it could be one of the following reasons:
- You are a vegan or vegetarian – Vitamin D is found mostly in animal products such as fish, liver and egg yolks. Following a vegan or vegetarian diet may make it harder to get Vitamin D through food.
- You have dark skin – The pigment melanin, which is found in people with dark skin, reduces the ability to produce Vitamin D from sunlight.
- You have a gastrointestinal disease – If you suffer from Crohn’s, IBS, or Celiac Disease, it may be harder to absorb Vitamin D in the intestine.
- Obesity – If you have a BMI greater than 30 you are more likely to have lower levels of Vitamin D in the body.
- Older Age – As we age, our skin does not synthesize Vitamin D as efficiently even if we have adequate sun exposure. Often times as we get older we spend more time indoors or have inadequate intake of foods high in Vitamin D
Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency can include bone pain and muscle weakness, though they can be subtle. Because of this, many of us don’t know if we are Vitamin D deficient so it is important to get your levels checked by your doctor. If you are deficient, the doctor will usually recommend you take a Vitamin D supplement. Or that you take a trip to Florida :).