What you need to know about getting enough vitamin D

Vitamin D helps keep bones strong and plays a key role in preventing many health problems. If you’re deficient in vitamin D, supplements may be a good option. Here’s what you need to know about this vital vitamin. 

What you need to know about getting enough vitamin D

Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency

According to recent research, about four per cent of Canadians are vitamin D deficient, while approximately ten per cent have inadequate levels of the vitamin.

Many of the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency are too subtle to notice. Nevertheless, the following signs and symptoms may indicate you’re not getting enough of this vitamin:

  • Achy bones
  • Muscle weakness
  • Stomach problems
  • Sweaty head

Causes of vitamin D deficiency

  • One of the main causes of vitamin D deficiency is not getting enough sunlight. When your skin is exposed to sunlight, your body naturally makes its own vitamin D. If you live in an area that gets little sun, you wear a lot of sunscreen, or you're homebound, you could be more likely to have a deficiency.
  • If you have dark skin, you may be more susceptible to vitamin D deficiency. That’s because the melanin in skin makes it more difficult for the body to get the sunlight it needs to make vitamin D.
  • Following a strictly vegan diet may cause a deficiency in vitamin D.
  • People who are overweight seem to be more susceptible to vitamin D deficiency.

Recommended vitamin D intake

The amount of vitamin D you need varies according to your age:

  • Individuals between the ages of one and 70 need 600 IU per day, including women who are lactating or pregnant.
  • Individuals over the age of 70 should have at least 800 IU per day.

Should you take vitamin D supplements?

Before taking a supplement, it's best to have a physician test your vitamin D levels, which can be done with a simple blood test. If your levels are inadequate or deficient, your physician can prescribe a vitamin D supplement.

However, supplements aren't the only way to increase your levels. Try these options to boost your vitamin D:

  • Eat foods fortified with vitamin D, such as yogurt and milk.
  • Make sure your diet contains foods that are a natural source of vitamin D, including eggs, salmon, tuna, shiitake mushrooms, sardines and mackerel. Since vitamin D is fat soluble, it's important to eat these foods with healthy fats for maximum absorption.
  • Increase your daily sun exposure. Ten to 15 minutes of sunlight without protection is enough to increase vitamin D levels.

Vitamin D is key to keeping you healthy. That’s why it’s so important that your body makes enough. If you suspect you have a vitamin D deficiency, head to your doctor for a checkup and follow these tips to boost your levels.

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