Many patients tell us they are taking vitamin D supplements but they’re not really sure why or how much they should take. You may have learned in the past that we get plenty of vitamin D from the sun. That may be true in some parts of the world, but in the Pacific Northwest, our cloudy climate and our distance from the sun in the winter months (November through March) make adequate sun exposure hard to come by. Add to this that most of us are inside for the better part of the day and wear sunscreen to protect ourselves from skin damage, and you’ll see that most of us could use more vitamin D than we get.
Low levels of vitamin D are associated with decreased bone density, increased rates of falls and immune system and cardiovascular problems. There are some studies that seem to indicate that vitamin D plays a role in preventing breast and colon cancers. Although it lacks scientific support, many patients have told us of increased energy levels and reduced muscle and joint pain.
There are small amounts of vitamin D in dark green leafy vegetables and egg yolks. The meat of fatty fish and fortified foods, like milk and cereals have more. Other milk products, like cheese and ice cream, don’t have much. Although we’ll do better by eating a healthy variety of foods, most of us will still need a supplement. Vitamin D supplements are inexpensive and well tolerated. It is stored in our body for a short time after it is consumed – so if you forget to take your supplement one day, just take two the next day! Keep in mind, it is possible to get too much vitamin D – but an average daily intake of 1000-2000IU is considered safe.
Most of us in the Northwest would be correct in assuming that our vitamin D level is lower than recommended. Your vitamin D level can be determined by a simple blood test drawn at our office as part of your annual exam. We frequently see women with levels as low as the teens or 20s, when a level of 40 is considered adequate. By paying attention to the foods we consume and taking a supplement, we can make sure our bodies have all the vitamin D we need for optimal health!
Are you curious about your vitamin D level? Ask us to check it at your next annual exam. Contact our office to schedule your appointment today >