Most of us have heard that drinking milk helps to build strong bones. That’s because it contains calcium and vitamin D, both of which are linked to healthy bones. Unfortunately, vitamin D doesn’t occur naturally in many foods.
One natural way to get enough vitamin D is by exposing bare skin to sunlight. When skin is exposed to the sun’s rays, it synthesizes vitamin D from cholesterol. It doesn’t take very much sun for that synthesis to occur.
While getting enough sun can be possible during warm months of the year, winter months in northern climates is a different story. When the mercury drops, often vitamin D levels drop too.
Medical Issues Caused by Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency is more serious than it sounds. Recent research shows that it can negatively impact our health as we age. Depending on the seriousness of the deficiency, lack of vitamin D can lead to a variety of health problems.
Early-stage deficiency: Among the early signs of vitamin D deficiency are muscle pain, problems walking, unexplained fatigue, and overall weakness.Advanced deficiency: A more advanced deficiency can result in deep bone pain and fractures. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to higher rates of heart and vascular disease, as well as prostate, breast, and colon cancer.
While a vitamin D deficiency can be serious, there are easy steps you can take to protect yourself.
Vitamin D: How to Avoid a Deficiency This Winter
Smart food choices: While foods containing vitamin D aren’t plentiful, there are some options you can try. Consuming vitamin D rich foods like canned salmon, milk, tuna, and mushrooms will help. Vitamin D enriched foods such as soy, yogurt, cereal, orange juice, and eggs are easy to work into your diet as well.Sun exposure: Getting a limited amount of sun exposure might also help. Check with your physician to see how much sunlight is safe. A common recommendation is about 20 minutes of sun several times a week. Incorporate this sun exposure into your day in small amounts when it’s too cold to stay outside for long.Vitamin D supplements: Nutritionists will tell you that it’s best to get your essential vitamins and nutrients from healthy food choices. But in the case of vitamin D, that might not be possible. If you are concerned your vitamin D levels might be low, talk with your physician and ask for a simple blood test to check. If you are deficient, your doctor will either order a prescription dose of vitamin D or recommend an over-the-counter supplement.