Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D?
Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” is a critical nutrient that assists the human body in calcium absorption, bone growth, hormone regulation, autoimmune functions, mood regulation and more.
But not everyone consumes the 2,000 International Units (IUs) of vitamin D daily as recommended by the Institute of Medicine (IoM). According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, however, up to 10% of the United States adult population are clinically vitamin D deficiency.
Like all vitamins, the human body needs vitamin D to function properly. If you don’t consume enough of it, you may discover one or more or the following symptoms.
Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency:
You feel down and depressed. Everyone is bound to experience a case of the “Monday blues” on occasion, but if you feel depressed day after day, it could be a sign of vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D plays an important role in serotonin production, meaning people who don’t consume enough of this beneficial vitamin may experience problems with mood, such as depression.
You have dark skin. The darker your skin, the less vitamin D your body will create from sun exposure. This is because dark skin literally blocks sunlight, preventing it from reaching deep inside the cells where it’s needed to produce vitamin D. Some experts suggest that men and women with dark skin need 10 times more sun exposure than light-skinned individuals just to meet their bodies’ vitamin D needs.
You spend most your days indoors. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American spends 93% of their life indoors. When you’re cooped up indoors for such long periods of time, you won’t get enough sun exposure to trigger your body’s vitamin D production.
Aching bones and joints. Vitamin D deficiency prevents calcium from making its way into the collagen matrix of your body, which in turn leads to aching bones and joints.
Of course, these are just a few signs and symptoms of vitamin D deficiency. For a more accurate diagnoses, consult with your primary care physician. A simple blood test can reveal the exact levels of vitamin D in your body.
Vitamin D and Sunlight
The good news is that our bodies produce vitamin when exposed to sunlight. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays act as a catalyst, triggering cells to produce and release vitamin D. If you have a fair complexion, spending just 10 minutes basking in the mid-day sun should provide you with more than enough vitamin D to meet your daily needs.
The problem, however, is that wearing sunscreen lotion restricts the amount of vitamin D produced through sun exposure. Being that sunscreen lotion is essential for reducing the risk of skin cancer, though, this is kind of a catch-22. If you wear sunscreen lotion, you’ll protect your skin from sunburns and skin cancer, but you won’t receive a healthy dose of vitamin D.
Supplement Your Diet with Vitamin D-Rich Foods
In addition to soaking up the sun, you can increase your body’s vitamin D levels by consuming the right foods. Fatty fish like salmon and tuna are excellent sources of vitamin D (don’t worry, it’s the healthy type of fat). According to WebMD, a 6-ounce serving of salmon has around 600 IUs of vitamin D.
Mushrooms, particularly those exposed to sunlight, are also loaded in vitamin D. One cup of portobello mushrooms, for instance, contains upwards of 1,000 IUs of vitamin D.
Other food-based sources of vitamin D include cheese, tofu, vitamin-fortified milk, beef liver, eggs and soy.
Vitamin D deficiency is a serious problem that affects 1 out of every 10 men and women. Through dieting and regular sun exposure, however, you can protect yourself from this condition.