Vitamin D plays a vital role in many bodily functions—it’s also known as the “sunshine vitamin” because it’s produced naturally in your skin when it’s exposed to direct sunlight. Unfortunately, that means as the seasons change and winter brings earlier sunsets plus more time indoors, it’s harder to get all the vitamin D you need naturally. Does that mean a vitamin D supplement is right for you?
Vitamin D is most known for its role in bone and teeth development. It plays a crucial part in helping the body absorb calcium and phosphorous. The body can only absorb about 10% to 15% of dietary calcium without vitamin D—with its assistance that rate shoots up to almost 40%. It also plays an important role in muscle health, bolsters your immune system, and helps your nerves carry messages between your brain and body.
It’s recommended that most adults ages 18–70 get 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D each day.1 Direct exposure to sunlight is a natural way for your body to produce the vitamin D it needs, but there are actually a few ways to get it through your diet. Fatty fish such as trout, salmon, tuna, and mackerel are good natural sources, as are beef liver, egg yolks, and mushrooms. You can also find fortified products where vitamin D has been added, such as cow, soy, and almond milks, in addition to some orange juices and fortified cereals. While these sources can help you increase your levels, rarely can you eat enough to get all that you need.
Extremely low levels can lead to issues with your bones, including an increased risk of fractures. Not getting enough vitamin D can also lead to simply not feeling well, including extreme fatigue and general aches and pains.
It’s difficult for most people to get enough vitamin D through sun and food alone and spending too much time in the sun has its own risks and doesn’t produce enough of what you need—especially if you live in a northern climate. Winter makes it tough to get enough sun, but so do heavy amounts of pollution, sunscreen, heavy clothing, and general aging. People with darker skin tones are also at risk for having lower levels of vitamin D. Getting the right amount of vitamin D doesn’t need to be tricky though. Most people can benefit from adding a multivitamin or specific vitamin D supplement to their routine to ensure they’re getting enough.
It’s almost impossible to produce too much vitamin D through our skin, but it is possible to overdo it with supplements. Very high levels of vitamin D in your blood can lead to nausea, muscle weakness, loss of appetite, or kidney stones. Extremely high levels can cause too much calcium to build up in the body which can weaken the bones and damage the kidneys and the heart. Some people have medical conditions or take medications or other supplements that may limit the amount of vitamin D they can take safely. If in doubt, you should consult your health care provider or a MOBE Pharmacist.
A licensed MOBE Pharmacist can help you minimize risks and make the most of your medications—including prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, herbals, and supplements. Get started today.
1. “Vitamin D Fact Sheet for Health Professionals,” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, National Institutes of Health, https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/.