Vitamin D is an essential nutrient in your body and is necessary for calcium absorption and bone health. The sun is the best source of vitamin D. When exposed to sunlight, the skin’s cells produce vitamin D.
During the winter, it can be difficult to get enough sunlight because of the shortened daylight hours and harsh weather conditions outdoors. About 42% of individuals living in the U.S. have a vitamin D deficiency.
It is important to know the importance of vitamin D and the best ways to maintain vitamin D levels during the winter.
The role of vitamin D
Vitamin D plays a critical role in the body because it promotes calcium absorption which is needed for bone growth and maintaining bone density. Additionally, vitamin D helps to reduce inflammation in the body and helps maintain a functioning immune system to fight infections and pathogens. Vitamin D can even help prevent respiratory infections, which is important during the winter when sicknesses are circulating. Low levels of vitamin D can lead to health issues. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to lower bone density and bone or joint pain. Other signs of a vitamin D deficiency include muscle cramps, fatigue, mood changes and even depression.
How to get enough vitamin D
During the winter it is difficult to get enough sunlight exposure for the body to produce the amount of vitamin D it needs. The UVB rays in sunlight do not penetrate glass, so while sitting next to a window on a sunny day in the winter may feel good – it’s not stimulating vitamin D production in the skin.
Try including foods rich in vitamin D in your diet. It’s recommended that individuals consume 400 to 800 IU (10-20 mcg) of vitamin D each day.
Vitamin D naturally occurs in fatty fish like salmon, sardines and tuna. Shellfish like oysters and shrimp are also high in vitamin D. Vitamin D can also be found in egg yolks and in fortified foods such as cow milk, plant-based milk and even orange juice. If you are vegetarian, you can get your vitamin D by eating fortified tofu or mushrooms. Talk to a health care provider about how much you need to consume every day of certain foods.
If you believe that you are not getting enough vitamin D, check with your health care provider before taking any supplements to discuss benefits and risks. If you prescribed any medication, it is especially important to check with a health care provider before taking any new supplements to prevent any dangerous side effects from combining your prescription with the supplement.
Getting enough vitamin D is important for your body, but it is important to increase vitamin D levels in a safe manner and to include your health care provider in the conversation.
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