Most of us take daily multivitamins because we may not reach our daily recommended amounts of essential nutrients. Some people may have a healthy enough diet that they consume enough nutrients but they may naturally be deficient in other nutrients. These people may take a specific vitamin on its own as opposed to a multivitamin. For example, vitamin D. Normally, when people are outside during summer, their bodies can absorb the vitamin D that they need from the sun however during the winter months, it’s harder to absorb the same amount of the vitamin.
So, what does vitamin D do? Vitamin D allows your body to properly absorb calcium and aids in bone growth. With improper bone growth, you are at risk for soft or misshapen bones in children and adults. It also essential for important body function. And yes, we do get it from the some but some people, like northerners during the winter, do not get enough sun light.
Deficiency in the vitamin has been linked to several ailments such as heart disease, depression, autism, and various cancers. Please remember that because a vitamin D deficiency is linked to a disease it does not mean it’s the cause. Some disease can be linked to low levels of vitamin D but it hasn’t been determined if the level of the vitamin is a cause or result of the disease. There is a correlation between diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and the distance from the equator.
On the other side, too much vitamin D can also be toxic. Too much can lead to high calcium levels in blood (because it’s not absorbed into the body) and tissue calcification. Damage can also occur to the heart, blood vessels, and kidneys. Our bodies can absorb vitamin D from the sun, food, or from a pill; however, these sources are not created equally. While you can consume toxic levels from a pill, you cannot get toxic levels from the sun because they’re absorbed from different sources: your stomach versus your skin.
How much should you get? Dietary guidelines differ from source to source as well as by age but for an average adult it is recommended that you receive 4000 IU of vitamin D per day. It is estimated that almost 70% of the U.S. population has insufficient levels on the important vitamin. A deficiency in vitamin D can include symptoms such as tiredness, aches and pains, bone or muscle pain, weakness, and stress fractures. Foods high in vitamin D include fatty fish such as tuna, mackerel, and salmon, raw milk, egg yolks, fortified milk, fortified cereal, and cod liver oil.
To ensure you’re getting enough vitamin D you can spend some time outside or supplementing your day with a pill. You can also add vitamin D to your diet by eating some of the following foods: