Vitamin D and Your Healthy Life

Vitamin D does not get a lot of press. Everyone knows the virtues of getting lots of vitamin C, especially during cold season. But past that, most of us are pretty hazy about vitamins beyond taking a daily pill. Recent research has shown that vitamin D plays a central role in our health and well being, far beyond what was previously thought.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble (instead of water-soluble) vitamin that is naturally occurring in very few foods. Some fish, such as tuna and salmon, contain vitamin D and it is also found in cod liver oil. Some foods are enhanced or fortified with vitamin D, such as milk and orange juice. Otherwise, we are dependent on the most important source of vitamin D: exposure to the sun. With the growing awareness of the dangers of unprotected sun exposure, many people wear sun screen constantly and avoid sun exposure wherever possible. This behavior change has been the most significant contributor to the growing problem of vitamin D deficiency. Some people, especially those with celiac disease, cystic fibrosis or Crohn’s disease, do not absorb vitamin D from food or supplements, so they are even more dependent on exposure to sunlight.

We need vitamin D in our lives for a variety of health reasons. In the past, most people with vitamin D deficiency were not diagnosed until they had rickets. Rickets is a disease that causes the bone tissues to grow improperly, leading to soft bones and skeletal deformities. Now, a simple blood test can show if you are not getting enough vitamin D well before the onset of rickets. Since vitamin D affects blood levels of calcium and phosphate, lower levels of these markers can imply a vitamin D problem.

Vitamin D deficiency has been correlated with osteoporosis (the deterioration of bone tissue), cancer, mental impairment (especially with older people), asthma and heart disease. Current research is pursuing possible links with high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis and diabetes.

It is easy to get enough vitamin D. Just take a good multi-vitamin that contains vitamin D, or let your arms, legs and face get exposure to the sun (without sunscreen, of course) for five to ten minutes a few times a week. That’s it! Vitamin D is now your friend.

While your body will not over-product vitamin D through sun exposure, it is possible to overdo the multi-vitamin or supplement source for vitamin D, especially if you have liver or kidney problems. Symptoms include nausea and vomiting, constipation and kidney stones. These are not fun, so check your vitamin labels for proper dosage instructions.

So if you’re feeling “blah” or have bone or joint aches, you might want to consider a simple blood test to see if you need more vitamin D. Or, just prescribe some time in the sun for yourself. Skip the sunscreen for the first ten minutes and spend the whole afternoon getting some exercise and enjoying the outdoors!

Walking and hiking outdoors is always more fun with a buddy. If you don’t have a buddy ready to join you, just check out and find a new friend to share your enjoyment.

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