Vitamin D and Your Health
It’s been estimated that 70 percent of children and adults in the U.S. are vitamin D deficient. The cause of this deficiency is not always clear but it is widely reported that a combination of not getting enough exposure to the sun and not having enough vitamin D in the diet may be primary causal factors. A simple blood test, 25-hydroxy vitamin D test, can reveal your Vitamin D levels.
How much vitamin D do you need?
The Institute of Health has set the recommended dietary allowance to be 600 units a day. If you have a vitamin D deficiency, you may need more than that. Some people may benefit from adding 1-2,000 IU of vitamin D per day. Some people who have been diagnosed with a severe deficiency or have certain medical conditions may take up to 5-10,000 IU per day.
Issues with Low Vitamin D:
- Chronic pain: A lack of vitamin D may play a role in chronic pain caused by a variety of conditions. Research has indicated vitamin D deficiency may be implicated in musculoskeletal conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, neuropathy, migraine, and inflammation.
- Heart disease: Studies have linked low vitamin D levels with heart disease and heart attacks. The systemic inflammation of RA affects internal organs and increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. Managing this risk includes seeing a preventative cardiologist, eating a balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking. It may also include getting enough vitamin D.
To increase your Vitamin D level:
- Use food: You should include more oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel and tuna. Egg yolks and mushrooms also provide vitamin D, You could also choose a cereal and milk fortified with vitamin D.
- Expose Yourself: Just 15 minutes of exposure to the sun gives you 20,000 IUs of vitamin D. However, this is without sunblock in the summer, and be aware that you need to be careful not to expose your skin to the sun without sunblock for long stretches of time. This can cause skin damage and increase your risk of skin cancer.
- Take Supplements: If food and exposure are not enough, supplements may be the answer.
- Beware of medications you are taking: Medications can hinder vitamin D absorption. Hydroxychloroquine, or Plaquenil, and corticosteroids, which both can be prescribed for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, are among these. Even if you are taking one of these drugs, your doctor can adjust your vitamin D dose to correct the malabsorption.
Benefits of Normal Levels of Vitamin D
- Lift moods and strengthen bones
- Help you manage chronic pain: It’s common for people who live with chronic pain to have a vitamin D deficiency. Many doctors routinely check their patients for their levels of vitamin D and often recommend vitamin D supplements as part of a treatment plan. Getting more vitamin D may help you to gradually get partial pain relief and improved mood.
- Protects you from disease: Not only does vitamin D play a crucial role in the absorption of calcium, but it can stave off osteoporosis, which can be a risk for people with RA. It also protects those susceptible to seasonal affective disorder from becoming depressed.
- Maintaining a healthy body weight: Some studies suggest that there is a link between regulation of body fat and vitamin D.
- A stronger immune system: Vitamin D plays an important role in immune cell function and deficiencies are linked to an increased susceptibility to infections.
- Prevention of rheumatoid arthritis: A recent study found that women with higher vitamin D had a lower risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
- Decreased asthma symptoms: One study found that children with adequate vitamin D levels had fewer severe asthma attacks than children with vitamin D insufficiencies.
- Lower risk of cancer: It looks like vitamin D may play a role in the body’s natural response to cancerous cells and may even be directly associated with lower rates of prostate cancer. (It should be noted that it is generally agreed that more studies related to cancer are necessary, but some applications appear promising.)
- Improved strength and balance: Supplementing with larger doses of vitamin D was shown to increase muscle strength in elderly men. Even more surprising was its effect on balance, which can have several life-long benefits.
Can you get too much vitamin D?
Too much vitamin D can cause toxicity, which can lead to abnormal heart rhythms, kidney stones, muscle weakness, and confusion. You would have to take very high levels of vitamin D over an extended period for it to get toxic. It’s important to talk to your doctor before taking high doses of vitamin D.