Feeling the need for some sunshine this winter? Well, your body may be feeling the same need.
Many people run low on vitamin D during the dark, colder months of the year, as they stay inside their homes more often and are exposed to fewer of vitamin D-producing rays from the sun. Even those who do go outside for regular exercise are likely to bundle up, effectively blocking out what little sunshine there is, according to a news release from Morris Hospital.
Vitamin D is necessary for several reasons, according to Dr. Paulo Aranas, family medicine physician at Morris Hospital's Ottawa Campus.
“A lot of people know that vitamin D plays a big role in working with calcium to give you strong, healthy bones,” Aranas said in a news release. “However, studies coming out also suggest that Vitamin D provides benefits to your immune and cardiovascular systems, as well.”
Aranas said anecdotal studies suggest vitamin D might also increase cognition in older adults.
Vitamin D plays a role in mental health, with 20 percent of Americans suffering from fatigue and depression each winter as result of low vitamin D levels.
So just how much vitamin D does an individual need? Between ages 1 through 70 years old, the recommended daily intake is 600 IU. Those over age 70 should get at least 800 IU of vitamin D each day.
The measurement IU stands for "international unit," which is the standard for measuring fat-soluble vitamins.
Not many foods are naturally rich in vitamin D, but fatty fishes such as swordfish and salmon are particularly good sources, with approximately 566 and 477 IU, respectively, in a 3-ounce serving. Cod liver oil is another especially rich source, containing 1,360 IU per tablespoon.
Three ounces of canned tuna comes in at 154 IU; two sardines from cans have 46 IU; 3 ounces of beef liver have 42 IU; and one egg yolk has 41 IU. Many foods have vitamin D added to them.
Individuals may be at higher risk for low vitamin D if they have dark skin, are obese, spend excess time indoors, take certain medications, had gastric bypass surgery or have kidney or liver disease or a condition that limits absorption by the intestines.
While Vitamin D supplements may be taken, be careful not to overdo it, the hospital warns in its news release. Too much of this fat-soluble vitamin can cause nausea, vomiting, itching, weakness, confusion, heart rhythm problems and kidney damage.
Aranas said those experiencing symptoms of vitamin D deficiency, such as persistent joint pain, muscle aches and fatigue, can have a blood test at their doctors’ office to test the level.