Supplements: Vitamin D
Vitamin D is essential to build and maintain healthy bones throughout life. Calcium, the main element of bone, can be absorbed into the body only when vitamin D is present. Vitamin D and calcium are involved in many body functions, including keeping your immune and nervous systems healthy.
Getting enough vitamin D can help prevent a number of serious health conditions, including those listed below:
- Osteoporosis: a preventable condition of soft, fragile, easily fractured bones. Getting enough vitamin Da can also prevent osteopenia, whic is low boe mas (but not low enough to be considered osteoporosis).
- Rickets and osteomalacia
- Cancer: Vitamin D is involved in cell growth and has been shown to decrease the growth of leukemia, colon cancer, skin cancer, and breast cancer cells. Additionally, researchers have found that people with adequate levels of vitamin D have a lowered risk of prostate and colorectal cancers.
- Diabetes: Vitamin D may help regulate blood sugar to prevent diabetes or to help control it.
- Multiple sclerosis: Vitamin D may help protect against this condition.
- Heart disease: Vitamin D may help prevent hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis) and lower blood pressure.
Vitamin D is also helpful in the following ways:
- Helps control blood sugar
- May help an overactive parathyroid
- Reduces cartilage damage in people with osteoarthritis and may decrease the severity of rheumatoid arthritis
- Has been successful in treating psoriasis
You may benefit from taking a vitamin D supplement if the following applies to you:
- You are on anti-convulsant drug therapy or glucocorticoid therapy.
- You eat a strict vegan diet.
Foods that contain vitamin D include the following:
- Cod liver oil
- Fortified milk
- Fortified cereals
- Egg yolk
Sunlight is a natural source of vitamin D. If you are fair-skinned, 20 to 30 minutes a day in bright sunlight will meet your vitamin D needs. If you are dark-skinned, you need three hours to get the same benefit. Clouds, smog, clothing, sunscreen, and window glass all decrease the amount of vitamin D you get from sunlight.
Other Ways to Get Enough VItamin D
Vitamin D is included in many multi-vitamins. It can be found in over-the-counter preparations in strengths from 50 IU to 1,000 IU as softgel capsules, tablets, and liquid. Higher-dose prescriptions are available. If you have trouble digesting fat, vitamin D injections are also available by prescription.
How to Take It
To prevent disease, adults under the age of 50 who do not get regular exposure to bright sunlight should take 400-800 IU of vitamin D every day (IU is the standard measurement for vitamin D). If you're older than 50, you should get 800-1,000 IU/day. Children should also get adequate amounts of vitamin D: it's recommended that they get 400 IU of vitamin D every day.
Discuss your supplement regimen regularly with your health care provider.
Taking too much vitamin D (more than 1,000 IU daily) can make you very ill. Symptoms include excessive thirst, metal taste, bone pain, tiredness, sore eyes, itching skin, vomiting, diarrhea, a need to urinate, and muscle problems. Getting too much sunlight will not give you too much vitamin D.
Check with your doctor before taking vitamin D if you have high blood calcium or phosphorus levels or if you have a cardiac or kidney disease.
The following decreases the amount of vitamin D you get:
- Mineral oil
- Some anti-convulsant therapies
You may also have mineral imbalances from using vitamin D if you take magnesium-containing antacids, digitalis glycosides, verapamil, and thiazide diuretics. For more information about vitamin D, talk with your health care provider.
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