There are several things you can do to keep your bones strong and healthy — get plenty of exercise, lift weights, eat lots of protein and calcium, and watch your weight. But it might surprise you to learn that vitamin D is also a key player.
Where does vitamin D come from?
Your body doesn’t make its own vitamin D without the help of sunlight, so you have to get it from other sources. The primary sources of vitamin D are food, sun exposure, and supplements.
Vitamin D occurs naturally in tuna, egg yolks, mackerel, salmon, and beef liver, but if you don’t have those ingredients on a regular rotation at your house, you may not get enough from diet alone. Since the 1930s, some food manufacturers have been fortifying products such as cereal, milk, and orange juice with vitamin D to prevent deficiency — a condition called nutritional rickets.
You can also get vitamin D from sun exposure. As the rays penetrate your skin, they stimulate a chain reaction starting with receptor cells that generate vitamin D.
If you don’t get sufficient vitamin D through these sources, you may need to take an oral supplement, especially if you have lactose intolerance, milk allergies, or problems absorbing fat.
How does vitamin D affect your bones?
Vitamin D plays a supporting, but essential, role in bone health by regulating the levels of phosphorus and calcium in your system — two minerals crucial to the bone-building process. Vitamin D accomplishes this by controlling:
- How much calcium and phosphorus is in your bones
- How much you absorb from the food you consume
- How much you get rid of through your waste
Low vitamin D weakens your bones. It also impairs your immune system, making it more difficult to fight off even minor illnesses, and a vitamin D deficiency may lead to fatigue, slow wound healing, and even depression.
How much vitamin D do I need?
Think of vitamin D as the Goldilocks of vitamins — you don’t want too much or too little, you want just the right amount. Because vitamin D is stored in your fat, if you’re very thin and take a lot of vitamin D, you may absorb too much calcium, which can become toxic.
Unless you have a medical condition that requires you to take prescription-levels of vitamin D, we recommend that most adults shoot for getting about 600 IU per day. If you’re over 70, you should get about 800 IUs.
What happens if I’m vitamin D deficient?
Almost 42% of American adults have a vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is essential for overall health and particularly important for your bones. Lack of vitamin D or excess vitamin D affects your body’s ability to absorb calcium, which can lead to calcium disorders.
Insufficient calcium can contribute to osteoporosis, a serious condition that decreases your bone density and may lead to fractures, a hunched posture, loss of height, and back pain.
Am I at risk for low vitamin D?
Low vitamin D can stem from several different causes, some are controllable and others aren’t. You may be a greater risk for vitamin D deficiency if you:
- Are over 70
- Are overweight or obese
- Don’t eat dairy foods
- Don’t eat fish
- Rarely go outdoors
Certain health conditions can also predispose you to low vitamin D levels, including Crohn’s disease, kidney or liver disease, hyperparathyroidism, or celiac disease.
If you’re at risk for or suspect low vitamin D, schedule an appointment at Ally Endocrinology . With a simple blood test, we can determine if you’re low on vitamin D and whether it’s affecting your calcium absorption and bone health.
If it is, we develop a personalized plan to get your levels back to normal and treat any related issues, such as osteoporosis or a calcium disorder. To talk to one of our experts, simply call one of our offices in Troy, Michigan , or request an appointment online.