About four years ago, I felt exhausted, weak, tired, and moody despite receiving adequate rest. I also had difficulty maintaining a healthy weight. I felt like I had run out of fuel. These are just some of the symptoms I was experiencing when my doctor decided to screen me for Vitamin D deficiency, which I had attributed to a busy lifestyle, hormonal changes, and getting older. Surprisingly, I was chronically functioning in a vitamin D deficient state of health.

How are you feeling these days? Are you experiencing any of the above symptoms in addition to decreased energy, depressed mood, weakened immune system, muscle pain, and weak bones?

If so, you may be experiencing varying degrees of vitamin D deficiency. Eighty-five to 90% of patients don’t get enough Vitamin D and awareness is on the rise. This is a hot topic in the medical community and it’s time to have more conversations about it. It’s imperative to spread the word about the importance of this vital supplement as it relates to your life.

Amazingly, vitamin D is the single most important vitamin our bodies need to assist with many functions. It can easily be considered a “wonder vitamin. Unfortunately, many medical providers have received very little training about the health benefits of vitamin D. This means you may not be getting screened adequately for this deficiency and may very well be living in a vitamin D deficient state of health.

Natural and alternative sources of vitamin D

No known fruit, vegetable, grain or nut seems to contain vitamin D naturally. It is, however, found naturally in various foods such as canned tuna, mackerels, salmon, sardines, catfish, herrings, cod liver oil and oysters. Very little is found in eggs. Some manufactured food products such as milk, margarine, some breads, breakfast cereals and orange juice have been fortified with added vitamin D. Additionally, soy products (Tofu and Soy milk) have also been fortified with vitamin D.

Vitamin D supplements are available from pharmacies and health food stores in varying quantities. It is present in many multivitamins, or may be purchased as an independent supplement.

Vitamin D deficiency and what this means for you?

Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency may lead to deformed bones, easy fractures, high blood pressure, chronic pain or fatigue, periodontal disease, major depression, and other health problems. In post-menopausal women, this translates into increased risk of osteoporosis (bone weakness). A diet rich in calcium and vitamin D can also help control some symptoms of PMS, anxiety, and irritability. Additionally, if you’re struggling with your weight, particularly obesity, there’s a possibility that you’re deficient. Higher blood levels of vitamin D are linked to a leaner body mass.

Evidence is growing that vitamin D may protect against some cancers, particularly breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colorectal cancers. In fact, over 60 years of research have shown vitamin D supplementation or sunlight-induced vitamin D conversion to be associated with lower incidence of cancers.

What can you do to prevent vitamin D deficiency?

One of the first things you need to do is speak with your primary care provider to determine your risk factors and need for screening at your next visit.

• Doctors will usually test for 25-hydroxyvitamin D blood levels.

• Adults ages 19 to 50 require approximately 400 to 600 daily units of vitamin D to maximize bone and muscle health.

• Spend at least 15 to 20 minutes in the sun 3 to 4 times a week.

• If you suspect you are deficient in vitamin D, please talk with your primary care doctor about supplementing with much higher weekly levels of vitamin D.

For additional information on this topic, email Dr. Torra Allen, Chicago Defender Health Topics, at TorraAllenMD@gmail.com.

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