MORRIS – 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 we huddle inside our homes exposed to fewer of those 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.
This important vitamin is necessary for several reasons, according to Dr. Paulo Aranas, family medicine physician at the Morris Hospital 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. “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 also plays a role in our 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 do we need? Between ages one through 70, the recommended daily intake is 600 international units. And international unit measures to be about 0.9 mg. Those older than age 70 should get at least 800 IU of vitamin D each day.
Not many foods are naturally rich in the vitamin, but such fatty fishes as swordfish and salmon are particularly good sources, with approximately
566 IU and 477 IU, respectively, in three ounces. Cod liver oil is a 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; three ounces of beef liver have
42 IU; and one egg yolk has 41 IU. Many foods have vitamin D added to them.
You may be at higher risk for low vitamin D if you 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. 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 simple blood test at their doctors’ office to test that level.
A vitamin D blood test also is available through Morris Hospital’s Wellness Wednesday screenings for $50. Easy to understand results are available in one week.
For information, call 815-416-6089 to make an appointment or visit www.morrishospital.org/wellnesswednesdays.