MAHASKA COUNTY – Known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is a key ingredient in overall health and bone strength. However, many people do not get enough of the daily recommended vitamin D, especially women. Mahaska Health Partnership Family Practice Physician Valerie Bonnett, MD, has done extensive research on vitamin D and stresses the importance with patients.
“Many people don’t realize how important vitamin D is for your body,” Dr. Bonnett explained. “This vitamin is responsible for over 2,000 cellular processes. It affects almost every organ system; your brain, kidneys, heart, bones and the metabolism of calcium. It’s a key ingredient in your overall health and is hard to find in anything other than natural sunlight and supplements.”
Vitamin D is found naturally in only a few foods, including fatty fish, mushrooms, egg yolks and liver. It is commonly added to foods like milk to supplement dietary needs, but is most commonly absorbed through exposure to sunlight.
“For those with fair skin, it’s possible to hit your daily limit of vitamin D absorption after 10 to 20 minutes of sun exposure on your skin,” Dr. Bonnett explained. “You’re not likely to get sunburn in that short period of time and sunscreen should be applied for extended exposure to the sun. However, those with darker skin tones can take longer to absorb the same amount of vitamin D. It’s always best to discuss with your provider and see what they recommend to lessen your risk of overexposure and skin cancer.”
Though vitamin D is usually absorbed through sunlight exposure, the time of day, season and weather can affect the amount absorbed. “During the winter months, cloud cover and other factors may interfere with your exposure to UV rays, which will limit your absorption ability,” Dr. Bonnett shared. “This can lead to a lowered vitamin D level in your system after an extended period of time.
“Vitamin D plays a big role in your health and oftentimes low levels do not result in obvious symptoms,” Dr. Bonnett continued. “However, some people may experience muscle weakness, depression, chronic pain, stress fractures, high blood pressure, sleepiness, mood swings and decreased endurance. It’s important to take special care and ensure your body has enough vitamin D throughout the year to prevent these symptoms.”
According to Dr. Bonnett, the best way to know if you are getting enough vitamin D is to talk with your primary care provider. “There is a blood test available for anyone who may be at risk for lower levels. If your levels are too low, there are over-the-counter supplements that can be taken to increase your levels.
“It is safe for most individuals to take small amounts of vitamin D daily, such as 1,000 or 2,000 units. However, this still may not be enough, so it’s important to discuss your concerns with your primary care provider.”
Dr. Bonnett is now accepting new patients on the MHP campus in Oskaloosa. She is available Mondays and Wednesdays through Fridays from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm. For an appointment call 641.672.3360.
Mahaska Health Partnership, located in Oskaloosa, is a non-profit health system accredited by the Joint Commission. It is guided by its mission to provide exceptional customer service and health improvement, linking the science of medicine with the humanity of compassionate care. For more information about how Mahaska Health Partnership is making healthcare personal, look us up on the web: mahaskahealth.org.