Vitamin D and your health in the dark days of winter – Carroll County Times
Vitamin D is important to our health, especially to our bones, and unlike other vitamins, carries the distinction of being available through exposure to sunlight.
This time of year however, when the days are still growing shorter as we approach the winter solstice, it can take some extra effort to make sure you’re getting enough Vitamin D to stay healthy, according to Dr. Stephanie Buckley of Carroll Health Group Primary Care in Mount Airy.
“The reason we want [Vitamin D] is because it helps with absorption of calcium and phosphorus in your body,” Buckley said. “Adults who don’t get enough Vitamin D, which means they are not getting enough calcium and phosphorus, get weak bones, so osteoporosis. Especially in our older adults, who might be at risk for falls and bones fractures, hip fractures and that doesn’t lead to anything good.”
Most adults need about 600 International Units, or IU, of Vitamin D per day, according to Buckley, while adults older than 70 should get 800 IU per day. Infants and children need about 400 IU.
“A lot of people might recognize lack of Vitamin D when they talk about kids with rickets,” Buckley said. “They get the abnormal growth of bones, they are weak-boned, they have weak muscles and that’s because they didn’t have enough Vitamin D in their bodies. They could also have a lot of cavities.”
The good news, Buckley said, is that even in the weak light of winter, 10 to 20 minutes of activity outdoors can be enough to generate sufficient Vitamin D. Just walking the dog can do the trick, she said, and keeping up moderate activity will help with mood and general health as well.
At the same time, getting even 15 minutes of outdoor activity in the sun can be difficult if there is 6 inches of snow or ice outside, according to Buckley, and with shorter days, many people leave for work before the sun is up and return home only after the sun has set. If that’s the case for you this winter, she suggests taking a look at your diet.
“The other source of Vitamin D is through foods, so fatty fish like salmon, eggs and cheese; those are all great sources of Vitamin D,” she said. “Everything in moderation, I don’t mean go eat a dozen eggs a day, but you can go on certain websites and find out how much Vitamin D is in certain foods, and other foods come fortified with Vitamin D, such as cereals, milk, orange juice and yogurt.”
When it comes to taking Vitamin D supplements, Buckley said it pays to be cautious. Most adults eating a balanced diet and getting even a small amount of daily activity outdoors probably do not need to take supplemental Vitamin D — or even a multivitamin — every day, and too much Vitamin D can have negative consequences.
“Everything in moderation — there can be too much of a good thing,” she said. “People that do have really high levels of Vitamin D can be at risk for overdoing it with calcium, because Vitamin D is linked to how much calcium you will have in your body and that can lead to kidney stones.”