Vitamin D is sunshine in a bottle

Friday, February 15, 2019

Vitamin D supplements are a good idea all year long. If you want healthy bones, you need vitamin D. Without it, your bones can’t absorb the calcium they need to stay strong. Other signs of deficiency include fatigue and depressive symptoms.

The easiest and most plentiful source of vitamin D is sunshine. People living in the Pacific Northwest are at a high risk for vitamin D deficiency, particularly in the winter, says Dr. David Buchholz, medical director. Breast-fed infants, elderly men, and women are at the highest risk, he says. Food sources of vitamin D are not abundant in the American diet.

And even if we get more sunshine, we're advised to wear protective clothing and to slather ourselves with sunscreen; while this protects us from skin cancer, it also reduces the effectiveness of vitamin D. So, no matter if the sun is hibernating for a few months or it's out in full glory, The Endocrine Society advises most people should take a daily vitamin D supplement.

A hot topic is whether we should be tested to find out if we're getting enough vitamin D. The Endocrine Society that says unless you have certain risk factors, including liver disease, kidney disease, or an inability to process foods appropriately, testing isn't needed.

"Getting tested for vitamin D deficiency throughout the year is not worthwhile because vitamin D levels in the blood fluctuate," says Dr. Buchholz. "Test results could make you think you don't need supplementation when you really do. If you have concerns about whether you're getting enough vitamin D, whether you should take supplements or get tested, talk to your doctor."

The recommended vitamin D dose for breast-fed infants is 400 international units (IU) per day, 600 IU per day for people 1–70 years old, and 800 IU a day for those over 70. If your healthcare provider thinks a supplement is recommended, vitamin D products are available over the counter without a prescription at most pharmacies.