The WellSpan Spotlight

Diet and nutrition

The ABCs of vitamin D

The ABCs of vitamin D

Did you know sunlight is the easiest way to take in vitamin D?  Unfortunately, many people living in South Central Pennsylvania do not receive enough sun exposure during the cloudy winter months and need to eat foods rich in vitamin D to get the recommended amount.

 Why is vitamin D important?

"Vitamin D plays a major role in regulating your body's calcium levels and is important for everyone.   It helps bone growth in children and keeps bones healthy as we age.," said Dr. John Keenan, a WellSpan family physician. 

Getting enough vitamin D keeps your bones healthy and is important for muscle strength, heart and lung health, brain development, and a strong immune system. In addition to strengthening our bodies, it also protects us from certain health risks.

"Some studies have shown statistically significant associations between Vitamin D deficiency and a variety of health-related effects including falls, pain perception, fatigue, cardiovascular health, asthma control, depression, and some cancers," Dr. Keenan said.

The daily vitamin D you need, and where to get it.

The National Academy of Medicine recommends:  

  • 400 International Units (IU) for exclusively breastfed infants up to 1 year old.
  • 600 IU for people ages 1-70.
  • 800 IU for people older than 70.

It is important to develop a plan to make sure you are getting enough vitamin D. Taking a vitamin D supplement or multivitamin is one option, however, there are many other sources, especially in the food we consume. 

These foods include fatty fish like salmon, sardines, herring, cod, and tuna which are also great sources of heart-healthy fats and protein. A 3-ounce serving of salmon can have between 400 to 600 IU of vitamin D. Other natural sources include eggs and mushrooms.  One egg has 44 IU of vitamin D. Many foods in the United States, while not naturally containing vitamin D are enriched with it like cereal, oatmeal, cow's milk, soy milk, and almond milk.  A cup of low-fat milk has 117 IU of vitamin D.

Can you have too much vitamin D?  

"Vitamin D, like vitamins D, E, A, and K, is stored in your fat. If you consume too much, that can cause toxicity. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, confusion, increased urinary frequency, kidney stones, weakness, muscle pain, bone pains, and in rare cases irregular heartbeats," said Dr. Keenan.

If you have questions about maintaining vitamin D you should discuss this with your provider when you review your medications, vitamins, and supplements at your next wellness appointment. Is it time for your wellness visit? Find a provider here