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Vitamin D is vital to our health and wellness. People have concerns about low vitamin D levels because it can cause so many health problems. One of the most common issues to arise from low vitamin D levels is weak or brittle bones, but it’s not the only thing to worry about.
Why should you make sure you’re getting adequate vitamin D and how do you know if you need to boost your intake of vitamin D?
Can Vitamin D Prevent or Treat COVID-19?
Before we examine the overall benefits of getting enough vitamin D, it’s important to consider one of the biggest risks we face regarding inadequate vitamin D levels in current times.
There is evidence that vitamin D insufficiency increases a person’s risk of health complications due to COVID-19.
Studies show that people with low vitamin D levels had the highest risk of experiencing severe COVID symptoms. Experts believe the link between the virus and vitamin D has to do with the vitamin’s ability to boost immunity. Additionally, not only does vitamin D help you reduce your risk of serious COVID symptoms, but it also reduces the risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2 in the first place.
One study conducted at the University of Chicago Medicine showed there to be a significant link between vitamin D deficiency and severe COVID symptoms. Out of 489 patients admitted to the hospital for any reason, those with a vitamin D deficiency were nearly two times as likely to test positive for COVID.
As a result of the findings, doctors have recommended making vitamin D rich foods and time in the sun a priority during 2020’s health pandemic. Vitamin D supplementation might also offer additional protection, but diet and outdoor time are the best ways to ensure you are getting enough vitamin D.
What Are Vitamin D Deficiency Symptoms?
The best way to determine if you are deficient in vitamin D is a blood test. However, some symptoms might raise suspicion of a deficiency, including:
- Frequent illnesses or infections
- Fatigue with no other explanation
- Pain the back or bones
- Muscle pain
- Hair loss
- Slow-healing wounds
- Bone loss
Who Is at Risk for Vitamin D Deficiency?
Anyone can be low in vitamin D. However, some things put you at greater risk for a deficiency. For example, vitamin D deficiency tends to occur at higher rates in people who are:
- Frequently indoors
- Eating a diet low in dairy and/or fish
- Located far from the equator and/or in areas where this is limited year-round sun
- Diligent about applying sunblock
Sunblock is good for blocking the sun’s harmful rays and reducing the risk of skin cancer, but it also interferes with vitamin D absorption. It’s important to speak to your doctor about finding a balance between the two risks.
How Much Vitamin D Do I Need Per Day?
Everyone’s needs are different regarding nutrition and vitamins. However, the recommended daily intake of vitamin D is 400 to 800 IU. Many health experts recommend an even higher dose.
In most cases, spending 20 minutes or so outdoors in the sunshine each day, eating a diet that contains the recommended amount of dairy and fish, and taking a daily vitamin D supplement is enough to prevent a deficiency. But if you are concerned or you have any of the above-listed symptoms, a blood test will confirm if you need to increase your intake of vitamin D.
What Foods Have Vitamin D?
Foods that provide a decent dose of vitamin D include:
- Cod and cod liver oil
- Egg yolks
- Fortified dairy products
- Fortified orange juice
- Fortified cereals
What’s the Link between Vitamin D and Calcium?
Some people mistakenly think that vitamin D is the same thing as calcium, but this is not the case. The two work together, though, so it’s easy to understand the confusion.
Vitamin D is needed for your body to absorb calcium, which is a mineral. Both are crucial to your health, but calcium intake won’t do you much good if you’re deficient in vitamin D. The body cannot produce calcium on its own and just like vitamin D, it’s a common nutrient deficiency.
Can I Get Enough Vitamin D From The Sun?
The good thing about vitamin D is that for most people, it’s easy to get enough if you live in a place where you can spend time outside in the sun each day. Unfortunately, this isn’t an option for everyone. The closer to the equator you live the higher the likelihood your vitamin D levels are sufficient. But for those who live further north or deep in the southern hemisphere, vitamin D is a concern.
Can You Test Vitamin D Levels at Home?
In-home test kits can help you determine if vitamin D levels are a problem for you. They are a good place to begin if you have any of the symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency. You can order a test online from the Vitamin D Council or a retailer of test kits.
Keep in mind, at-home kits are rarely as accurate as tests performed by a doctor. This doesn’t mean they are useless though. Doctor-ordered tests might be expensive, so if you are concerned about vitamin D, but not interested in making the financial commitment of a doctors’ test, at-home tests are a good place to begin.
It’s important to have professional assistance interpreting your at-home test results. Your doctor or a registered dietician can review the results of your at-home test and help you determine if more testing is needed or if dietary changes are a good idea.
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“Vitamin D Can Help Reduce COVID-19 Risks: Here’s How.” Healthline, 14 Sept. 2020, www.healthline.com/health-news/vitamin-d-can-help-reduce-covid19-risks. Accessed 20 Nov. 2020.
Jones, Taylor. “9 Healthy Foods That Are High in Vitamin D.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 12 Sept. 2018, www.healthline.com/nutrition/9-foods-high-in-vitamin-d.
“8 Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency.” Healthline, 23 July 2018, www.healthline.com/nutrition/vitamin-d-deficiency-symptoms#TOC_TITLE_HDR_1.