“How much Vitamin D should I take this fall and winter?”
This is a question many Vancouverites should think about now that the sunny days are starting to slow down. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that we get through food and/or sunlight. However, most people in the lower mainland do not get enough from either source to do our busy lifestyles and the gloomy Vancouver weather.
Why do we need vitamin D?
Deficiency in vitamin D has famously caused rickets in children, a disease where bones are deformed. In adults, our bones have already formed but can become soft causing a higher chance of broken bones. There are also many other reported symptoms of vitamin D deficiency including low back pain, diffuse aches and pains, tension headaches and fatigue. Some literature says that vitamin D deficiency can mask diagnoses such as fibromyalgia, depression and chronic fatigue syndrome. As you can see, vitamin D deficiency can have a big impact on your health.
What are your risks of being deficient in vitamin D?
Some of your main risk factors are:
- Lack of sun exposure
- Digestive issues
- Dark skin, which reduces our skin’s ability to absorb the sun’s rays
- Being overweight as this may impact the ability for our body to optimize the use of vitamin D.
- Low intake of vitamin D rich foods (fish, eggs, liver or enriched foods)
How much vitamin D should you take?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and if we take too much of it, it stays in the body and can be stored. Vitamin D is involved with increasing calcium absorption and if there is too much calcium, harm can be caused to the kidneys. For people with the risk factors listed above, testing for vitamin D levels can be helpful to figure out the exact dose you need. If you are going to be taking a high dose, it is especially important to monitor your levels through both laboratory testing and keep watch of any symptoms of vitamin D toxicity.
So what should you do?
- Assess your risks for vitamin D deficiency – if you have many of the risk factors listed above, consider taking a vitamin D supplement. Most people who are living in the lower mainland need some sort of supplementation.
- Optimize your absorption of vitamin D – take your fat-soluble vitamins with fatty foods like avocado, fish, nuts, and seeds to help the absorption of the vitamin into your body.
- Get sun exposure when you can – in the summer this is at least 15 minutes of sun per day of your arms, legs and face. In the fall and winter, if you can, book a vacation to a sunny place.
- If you are not sure of the dose you should take, talk to your naturopathic doctor about testing for vitamin D deficiency. Testing for vitamin D is a simple laboratory test that can show approximate levels in your bloodstream and will give you a better answer for how much Vitamin D you need.
— Dr. Kay Wong, ND
To book an appointment with Dr. Kay Wong, ND, visit our website at theiv.ca or give us a call at 604-974-8999