Vitamin D

 

By: Carrie A.B. Hoarty, M.D.
Boys Town Internal Medicine

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for strong and healthy bones. It helps your body absorb calcium from foods and supplements, and is used to assist your muscles with routine and weight-baring movements.

How much Vitamin D do you need?

The amount of vitamin D your body needs is dependent upon your age. Boys Town Internal Medicine recommends the following daily vitamin D intake:

  • Birth to 12 months 400 IU
  • Children 1-13 years 600 IU
  • Teens 14-18 years 600 IU
  • Adults 19-60 years and older 800 IU
  • Pregnant and/or breastfeeding 800 IU

Getting your Vitamin D

Vitamin D can come from the sun, foods you eat and from supplements. The sun is often the primary source of vitamin D. Your body uses the UV-B radiation absorbed by your skin from the sun to synthesize vitamin D.

Very few foods naturally have vitamin D. Fortified foods provide most of the vitamin D in American diets. Some natural and fortified foods that provide the vitamin include:

  • Tuna and Salmon
  • Mushrooms
  • Egg Yokes
  • Liver
  • Fortified dairy with Vitamin D – Milk, Yogurt, Cheese
  • Fortified grain products - Cereal

Signs of Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency can occur when the body has inadequate stores of the vitamin. Often the signs of vitamin D deficiency will be mild and subtle. Some symptoms of vitamin D deficiency may include:

  • Bone pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Delayed tooth formation
  • Dental and or bone deformities
  • Poor growth in children
  • Weakness
  • Tingling

Extreme or prolonged vitamin D deficiency can cause soft, thin and brittle bones, known as Rickets in children and Osteomalacia in adults and increase the risk of Osteoporosis in women.

Although too much vitamin D is not common, it can occur. Typically vitamin D toxicity occurs from the overuse of supplements. Excessive sun exposure does not cause excess vitamin D, because the body limits the amount it produces.

Talk to Your Doctor

Before adding a vitamin D supplement to your diet, talk to your doctor. Your doctor will help you evaluate your current vitamin D levels and provide you with information on how to incorporate more of the vitamin into your overall diet and health plan.