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
- Egg Yokes
- 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
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.