Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Sunshine Vitamin

Do you remember which vitamin we get from the sun? It's Vitamin D, and it is front and center in the news these days. We used to think that Vitamin D deficiency only existed in the geographical areas where there was less sunshine- think Seattle or or the Northeastern states in the winter. I was taught that a mere fifteen minutes per day of sun exposure to your face and arms would do the trick to supply your daily needs of the sunshine vitamin.
Surprisingly, in the past several years, studies have consistently shown that Vitamin D deficiency is widespread in the United States, even in the Sun Belt! In fact, I have been screening my adult patients in sun-filled Austin, Texas, for the last year, and I have found that only one out of ten patients have NOT been deficient!
What are the symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency? Many people know that Vitamin D is linked to bone health, and deficiency puts you at greater risk of fractures. However, there are many other potential symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency that may be subtle, can including fatigue, low energy, decreased immunity, depression, muscle weakness, cramps or altered sensation.
If it's not enough incentive to know your Vitamin D level to avoid those symptoms, consider this: recent studies show that having good levels of Vitamin D correlates with lower levels of colon, breast and prostate levels.
If your level is super low, you will need a prescription dose of Vit D replacement for a few months (50,000IU tablet once per week), but many people simply need to take an over the counter dose of 2000 IU per day.
BOTTOM LINE: Talk with your doctor about checking your vitamin D level (ask for "25 OH Vitamin D" level) and get some sunshine in your life!

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