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What you need to know about vitamin D
Why do I need vitamin D?Vitamin D helps us absorb calcium and is important in the development and maintenance of a strong bone structure and good teeth. It is also important for blood clotting and optimal function of the thyroid gland. Some research suggests that adequate vitamin D may help to prevent high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis and some forms of cancer.
How much sun do I need?Thatís a tough question to answer. Your body makes vitamin D when you are exposed to sunlightís ultraviolet B rays. The amount of exposure you receive from the sun is influenced by the time of year and even day-to-day factors such as cloudy conditions and pollution. A general recommendation is to expose your face, arms, back and/or legs (without sunscreen) to 10—15 minutes of sunlight two to three times a week. However, weather conditions and less intense UVB rays make it unlikely that youíll get sufficient sunlight in the winter. Additionally, when you do expose your skin to sunlight you should apply sunscreen after 15 minutes because sunlight exposure also increases the risk of skin cancer.
What other ways can I get vitamin D?Vitamin D is found in several foods, including egg yolks, oily fish like tuna and salmon, and fortified foods like milk and breakfast cereals. You can also increase your vitamin D by taking a daily supplement. The recommended dosage for adults in good health is 400 IU (international units) daily.
Is it possible to get too much vitamin D?You will not get too much vitamin D from sun exposure or your diet, but it is possible to develop vitamin D toxicity from taking an excessive amount of supplements. Too much vitamin D can lead to kidney stones, calcification in blood vessels and other problems.
Should I see my doctor before I begin taking vitamin D?Itís always a good idea to talk to your doctor about any vitamin supplements you take. Your doctor can determine if you have sufficient levels of vitamin D and may recommend higher doses for a short time to treat an underlying medical problem. Therapeutic doses should always be taken under the care of a doctor.
Dr. Terry Wolf is a family medicine physician at Sanford East Mandan Clinic. Dr. Wolf earned his medical degree at Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine in East Lansing, Mich., and completed his residency and internship at Sparrow Hospital Family Practice in Lansing, Mich. In his free time, he enjoys baseball, softball, camping, fishing, running and golf. To request an appointment with Dr. Wolf, call (701) 667-5000 or visit bismarck.sanfordhealth.org.