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What Can I Do about a Vitamin D Deficiency?

Many people get vitamin D through artificially fortified products such as milk.
Salmon is a good source of vitamin D.
Lactose intolerance is a condition in which the body is unable to digest lactose, or milk sugar.
Vitamin D is naturally produced within the body when skin is exposed to sunlight.
Vitamin D can be taken as a supplement.
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  • Written By: Carol Francois
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 01 December 2014
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There are four ways to correct a vitamin D deficiency: supplements, dietary changes, sunlight exposure and digestive health improvements. Vitamin D is soluble in fat and is created by the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight. It is required to absorb calcium by the body, and low levels are related to brittle bones, rickets, and other developmental issues.

The most common way to correct a vitamin D deficiency is with a supplement. These pills are available in a range of sizes, from 50 mcg (2,000 IU) to 100 mcg (4,000 IU), and there are also slow release options available. Slow release tablets allow the body more time to digest the supplement by providing a steady stream of vitamin D over a four to six hour period.

When selecting a supplement, pay attention to the amount of active ingredient, which is provided on the label. Vitamins are unregulated and there is nothing to stop a firm from providing a vitamin supplement with a large amount of filler. Select a reputable firm and understand that the cheapest supplement may not be the best. Purchase a quality product in the middle to upper price range to ensure the correct vitamins are provided. Many people have a low tolerance for fillers, so watch for allergic reactions.

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It is difficult to fix a vitamin D deficiency with dietary changes, as it is not normally found in a large amount of foods. Salmon, tuna and mackerel flesh and liver oils are the best sources. Most people obtain vitamin D through milk and other product that have been artificially fortified.

Exposure to the sun for just 15 minutes a day can generate sufficient vitamin D to meet your daily requirements. The increased concerns about skin cancer may have lead to an overall reduction to even low levels of sunlight exposure, but a little sun a day is necessary for strong bones and joints.

Many people who have a deficiency in this vitamin have digestive disorders that prevent the absorption of milk products. Correct this issue by purchasing lactose free milk or using lactose absorption supplements. Lactose intolerance is the inability to absorb milk and is most commonly found the black and Asian community.

If this change does not improve the situation, see a healthcare professional. Several other digestive diseases can interfere with the absorption of dairy products. Take the time to investigate, as a vitamin D deficiency affects your bone health.

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fBoyle
Post 12

I have both a vitamin D and a calcium deficiency. My calcium deficiency is actually caused by my vitamin D deficiency. I consume enough calcium through milk products but it doesn't get absorbed when there is no vitamin D. It doesn't help that I'm obese because apparently higher number of fat cells decreases the absorption of vitamin D too.

I'm really worried about this because I heard that vitamin D deficiency is a cancer risk factor. I have cancer patients in my family and I don't want to increase my chances of developing cancer because of this deficiency.

For treatment, I'm taking calcium and vitamin D supplements. Most calcium supplements also have vitamin D in them so I just take those on a daily basis. I'm also on a diet and exercise regime to lose weight. Hopefully if I lose weight, that will help treat my vitamin D deficiency too.

donasmrs
Post 11

@bagley79-- Yea, I've heard the same. Sunscreen does prevent your body from using sunlight to produce vitamin D.

But do you apply sunscreen everywhere, including your hands? Because my doctor said that five minutes of sun exposure just through my hands a day is enough to prevent vitamin D deficiencies. So if you don't wear sunscreen on your hands and you spend at least five minutes in the sun, you should be fine.

bluedolphin
Post 10

I know that in countries like England, where there isn't a lot of sunlight in general, it's very common to use a vitamin D lamp to avoid a vitamin D deficiency.

I have a friend who lives in London and she told me that at her daughter's school, they have vitamin D session everyday. So the kids basically go and sit around the vitamin D lamp for about fifteen to twenty minutes to get their needed vitamin D.

I think sunlight is the best source of vitamin D and if I am somewhere that has sunlight, I just prefer to bask in it for a while. But if there is no sun, or if the sun is just not enough, you have to take supplements or use lamps.

bagley79
Post 9

If someone spends a lot of time outdoors in the sunshine, but wears sunscreen the whole time, does that affect the amount of vitamin D you are receiving?

I read somewhere that the sunscreen keeps your body from absorbing as much vitamin D as it would otherwise. This is kind of frustrating because you really need to wear sunscreen if you spend much time in the sun, but it would also be nice to get as much vitamin D as you possibly could.

golf07
Post 8

@John57-- I know your doctor can test your vitamin D levels if that is something you are concerned about. I have also heard of a test you can give yourself at home to see what your vitamin D levels are.

I have no idea how much this costs or how effective it is, but know there are some alternatives available to test at home.

It seems to me that most Americans don't get enough vitamin D because so much of our lives are spent indoors. I have never been tested, but began taking a supplement because I kept hearing how important it was to get adequate amounts of this in our diet.

John57
Post 7

Is there a way to test for a vitamin D deficiency before you just start taking a supplement? I wouldn't be surprised if I was deficient just because I don't like the taste of fish.

When I read that many of the foods that contain vitamin D are seafood, that pretty much counts me out in a big hurry.

I am not opposed to taking a supplement to get more vitamin D, but I do get plenty of sunshine. I just don't want to spend the money on something that I might not really need.

sunshined
Post 6

I began taking a Vitamin D supplement because I know that I don't get enough sunlight. Getting 15 minutes a day of sun doesn't really sound like that much, but if you live in an area where you have cold winters, that is hard to do.

Many times, even during the summer months, I don't spend 15 minutes a day in the sunshine. During the week, there are many days when I don't spend any significant time outside. That is kind of sad when you think about it, especially since a little bit of sun can be so beneficial.

StarJo
Post 5

I never took a vitamin D deficiency test, but I did suspect that I had a deficiency. I don't drink milk at all, and even though I like tuna, it has high levels of mercury, so I can't eat it but once every two weeks.

I started buying orange juice that had been fortified with vitamin D. I also started eating whole grain cereal that contained this vitamin. I got a little bit of milk from this, because I would eat whatever milk made it into the spoon with the cereal, but I wouldn't drink what was left over after the cereal was gone.

healthy4life
Post 4

@OeKc05 – Some people live in areas where the climate is bitterly cold during the winter, and they can't tolerate the temperatures long enough to get the required amount of sunlight. I usually take vitamin D supplements during the coldest part of the year, because I can't stand to go out in the snow for very long, and even if I do, most of my body is covered, so I don't get the amount of sunlight my body needs.

My mother lives in the South where the winters are mild, and when her doctor told her that she had vitamin D deficiency symptoms, he recommended that she walk around outside a little bit every day. She was not an outdoorsy person, so this was a challenge, but once she saw how much better the sunlight and fresh air made her feel, she made going outdoors a habit.

OeKc05
Post 3

If you can correct a vitamin D deficiency with sunlight, then why would you go and buy pills instead? Sunlight is free!

I love being outdoors, and even though I wear sunscreen when I plan to be out for an extended period of time, I leave it off for the first half hour or so. That way, I can absorb plenty of sun and get my vitamin D juices flowing!

jeffreyc
Post 2

The amount of vitamin D required to reach toxic levels is 10,000 international units, each and every day for a month. Well before it becomes toxic, extreme digestive problems would occur.

bestcity
Post 1

Taking extra vitamin D every day, for a few weeks will correct the deficiency. However, I would consult a doctor first, because excessive dosage can cause toxicity and carries with it its own problems, like kidney damage.

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