Vitamin D performs some A-plus functions in the body. It promotes calcium absorption and is critical for bone growth as well as prevention of osteoporosis. It has a role in neuromuscular and immune functions and inflammation reduction. It’s also recommended for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, muscle weakness, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, bronchitis, and tooth and gum disease.

But it’s very likely that you’re not getting enough Vitamin D.

getting enough vitamin DThis fat-soluble vitamin is only available in a few foods, primarily salmon, tuna, mackerel and fish liver oils. There are small amounts in beef liver, cheese and egg yolks. Milk is often fortified with vitamin D, as are some breakfast cereals and orange juice, thanks to an initiative in the 1930s to combat rickets, a deficiency that results in thin, brittle and misshapen bones. Getting enough vitamin D solely through food sources, however, is next to impossible.

Your body also can produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight—it takes just 15 minutes of baring a large area of skin in the sun each day to manufacture a great deal of the vitamin, which your body then stores in fat. But getting enough vitamin D through this means is increasingly unlikely as we use sunscreen to prevent skin cancer. And for those of us living in northern climes, it’s sadly a challenge at this time of year, even if we wished to risk sun exposure.

So it’s likely that you’ll need to choose a supplement to get enough vitamin D. Vitamin D3 is the preferred kind; it mirrors what your body makes naturally. Vitamin D2 is synthetic and is not as efficient or effective.

The good news: For most people, vitamin D supplements are readily absorbed, and you can take them at any time of day, with or without food.

Talk to your doctor first to be sure you don’t have any conditions that preclude supplementation. Some medications don’t play nice with vitamin D. Then find a supplement that offers at least 4,000 IU per day (up to 10,000 IU per day short-term to treat a deficiency) to be sure you’re getting enough vitamin D.

Round out your efforts by consuming food sources of vitamin D (you know how good salmon and tuna are for your health anyway) and grabbing some brief sun exposure when you can. (Perhaps this is justification for a tropical vacation?)

Vitamin D is essential for muscle strength, bone strength and overall well-being, and yet so few of us get adequate amounts. Give your doctor’s office a call to be sure you’re cleared, then track down a supplement of this d-ynamite vitamin!

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