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Should you take a vitamin D supplement?

If your vitamin D levels are low, your health care provider may suggest vitamin D supplements, at least through the wint
If your vitamin D levels are low, your health care provider may suggest vitamin D supplements, at least through the winter months. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Heading into the winter months signals the beginning of cold and flu season. Because of flu bugs and COVID, it’s imperative to maintain several positive health habits. These health habits include regular exercise, consuming healthy and nutritious foods, getting adequate sleep and potentially supplementing one’s diet with vitamins. These are often your first line of defense in keeping you healthy.

Emerging research is discovering that vitamin D is more important than ever, as it is both a vitamin and a hormone that is essential for nearly every bodily function.

Here are some fast facts about vitamin D and the role it plays in your health.

Sunshine vitamin

With October’s early snowfall this week, some of us have already begun bundling up and deciding to stay inside. But when we’re inside, we miss out on the important benefits of being outdoors. Often nicknamed “the sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D mostly enters our bodies via the sun, which is absorbed by our skin and then converted into a usable form by cholesterol. Because we live in Iowa, we make little or no vitamin D in our skin during the winter months.

Supplement with vitamin D

About 50 percent of Americans are deficient in vitamin D, and that number is even higher for those of us who live in the Midwest. This is why it’s important to check your vitamin D levels with your physician. This can be done with a simple blood test. If you find that you are vitamin D deficient, your doctor may suggest a vitamin D supplement — especially during Iowa’s cold winter months.

Foods that are good sources of vitamin D include: cod liver oil, swordfish, salmon, tuna, milk, yogurt, sardines, eggs, and cereals fortified with vitamin D.

Risks of being vitamin D deficient

Those who are deficient in vitamin D are at an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, age-related brain diseases, osteoporosis, and autoimmune disorders. Low vitamin D levels can contribute to depression, “winter blues” or even Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency can include, but are not limited to: tiredness, aches and pains, general sense of not feeling well, stress fractures, increased bone and/or muscle pain. Supplementing with vitamin D may help boost mood, the immune system and heart health.

COVID-19

While there is no treatment or surefire way to prevent COVID-19, some studies show a strong potential correlation between vitamin D supplementation and a decrease in the severity of COVID-19 effects. A study published in May 2020 found that those with vitamin D deficiencies have a higher risk of mortality from COVID-19. Results from the first ever randomized clinical control trial of its kind, found vitamin D supplementation can be effective in lowering the rate of COVID-19 intensive care unit admissions. These studies were published in the journal Aging Clinical and Experimental Research.

Regardless of its impact on COVID-19, vitamin D is critical for overall health and well-being. Hopefully this information inspires you as you continue to take steps toward your healthiest self.

Kylie Alger is a certified wellness coach and co-owner of the Well-Woman: Body, Mind & Spirit. Comments: kylie@thewellwoman.org

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