I recently asked friend and physical therapist, Alan Tyson, “If there was one supplement you would recommend to your otherwise healthy patients, what would it be?” You may or may not be surprised by his answer… it’s vitamin D. He told me why it is so crucial and so I have highlighted his reasons and suggestions below. Very soon I will write another post which will explain how vitamin D affects performance in athletes.
Why Is Vitamin D Important?
Vitamin D plays a key role in the absorption of calcium. When we don’t have adequate vitamin D stores, our body cannot absorb enough calcium from our diet that it needs, and this results in calcium depletion. This depletion works to take calcium from our bones to maintain normal blood calcium levels and can often cause muscle and bone pain as well as muscle weakness. This can ultimately lead to osteoporosis.
What Are Some Signs of Vitamin D Deficiency?
One of the main symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency is muscle pain and weakness (as mentioned above). Here is an amazing statistic from Alan (this was reported in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings by Plotnikoff and Quigly: Out of 150 individuals presenting with non-specific muscluloskeletal pain, low levels of vitamin D are present in approximately 93%! In the Harvard Heart Letter, it was reported that in a study of 128 people who complained of muscle pain associated with taking statin drugs to lower cholesterol, two thirds had low levels of vitamin D. When they began taking vitamin D, 90 % reported muscle pain resolved.
What Can We Do About It?
Since the most common cause of a vitamin D deficiency is lack of sunlight, one way to increase levels of vitamin D is to go outside more often (when the sun is out)! Ironically, we have become somewhat “afraid of the sun” because we know that it can cause skin damage and cancer. Now we lather so much sunscreen on that it does not allow for adequate sunlight to really penetrate our skin.
Alan recommends trying to get outside in the sunlight for 15 minutes a day. He says that if we are out for longer than 15 minutes, then apply sunscreen. That way we are allowing for some of the suns rays to penetrate. If we cannot do this then he recommends taking a vitamin D supplement. The U.S. Department of Dietary Supplement recommends between 600I.U.-800I.U.’s daily. Always talk first to a doctor before starting on any new dietary supplements.
How Can We Increase Our Vitamin D Intake?
Vitamin D is found naturally in the following foods:
Fortified milk/Orange juice
Shitake and button mushrooms
How Do We Really Know?
Of course my next question for Alan Tyson was, “How do we know if we are really deficient in vitamin D?” Only a physicians order of blood work will tell us for sure…
Look for another post soon on why vitamin D is important for athletic performance…