How to combat vitamin D deficiency during short winter days

Watch your vitamin D intake for bone health and other benefits

A woman in a winter coat and mittens ducks away from a snowball on a sunny winter day. A little sunlight in winter helps fight vitamin D deficiency.

Your body makes vitamin D when skin is exposed to sunlight, but production often drops with the shorter days of winter, creating a vitamin D deficiency.

Amanda Nack, MS, RD, LRD, a senior dietitian at Sanford Medical Center Fargo, said vitamin D promotes calcium absorption. Besides being good for your bones, vitamin D plays an important role in cell growth, immune function, and reducing inflammation.

Data also suggests adequate vitamin D may help reduce the risk of breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer, Nack said.

Risks of vitamin D deficiency

Without enough vitamin D, bones may become weak and brittle over time. This increases the risk of rickets in children. In adults, you risk a softening of your bones called osteomalacia and osteoporosis.

Some people are more at risk for too little intake or absorption of vitamin D:

  • People with limited sun exposure
  • Breast-fed infants
  • People with irritable bowel syndrome
  • Older adults
  • People with a history of gastric bypass surgery

Additionally, you could be missing out on this important vitamin if you have a milk allergy or lactose intolerance, or if you follow an ovo-vegetarian or vegan diet.

How to get more vitamin D

To compensate for the lack of vitamin D from sunlight, get plenty of the vitamin from foods.

“Food sources include salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, cheese, egg yolks and beef liver,” Nack said. “There are a variety of foods that are fortified with vitamin D including ready-to-eat breakfast cereals, cow’s milk, soy milk, oat milk, almond milk and some brands of orange juice and yogurt.”

If you’re having trouble consistently meeting your complete vitamin D needs, you can take a vitamin D supplement, she said.

Dietitians recommend children and adults get the following vitamin D amounts each day:

  • Up to 12 months of age — 400 IU
  • Ages 1-18 years — 600 IU
  • Between 18 and 70 — 600 IU
  • Older than 70 years — 800 IU

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Posted In Digestive Health, Healthy Living

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