Load Up On This Vitamin: YOU Could Be Low On Vitamin D
By our research team
As Black people in the U.S., we typically have lower levels of vitamin D than our white peers, as darker skin has natural sun protection and needs longer sun exposure to make the vitamin. But they are relatively less affected by lack of vitamin D, as measured by weak bones, falls, and fractures.
Your body uses it to absorb minerals like calcium and phosphorus. That makes your teeth and bones strong. Vitamin D supports your muscles, nerves, and immune system. You can get “D” from sunshine on your skin and from eating eggs, fatty fish, and fortified foods like milk and cereal.
Why Might You Need More Vitamin D?
Maybe because your body doesn’t:
- Get enough sunshine
- Get enough from food, especially if you’re vegan or can’t eat dairy
- Absorb vitamin D as well as it should, or it gets rid of it too quickly
Related: Slow Wound Healing
Wounds don’t seem to heal as fast in people with low levels of vitamin D. That’s particularly true for people with burns.
Research is ongoing to see if vitamin D supplements can help people recover faster from burns and other wounds.
Related: Muscle Pain
People who have pain and weakness in their muscles and bones often don’t have enough vitamin D. In older people especially, weak muscles can raise your chances of falling and breaking a bone. It also may be a sign of osteoporosis. Talk to your doctor if you notice any pain. That could be a warning sign that can go away with vitamin D supplements or changes in diet or lifestyle.
Unlike rickets, which is mostly a childhood disease, you can get osteomalacia through adulthood. Even after your bones stop growing, they need vitamin D for repair and maintenance. If your levels stay low for a long time, it can soften your bones. That can cause breaks and other problems, especially in your hips.
Other Related Conditions
There is some evidence that vitamin D levels could have an effect on diabetes (types 1 and 2) high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis, and some types of cancer. Scientists continue to study the relationship between vitamin D and serious illness.
At Risk: Breastfed Infants
There often isn’t enough vitamin D in breast milk to keep infants healthy unless the mother takes a supplement. Rickets happens most often in breastfed children. African American mothers, in particular, tend to start with less vitamin D in their blood. Experts say breastfeeding infants need an extra 400 IU of vitamin D per day.
Keep Tabs on Your Vitamin D
A simple blood test can let you know your vitamin D level. Consider a test if you’re homebound, blocked off from sunlight, or have signs of low vitamin D like bone pain, muscle pain, or a condition like osteoporosis.
If you think your levels are low, don’t overdo supplements to make up the difference. Too much can be harmful.
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