Vitamin D is best known as the "sunshine vitamin" because humans need the sun to produce vitamin D naturally. Many common foods are fortified with vitamin D including breakfast cereals, dairy products, and bread.
Vitamin D is produced naturally by the human body as a result of exposure to sunlight. In recent years, due to ozone damage, it has become necessary to wear sunscreen even during the winter months. This, combined with many Americans spending more time indoors, has resulted in more individuals at risk for vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D offers many health benefits including decreased risk of prostate cancer in males and breast cancer in females. Psoriasis, a skin condition characterized by inflammation, and rickets (bone weakening) are caused by vitamin D deficiency.
Unprotected Sun Exposure
Many health experts now advise that individuals get about 15 to 20 minutes of sun exposure a few times per week without wearing any sunscreen. Check with your doctor to determine if there is any health reason why you should not do this.
Taking vitamin D supplements might be necessary if you spend a lot of time indoors and live in a cold weather climate. Check with your doctor first. Vitamin D toxicity is possible, although it requires repeated use of excessive amounts of vitamin D. Side effects of too much vitamin D can include weakness, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting.
Vitamin D Deficiency
Even though vitamin D is added to many foods, it is possible to develop vitamin D deficiency. Spending more time indoors, living in a colder climate with season changes, and wearing sunscreen year round can deplete an individual's vitamin D reserves, which are normally stored in fatty tissue. If you suspect a vitamin D deficiency, ask your doctor to order testing to check your levels.