Most people living in a northern climate like ours should probably be taking vitamin D.
This vitamin is a nutrient that the body needs, primarily to maintain strong bones but also for general health.
People who get too little vitamin D may develop soft, thin and brittle bones, a condition known as rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.
Recent studies suggest that children who take vitamin D supplements get sick with influenza about half as often as children who do not get supplements.
Further research is studying whether this nutrient may help prevent other diseases and medical problems, including multiple sclerosis, diabetes, hypertension and certain cancers.
The body makes vitamin D when skin is directly exposed to the sun.
Most people meet at least some of their vitamin D needs this way. However, you can’t absorb it through sunshine coming in through a window or on cloudy days.
People in northern climates have less sun exposure because the sun is so low in the sky for much of the year.
And the use of sunscreens will reduce vitamin D production by about 95 percent.
Of course, my dermatology colleagues also point out that prolonged exposure to the sun puts an individual at much higher risk for skin cancer.
Few foods naturally contain significant amounts of vitamin D. The exceptions are fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel; beef liver; cheese; egg yolks; and mushrooms.
Some foods are artificially fortified with this vitamin, including almost all commercially sold milk in the United States, many breakfast cereals and some brands of orange juice, yogurt, margarine and soy beverages.
Check food labels and strive to get vitamin D by eating a variety of foods.
Check with your personal physician before beginning a supplement of any kind. Most people will benefit from a daily supplement of 1000 to 2,000 IU (international units) of vitamin D.
As with most medicines or supplements, vitamin D can be harmful if taken in excess of recommended dosages.
It can also interact or interfere with other medicines or supplements, including anti-inflammatory drugs such as Prednisone.
Marshfield Clinic provides
family medicine in a number of our centers. Your primary care doctor can refer you to the appropriate specialty and location.