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Make Sure You Get Enough Vitamin D During the Winter

Make Sure You Get Enough Vitamin D During the Winter

We all know that with winter comes a time change and less day light hours to romp in the sun. With less sunlight available and staying indoors due to cold weather, it’s important to make sure that you are getting the appropriate amount of vitamin D. Vitamin D, is also crucial to your calcium intake.

What are the benefits of calcium and vitamin D?
Calcium and vitamin D are important for bone health; they help keep bones and teeth healthy and strong.  Calcium is a mineral that is essential for bone strength, and is also needed for the heart, muscles, and nerves to function properly. Vitamin D aids in calcium breakdown and absorption; without vitamin D, the body cannot absorb calcium. 

Inadequate calcium intake significantly contributes to the development of osteoporosis.  Osteoporosis is a common bone disorder that causes a progressive loss in bone density and mass.  As a result, bones become thin, weakened, and easily fractured.  Many studies show that low calcium intake throughout life is associated with low bone mass and high fracture rates.  The first step in preventing or treating osteoporosis is to have a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D.   

What are the daily recommendations for calcium and vitamin D?
Women up to the age of 50 and men up to the age of 70 should aim for a total of 1000mg of calcium daily, from diet and supplements.  Women over the age of 50 and men over the age of 70 should aim for a total of 1200mg of calcium daily. 

Experts recommend a daily intake of 600 International Units (IU) of vitamin D for people up to the age of 70.  Men and women over the age of 70 should increase their intake to 800IU.

What foods are rich in calcium and vitamin D?
Dairy products (cheese, milk, yogurt), dark, leafy green vegetables, fortified cereals, and fortified orange juice are all rich in calcium.  One of the best sources for vitamin D is salmon. Other sources are canned tuna fish and fortified milk, orange juice and yogurt

How do I choose a supplement?
If you are not getting enough calcium and/or vitamin D from your diet, consider adding a supplement to your daily routine.  The two most common calcium supplements on the market are calcium citrate (Citracal) and calcium carbonate (Tums, Caltrate).  Calcium carbonate doesn't cost much and provides the most calcium per dose. Make sure to read the label to check the amount of calcium "per serving."   Calcium is best absorbed when taken in small doses (500mg or less).  Calcium carbonate is best absorbed when taken with food, while calcium citrate is best absorbed when taken on an empty stomach.  Calcium citrate is recommended for people who do not absorb calcium well, such as the elderly and patients who take heartburn medications (e.g., Prevacid, Protonix).  

Naturally derived forms of calcium come from bone, shells, or the earth: bonemeal, oyster shell, and dolomite. These forms of calcium are typically inexpensive; however, there are concerns that the natural forms of calcium supplements may contain significant amounts of lead. The level of contamination has decreased in recent years, but still may present a health risk.  Calcium supplements rarely list the lead content of their source; therefore, avoid supplements made of dolomite, oyster shell, and bone meal which may contain metals and lead. 

Vitamin D is available as a single supplement or in combination with calcium (Caltrate- Calcium plus Vitamin D (600mg of calcium + 200IU of vitamin D per serving)).  Always look for supplements that are United States Pharmacopeia (USP) verified

Are there any side effects when taking a calcium or vitamin D supplement?
Common side effects of taking calcium supplements are constipation and an upset stomach.    Patients can typically avoid an upset stomach by not taking more than 500mg of calcium at one time.

Calcium supplements interfere with the absorption of iron and thyroid hormones; therefore, these medications should be taken 4 hours apart from one another.

If you have any questions regarding calcium or vitamin D supplements, feel free to ask your Ochsner Pharmacist or other healthcare professional.

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