Getting a D isn’t all that bad…

My black patent leather flats click quickly behind the physician, trying to keep up with her pace. Doreen DeGraaff, a


Vitamin D supplements . photo taken by me


doctor of medicine in obstetrics and gynecology (OB/GYN), glides from one patient room to the next in her office in Livingston, New Jersey.

This particular Monday in August, she endlessly examined more than fifty women, each of which she knew on a personal basis.

After meeting with each patient, she updates each file. Any new medications? How’s your son? Isn’t Argentina beautiful? Have you gone for a colonoscopy yet? Do you take vitamin D tablets?

The last question creates a pause in the conversation. DeGraaff listens for an answer as she does with her patients during every appointment.

“Can you write that down for me? I always forget,” a typical patient hesitantly asks.

DeGraaff lifts her right forearm from her desk to reveal the stereotypical blue prescription notepad and scribbles the reminder.

The body needs vitamin D to maintain acceptable levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Recent research has suggested that consuming appropriate amounts of vitamin D can lower the risk of osteoporosis (making bones weak or brittle), cancer, diseases such as multiple sclerosis, depression, type I diabetes, children’s asthma and obesity.

According to a study in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, researchers found vitamin D deficiencies in 24.1% of the healthy adolescents.

Why do so many have this deficiency?

“The only natural source of vitamin D is sunlight,” the physician of twenty-two years says. About fifteen minutes in direct sunlight without sunscreen can fulfill the body’s need.

Seems so simple…

However, according to WebMD, a person living north of Columbia, South Carolina cannot naturally obtain the needed amount of vitamin D year round.

Unfortunately, Allegany, New York sits over 700 miles north of this warm, sunny city. Western New York residents may need some help with getting their daily vitamin D intakes.

In addition to the latitudinal difficultly New York suffers, DeGraaff adds, “When we spend any significant time in the sun, we wear sunscreen to avoid skin cancer or wrinkles, instead of paying attention to our vitamin D intakes.”

Other factors attributed to a higher percentage of vitamin D deficiency include darker skin, obesity and age.

The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends that a typical male or female of 20 years should consume 200 IUs daily (IU: a unit for measuring vitamins).

A 3-ounce piece of salmon contains over 700 IUs of vitamin D. A cup of milk contains around 120 IUs of vitamin D, according to WebMD. Eggs and fortified foods, such as cereal, provide significant intakes.

However, physicians such as DeGraaff strongly recommend taking daily vitamin D supplements. The body cannot absorb all of the vitamin D consumed. Therefore, taking more than needed usually assures an appropriate absorption level of vitamin D.

Of course, just like drinking too much water, consuming too much vitamin D can harm the body also. Excessive vitamin D, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements, can cause nausea, vomiting, weakness, other general symptoms and kidney stones in women.

A physician can test a patient to determine if he or she has a vitamin D deficiency, the best way to conclude the deficiency. However, most doctors do not run the test unless asked, according to WebMD.

Be sure to check with your doctor before taking supplements.

As DeGraaff explains the benefits of vitamin D to her patients, I slink back in my chair, attempting to become invisible, hoping she will not ask me if I take supplements.

After checking with my doctor and making a quick stop at CVS, I can now answer her question with a definite “yes.”

story featured (with minor changes) in The Bona Venture

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