At my 28 week OB appointment, a lot of fun (not really!) tests occurred, including a routine blood test. In that test they found my Vitamin D level was low. This is not the first time I’ve been diagnosed with low Vitamin D levels, but it has been several years since I’ve had an issue with it. So, back onto Vitamin D supplements I go.
But me being me, I’d rather get my nutrients naturally instead of by popping a pill. So I started researching Vitamin D. I knew it was found in dairy products and you can get Vitamin D from the sun, but that was pretty much it.
The sun factor is interesting though – as the entire month of December seemed to be cloud-covered and rain-filled in NC. So that could have played a role in my low numbers. And while I do eat dairy, I got tired of checking to see if dairy items were pasteurized or not, so I stuck to the basics I knew were pregnancy-safe. And that led to food boredom and me not reaching for the dairy snacks as much as I probably should. I didn’t give it much thought because I take a daily prenatal vitamin, but I guess I should have.
So what does Vitamin D do for us? Best answer: bone strength. It helps our bodies absorb calcium, and calcium makes our bones nice and strong. So too little Vitamin D can lead to weak and brittle bones.
Vitamin D has also been linked to heart disease. It was my cardiologist who first diagnosed me with Vitamin D deficiency many years ago. While they are not sure what the link is between D and your heart, studies find you are more at risk for heart attacks and heart disease when you are D deficient.
How do you get Vitamin D? Best answer: the sun. This is why so many people have low levels of Vitamin D. Your skin needs to absorb the dangerous ultraviolet rays from the sun for a daily dose of Vitamin D. But of course we all wear sunscreen and avoid the sun’s rays for fear of skin cancer. And with my fair Irish skin, I definitely do this! Health professionals say 15 minutes a day of direct sunlight should be adequate for Vitamin D absorption, and if timed right, you can avoid getting burned and putting yourself at risk for skin cancer.
Other Answers: Food. Vitamin D comes naturally in some foods, such as fatty fishes, beef liver, eggs and cheese, but the levels in these foods is actually pretty low. And since I don’t eat 2 of the 4, that leaves me little food to work with.
There are plenty of food items that are fortified with Vitamin D out there though – such as most milks, as well as some varieties of breakfast cereals, yogurts and juices. Those I can do! I don’t drink milk, but I’ve started using milk instead of water in my oatmeal. And a glass of chocolate milk is a nice treat for me every now and then. OJ is usually not in my diet, but is oddly one of my pregnancy cravings – so I always opt for the Vitamin D fortified versions. And I try to eat yogurt several times a week, though breakfast cereals have not been appealing to me lately.
Even with these changes, I still take my vitamin. If you have been told you have low Vitamin D levels and are looking for a supplement, opt for Vitamin D3, not D2 or D4, which I have found in some vitamins. Your body will use Vitamin D3 just as it would naturally eaten or sun-made Vitamin D.