By Dr. Peter Kadile
Dr. Peter, I’ve been hearing a lot about Vitamin D. I’m outside a lot, how do I know if I’m getting enough? – Lisa, Cathedral City
Lisa, your body does make its own vitamin D from sunlight. Exposing your bare skin is the best way for your body to produce the vitamin. But, if you wear sunscreen or keep yourself covered with a hat or long sleeves or pants, you may not have adequate exposure to produce vitamin D. You can also get vitamin D from over the counter supplements and a very small amount comes from diet.
Vitamin D is important for good overall health and strong and healthy bones. It is also important in making sure your muscles, hearts, lungs and brain work well and that your body can fight infection. It may even have some anti-cancer effects.
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to cancer, asthma, diabetes type 2, high blood pressure, depression, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease.
I have been routinely checking my patient’s vitamin D levels with a simple blood test for the past 6 years and I am no longer surprised to find that a majority of my patients are vitamin D deficient. You would think that since our desert climate is mostly sunny for the majority of the year, vitamin D deficiency would be rare, but it is not. We spend most of our time indoors and you can’t absorb the sunlight through a window. We have also been taught to wear sunscreen to protect against skin cancer if we spend a lot of time outdoors.
So, if you would like to know if you have enough vitamin D, ask your doctor to order a simple lab test (called the vitamin D, 25 – hydroxy level). If you don’t spend enough time outside, you can supplement with vitamin D3 to achieve optimum vitamin D levels. Different organizations recommend different daily intakes of vitamin D, so work with your doctor in determining which dose to start with depending on your lab results.
Dr. Peter, the local health food store is offering vitamin B12 injections, should I get one? – Mark, Palm Springs
Mark, vitamin B12 is found in every cell of the human body and is very important for energy production. It contributes to skin health, immune and nervous system functions and muscle function. Unfortunately, individuals may not be getting enough vitamin B12 in their diet or may have a problem absorbing it. Meat is a good source of vitamin B12, thus vegetarians may be lacking in vitamin B12, Taking over the counter and prescription antacids regularly, can interfere with vitamin B12 absorption. If you are low in vitamin B12, your body is not getting enough fuel for energy.
Vitamin B12 is a water soluble vitamin, so if your body doesn’t need it, it will flush away the excess. Since lack of vitamin B12 may be due to a gut absorption problem, injections or under the tongue would be the preferred routes for supplementation.
Vitamin B12 benefits
- important for energy production, can decrease fatigue
- healthy regulation of the nervous system, reduces depression, helps with stress
- essential for healthy skin, hair and nails.
You can consult with your doctor and get a blood test to check your B12 level to see if you are deficient or you can try supplementing with vitamin B12 with daily sublingual (under the tongue) tablets or injections every 1-4 weeks and see if you feel any better.