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Getting back to basics with Vitamin D

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

Doctors say low Vitamin D levels are close to epidemic. It's a common problem across the U.S., including in the south. We get the so-called "Sunshine Vitamin" from being outside and a few food sources. The problem is, even in the south with all of our sunshine, very few people get enough Vitamin D from it to be considered a healthy level.

You need Vitamin D to keep your bones strong. What you might not realize is what a lack of it puts you at risk for, including: heart disease, asthma, and even cancer and dementia. Armed with this knowledge, you can make simple lifestyle changes to raise your level. Besides a healthy diet, supplements can make a big difference.

Functional Medicine expert Dr. Patrick Krupka in Houston warns that the symptoms of a Vitamin D deficiency can be vague.

"Vitamin D helps you control information. It helps your immune system work more appropriately and helps control auto-immune responses in people. A lot of time, the symptoms are you're not able to control the processes. For example, if you constantly have headaches or your allergies are bad, or an auto-immune disorder can show you might be deficient. Almost any doctor can test you. It' s a simple blood test, it's not expensive, and it doesn't take much blood to do it. It's called a 25 Hydroxy Vitamin D test," explains Dr. Krupka.

Generally, Vitamin D is a safe supplement, it's a fat soluble vitamin, so in technical terms, you can become toxic on Vitamin D, if you take too much. In practicality, I have yet to see anyone get even close to toxic. A decent dose is 1,000-10,000 iu a day, in most cases. if you want to get up to that 10,000 - 15,000 IU a day range, then it's best to get tested and make sure that you really need to get that aggressive," says Dr. Krupka.

Send a note through Facebook or Twitter if you have any medical questions for FOX 26 Morning News anchor Melissa to "ask the doctor."

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Dr. Krupka keeps a video blog with ideas on how to make your body stronger and healthier. Visit the blog at http://drkrupka.com/

Here's what WebMD has to say about getting Vitamin D from your food:

Surprisingly few foods contain vitamin D -- unless it's added to the food. That's because your body is built to get vitamin D through your skin (from sunlight) rather than through your mouth (by food). But once your body has enough, it doesn't matter whether you got it through your skin or through your stomach.

- Salmon (especially wild-caught)

- Mackerel (especially wild-caught; eat up to 12 ounces a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are low in mercury)

- Mushrooms exposed to ultraviolet light to increase vitamin D

Other food sources of vitamin D include:

- Cod liver oil (warning: cod liver oil is rich in vitamin A; too much may be bad for you)

- Tuna canned in water

- Sardines canned in oil

- Milk or yogurt, regardless of whether it's whole, nonfat, or reduced fat, fortified with vitamin D

- Beef or calf liver

- Egg yolks

- Cheese

Nearly all milk in the U.S. is fortified with vitamin D. So are many brands of orange juice, yogurt, margarine, and ready-to-eat breakfast cereals.

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