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Osteoporosis Health Center

Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D and Calcium?

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How Can You Get Vitamin D and Calcium? continued...

The average adult would get more than a day’s recommended vitamin D by eating just one small can of pink salmon.

Another source of vitamin D is the sun. Your body makes vitamin D from sunlight. But you need to wear sunscreen to protect your skin, and that blocks your body from making vitamin D. Also, it can be hard to make enough vitamin D from the winter sun, depending on where you live.

If you're not getting all the vitamin D and calcium you need from food, talk with your doctor about taking a multivitamin or supplements, says JoAnn Manson, MD, DrPH, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Can You Get Too Much Vitamin D or Calcium?

Getting more than you need isn’t always better, Manson says. 

It's possible to get too much vitamin D and calcium, usually from overdoing supplements. (You can't get too much vitamin D from sunshine, and it's not likely you'd get too much from food.) 

Too much calcium from supplements can lead to kidney stones. And you may be more likely to have a heart attack and other heart problems. That's not certain, though.

Too much vitamin D can upset your stomach, make you constipated, and lead to weakness.

Should You Get a Vitamin D Blood Test?

Some doctors routinely check vitamin D levels. Others don't.

If you're concerned that you might be running low on vitamin D, you could ask your doctor for a blood test to check.

People with certain health conditions like inflammatory bowel disease are at higher risk for having low vitamin D. So are people who aren't outdoors much, have darker skin, don't take supplements, and don't eat foods rich in vitamin D.

If the test shows that your vitamin D blood level is low, your doctor may recommend supplements or a vitamin D prescription.

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Reviewed on October 24, 2013

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