LOS ANGELES (KABC) --Strong bones, improved mood, and more efficient weight loss are just a few benefits of Vitamin D. But if it's so beneficial, why are so many of us not getting enough of it?
Various studies suggest about 50 percent of the population is at risk of Vitamin D deficiency. One sign you could be lacking Vitamin D is muscle weakness. Experts say Vitamin D regulates neuromuscular functioning.
Insufficient levels of Vitamin D have been linked to chronic pain, especially in African Americans. Doctors say Vitamin D plays a role in heart health as well as increasing your risk of hypertension.
Bone pain is another sign.
"Vitamin D directly works with bones, directly forms bones, prevents osteoporosis," said Dr. Rahul Dhawan with the White Memorial Medical Center.
Another possible symptom of low Vitamin D is excessive sweating. Certain gastrointestinal problems may make it difficult for your body to absorb fat soluble vitamins.
Getting checked requires a simple blood test. As for supplements, Dhurwan believes the recommended 400 international units may not be enough. But if you need more, don't guess.
"By just taking an arbitrary dose and getting the level up by yourself...I wouldn't advise that. When I have a patient that has Vitamin D deficiency, I start them on a treatment dose, which is prescribed," said Dhawan.
Besides supplementation, foods that contain Vitamin D include salmon, tuna, eggs and mushrooms. But Dhuwan says the best way to get Vitamin D into your body is to head outdoors.
"Make sure that you are getting at least 20 minutes of sunshine a day -- direct sunlight," said Dhawan.
Even an SPF 15 sunscreen blocks about 99 percent of the skin's ability to absorb Vitamin D. People with darker skin may require even more exposure. Skin cancer is always a risk, so Dhawan's advice is to work with your doctor on a sensible treatment plan for you.