Vitamin D is one of those elements that’s mentioned all the time. It’s a buzz word, but do you actually know what it is and do you know if you need more of it?
Whatever your age or current health condition, everyone should have their Vitamin D levels checked by their health professional at least once per year. There’s some debate amongst the medical community about the Vitamin D level we should be aiming for, but the likely answer is that: it varies! Your optimal level will depend on your genetics, environment, lifestyle, and existing health challenges.
If your Vitamin D levels are too low, you could find yourself with a variety of types of immune deficiency. However, levels of Vitamin D that are too high can be immunosuppressive. When treating autoimmune or other aggressive, inflammatory disease, this can be useful in the short-term. However, if there is an infectious component of the disease’s root causes, then Vitamin D will likely need to come down eventually to more moderate levels in order to allow optimal functioning to eradicate those root causes. It’s important to remember that Vitamin D works like a steroid.
What Are the Health Risks of Low Vitamin D?
- Bone pain
- Muscle weakness
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
- Cognitive impairment in older adults
- Severe asthma in children
- Increased risk of cancer
Can Your Body Produce Vitamin D Naturally?
Yes, sometimes. When your skin is exposed to sunlight, it produces Vitamin D from cholesterol. The sun’s ultraviolet (UVB) rays hit cholesterol in the skin cells, providing the energy for Vitamin D synthesis to occur. How much Vitamin D is created depends on your age, your genetics, how much skin is uncovered, and your skin tone. Without sunblock and with arms and legs exposed, your skin will typically produce 10,000 to 15,000 units of Vitamin D in one session of sun exposure, on average. The darker your skin is, the more sun exposure you need to make enough Vitamin D.
What Should You Know About Vitamin D Supplements?
Everyone’s physiology is different, and so are their needs. Some of us can metabolize and retain Vitamin D really well, while some of us need larger doses to maintain baseline healthy levels. Once you start supplementing, check your levels again after no more than 2-3 months. You also need to make sure your magnesium levels are replete before starting a Vitamin D supplement.
Your dose of Vitamin D will depend on your blood level and medical history. If you have impaired digestion and absorption of fats, you may also need sublingual forms or higher doses to gain optimal blood levels.
Here are the treatment doses for corresponding blood levels I frequently recommend for my clients:
- <10ng/ml: Ramp up to 10,000IU D3 and take daily for 30 days then 4000IU daily. Test in ~8 weeks.
- 10-20ng/ml: Ramp up to 8000IU D3 and take daily for 2 weeks then 4000IU daily. Test in ~8 weeks.
- 20-30ng/ml: Ramp up to 2000IU D3 daily. Test in ~8 weeks.
- 30-40ng/ml: 2,000IU D3 daily.
Note: Introducing Vitamin D by “ramping up” is a crucial step. This can mean starting with 1000-2000 IU/day and increasing by another increment every ~5 days. We ramp doses slowly to allow the body (and the Vitamin D receptors) to adjust gradually. We also recommend avoiding Vitamin D2 fortification in processed foods.
If you are taking a Vitamin D supplement, it’s important to also consume adequate Calcium, Vitamin A, Vitamin K, and Magnesium. Increasing Vitamin D increases your body’s need for all of these nutrients. If you’re trying to regain bone density, Vitamin K2 is especially important. Magnesium is required for the body to convert Vitamin D into its final, usable form.
Your Plan for Vitamin D Intake
Based on your needs and health history, I can help you create a plan for whether you need to take in more Vitamin D and how we’ll keep track of your levels. Remember, everyone is different and your body is changing every day so it’s something to keep taking care of. With some extra care, though, you can get your Vitamin D levels back on track in no time.