Do I Need A Vitamin D Supplement If I’m Vegetarian
It is already not that easy to obtain sufficient vitamin D content through dietary intake alone but it will also be more challenging with a plant-based diet as the richest dietary sources of vitamin D are found in animal foods.
The other important thing you need to know as a vegan or vegetarian is there are different types of vitamin D. Vitamin D3 is found exclusively in animal foods, and is also the form of vitamin D that is manufactured through your skin when exposed to sunlight, and vitamin D2 is typically the form found in plant sources.
The form of vitamin D that you choose can actually make a big difference. Vitamin D2 has been shown to be less effective than vitamin D3 at raising vitamin concentrations in the blood .
Make sure you pay attention to the label and consider choosing vitamin D3 over vitamin D2 for improved vitamin D absorption.
Algae is now a popular dietary supplement for vegetarians because it provides vitamin D3 but is entirely plant-based. This is an ideal option for vegetarians who are not obtaining sufficient amounts of vitamin D3 and want to find a vegan-friendly alternative.
If you are not getting daily sun exposure then it probably will be a good idea to look into a daily supplement and find your optimal dose with your doctor.
Is More Vitamin D Better
When you start increasing your vitamin D dosage this can potentially cause problems. More is not necessarily better and not always needed. Again, this is why we recommend testing your own vitamin D level in order to properly assess the adequate intake for you.
As vitamin D is a fat-soluble dietary vitamin it can be stored for longer in the body and high levels can potentially lead to vitamin D toxicity and adverse effects.
What are the vitamin D guidelines? Daily intake is recommended at 600 IU of vitamin D per day and shouldn’t exceed the upper intake level of 4,000 IU for most healthy individuals unless recommended and monitored by your doctor as sometimes higher levels will be needed to correct a vitamin D deficiency. In order to reach toxic levels, this will typically require a much higher daily dose of vitamin D.
Toxicity of vitamin D may be associated with symptoms and conditions such as hypercalcemia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, excessive thirst, high blood pressure, kidney failure, or hearing loss.
Though too little vitamin D can pose a problem too much can also result in adverse health effects. More is not always better!
Pick The Right Time To Bask In The Sun
Most people in the US get their sun fix between spring and deep into fall. Even so, summer remains the best season to soak up some sunshine, but with great caution.
The time of day does matter, as well. Your skin tends to produce vitamin D at its peak when you go out during the middle of the day. This is a window in which the sunlight shines with the greatest intensity, as the sun is at its zenith in the sky.
The rule of thumb is that you wonât get enough vitamin D if your shadow is taller than your real height. It pays to go out in the sun between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., which is usually when youâll achieve optimal vitamin D levels.
Of course, it wouldn’t be wise to spend a prolonged time out in the scorching hot summer sun. To prevent sunburns and possibly skin cancer, make sure to limit exposure time .” rel=”nofollow”> NIH), and always stay hydrated. Studies show that sunscreens with an SPF of 8 or higher appear to block vitamin-producing rays from the sun, but itâs important to balance time spent in the sun without sunscreen and preventing long-term sun damage.
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What Happens If I Take Too Much Vitamin D
Taking too many vitamin D supplements over a long period of time can cause too much calcium to build up in the body . This can weaken the bones and damage the kidneys and the heart.
If you choose to take vitamin D supplements, 10 micrograms a day will be enough for most people.
Do not take more than 100 micrograms of vitamin D a day as it could be harmful. This applies to adults, including pregnant and breastfeeding women and the elderly, and children aged 11 to 17 years.
Children aged 1 to 10 years should not have more than 50 micrograms a day. Infants under 12 months should not have more than 25 micrograms a day.
Some people have medical conditions that mean they may not be able to safely take as much. If in doubt, you should consult your doctor.
If your doctor has recommended you take a different amount of vitamin D, you should follow their advice.
You cannot overdose on vitamin D through exposure to sunlight. But always remember to cover up or protect your skin if you’re out in the sun for long periods to reduce the risk of skin damage and skin cancer.
Page last reviewed: 03 August 2020 Next review due: 03 August 2023
Does Sunscreen Use Lead To Vitamin D Deficiency
High-SPF sunscreens are designed to filter out most of the suns UVB radiation, since UVB damage is the major cause of sunburn and can lead to skin cancers. UVB wavelengths happen to be the specific wavelengths that trigger vitamin D production in the skin. Nonetheless, clinical studies have never found that everyday sunscreen use leads to vitamin D insufficiency. In fact, the prevailing studies show that people who use sunscreen daily can maintain their vitamin D levels.
One of the explanations for this may be that no matter how much sunscreen you use or how high the SPF, some of the suns UV rays reach your skin. An SPF 15 sunscreen filters out 93 percent of UVB rays, SPF 30 keeps out 97 percent, and SPF 50 filters out 98 percent. This leaves anywhere from 2 to 7 percent of solar UVB reaching your skin, even with high-SPF sunscreens. And thats if you use them perfectly.
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How Much Sun Do We Need For Healthy Bones
The best source of vitamin D is UVB radiation from the sun. UV radiation levels vary depending on location, time of year, time of day, cloud coverage and the environment.
For most people, adequate vitamin D levels are reached through regular incidental exposure to the sun. When the UV Index is 3 or above , most people maintain adequate vitamin D levels just by spending a few minutes outdoors on most days of the week.
In late autumn and winter in some southern parts of Australia, when the UV Index falls below 3, spend time outdoors in the middle of the day with some skin uncovered. Being physically active also helps boost vitamin D levels.
Breaking The Old Rules
Vitamin D is one of the 13 vitamins discovered in the early 20th century by doctors studying nutritional deficiency diseases. Ever since, scientists have defined vitamins as organic chemicals that must be obtained from dietary sources because they are not produced by the body’s tissues. Vitamins play a crucial role in our body’s metabolism, but only tiny amounts are needed to fill that role.
Although vitamin D is firmly enshrined as one of the four fat-soluble vitamins, it is not technically a vitamin. True, it’s essential for health, and only minuscule amounts are required. But it breaks the other rules for vitamins because it’s produced in the human body, it’s absent from all natural foods except fish and egg yolks, and even when it’s obtained from foods, it must be transformed by the body before it can do any good.
As our habits change, most of us cannot rely on our bodies to produce vitamin D the old-fashioned way. Instead, we increasingly depend on artificially fortified foods and pills to provide this vital nutrient. Coming full circle in the modern world, this substance may actually come to fit the technical definition of a vitamin.
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Could You Get Too Much Vitamin D
While the possibility of Vitamin D toxicity is relatively low from sun exposure, we can have levels too high if we continuously supplement. The best way to protect yourself from vitamin D toxicity is to have your blood levels tested and supplement according to those numbers. Early spring is the best time of year for vitamin D testing due to several months of low/no sun exposure.
Another way to protect yourself from vitamin D toxicity is to eat foods with the other fat soluble vitamins . The body does a wonderful job of protecting itself when the right nutrients are on board. The fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K are great at keeping each other in check. Foods rich in these vitamins tend to be in higher fat foods, like beef liver, natto, salmon, herring, nuts, seeds and avocado. Leafy greens, orange and red colored vegetables and fruits, and some mushrooms are sources as well.
When To Take A Vitamin D Supplement
Vitamin D supplements are generally recommended for the following cases:
- Health conditionssuch as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease, which impairs vitamin D absorption.
- Lactose intolerance or milk allergies, which increase the risk of vitamin D deficiency since people with these conditions are less likely to consume dairy products fortified with vitamin D.
- Darker skin tones, since their skin produces less vitamin D.
- Breastfed infants, because breast milk doesn’t provide adequate amounts of vitamin D.
Talk to your primary care provider before taking any supplements to discuss the recommended amount of supplementation.
Important: Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, so it’s best to take supplements with some fat from food to maximize absorption.
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Advice For Adults And Children Over 4 Years Old
During the autumn and winter, you need to get vitamin D from your diet because the sun is not strong enough for the body to make vitamin D.
But since it’s difficult for people to get enough vitamin D from food alone, everyone should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D during the autumn and winter.
Between late March/early April to the end of September, most people can make all the vitamin D they need through sunlight on their skin and from a balanced diet.
You may choose not to take a vitamin D supplement during these months.
What Is Important To Know About Vitamin D Production Via Sun Exposure
Your body naturally makes vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunlight. The form of vitamin D that you get from the sun is called D3 , which is derived from cholesterol. The amount of vitamin D you get from exposing your bare skin to sun is dependent on several factors. They are:
1)Where you live
The closer to the equator you live, the easier it is for your body to synthesize vitamin D from the suns rays all year round. For instance, if you live at a northern latitude like Anchorage, Alaska, your body would create less vitamin D during the winter than someone who lives in Miami, because Florida has more exposure to UVB rays that are necessary to produce vitamin D.
2) The amount of skin you expose
If you wear clothing that covers most of your skin, you may be at risk for vitamin D deficiency. This also means that people who train indoors during winter months may have to dig into their bodies vitamin D stores if they don’t consume enough, which further increases their risk for deficiency. Cloudy weather can also be a problem because fewer UVB rays reach your skin on cloudy days.
3)The color of your skin
- Type I – White very fair red or blond hair blue eyes freckles
- Type II White fair red or blond hair blue, hazel, or green eyes
- Type III Cream white fair with any eye or hair color very common
- Type IV Brown typical Mediterranean Caucasian skin
- Type V Dark Brown mid-eastern skin types
- Type VI Black
4)The time of year and day
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People At Risk Of Vitamin D Deficiency
Some people will not make enough vitamin D from sunlight because they have very little or no sunshine exposure.
The Department of Health and Social Care recommends that adults and children over 4 take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D throughout the year if they:
- are not often outdoors for example, if they’re frail or housebound
- are in an institution like a care home
- usually wear clothes that cover up most of their skin when outdoors
If you have dark skin for example you have an African, African-Caribbean or south Asian background you may also not make enough vitamin D from sunlight.
You should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D throughout the year.
Can You Get Vitamin D In The Shade
As much as you try to play it safe, you might wonder if you can still get Vitamin D in the shade, through your clothes, or with sunscreen. To get vitamin D from the sun, exposure of your face, legs and arms is recommended for at least 15 minutes without sunscreen. Any clothing covering these areas will prevent vitamin D conversion in the skin.
The Bottom Line
You need Vitamin D for healthy teeth and bones. You can get Vitamin D from three sourcessun, food, and supplements. With concerns about protecting the skin, health experts recommend wearing sunscreen. This will limit the amount of Vitamin D you get from sun exposure, so its important to make sure you eat foods that contain Vitamin D and/or take a Vitamin D supplement.
Continue to check back on the Nature Made blog for the latest science-backed articles to help you take ownership of your health.
Learn More About Vitamins & Supplements:
This information is only for educational purposes and is not medical advice or intended as a recommendation of any specific products. Consult your health care provider for more information.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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Staying Safe In The Sun
Although the sun’s ultraviolet rays are essential for making vitamin D, they can, unfortunately, cause sunburns, premature aging, and other forms of skin damage, as well as induce immune suppression. In a worst-case scenario, prolonged exposure can also up your risk of skin melanoma, a malignant form of skin cancer.
So, if you choose to get limited sun exposure for vitamin Dâs sake, you should stick to the following safety tips:
- During particularly hot summer days, stay out of the sun when itâs shining the most, often between noon and 2 p.m.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat that will protect at least the top of your ears, eyes, and face since these are very vulnerable to sun damage. Itâs also perfectly fine to wear wrap-around sunglasses.
- Perk up your sunscreen game. Summer wear is usually highly exposing and lightweight, which can fuel skin damage. So, after 10-15 minutes of unprotected exposure, apply sunscreen liberally and frequently.
- See to it that your sunblock sports a minimum SPF of 15, but lighter-skinned folks should stick to SPF-30 and higher. You should also shoot for a broad-spectrum sunscreen because it has the right blend to keep off both UVA and UVB rays.
If you have any questions or concerns about your time in the sun, consult with a dermatologist for a skin check and to discuss your skincare routine including sunscreen.â
Types Of Sunlight Exposure
Sunshine contains several kinds of ultraviolet radiation, including what are known as Ultraviolet A and Ultraviolet B rays. UVA rays do long-term damage to the skin and trigger diseases such as skin cancer, while UVB rays are responsible for giving you a sunburn. However, UVB rays are also healthy in small doses. The balance of UVA and UVB in sunlight changes throughout the day. Early morning and evening sunlight provides only UVA light, while UVB radiation is strongest the closer you get to noon. Latitude, season and atmospheric conditions can also affect the strength and concentration of UVB rays in sunlight. A UV Index rating of 2 or below means don’t bother going outside — you get risky UVA rays without the benefit of any UVB. Experts say not to intentionally expose your skin to sunlight when the UV index is less than 3.
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How Much Sun Do We Need
The sun’s ultraviolet radiation is both the major cause of skin cancer and the best source of vitamin D. In Australia, we need to balance the risk of skin cancer from too much sun exposure with maintaining adequate vitamin D levels. Sensible sun protection does not put people at risk of vitamin D deficiency.
How Much Vitamin D Can You Actually Get From The Sun
With all these variables in place it can be difficult to say how much sun a person needs in order to make adequate amounts. A young, light-skinned, lean person will make vitamin D more readily than an older, dark-skinned, overweight person. Light-skinned people can usually tolerate 10-20 minutes basking in the sun while dark-skinned folks could handle 90-120 minutes.
The other variable is your attire! To give you an idea of some numbers and ranges, using the timing we just mentioned above, here are some estimates for getting adequate D from the sun on a clear, sunny Minnesota day between May and September, 10:00am-2:00pm, no sunscreen with the goal of around 2000 IU per day :
- 70% skin exposure 1400-2800 IU
- 46% skin exposure 800-1600IU
- 5-12% skin exposure 100-200 IU
Please dont try to make up for less skin exposure with more time in the sun. At this amount of time, a person is not likely to become burned. The goal is exposure to UVB rays, so if your skin turns pink thats a sign of too much sun for that area of skin and can lead to skin cancer with overexposure.
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