Get More Vitamin D: 5 Simple But Effective Ways
Vitamin D is essential for immune function and bone health. Here’s how to avoid a deficiency.
There’s a delicate balance between getting enough sunlight for vitamin D and protecting your skin from sun damage.
You’re probably no stranger to the benefits of vitamin D: Namely improved immune function, elevated mood and strong bones. Unfortunately, vitamin D is one of the more elusive vitamins. It’s not found in high concentrations in many foods, and many people miss out on the one big opportunity to get vitamin D — sun exposure — because they’re stuck inside their workplaces all day.
Thus, vitamin D deficiency is a worldwide problem.
If you think you might have vitamin D deficiency, you should ask your doctor for a test to confirm. You could also try an at-home test for vitamin D deficiency, but it’s up to you to do your research on the testing company and make sure it meets lab safety, accuracy and efficacy standards.
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Whether or not you get tested, if you decide to take a vitamin D supplement, be careful not to exceed the “tolerable upper intake level” , which is the maximum intake known to be safe. The UL for vitamin D is 100 micrograms or 4,000 international units per day for adults. The recommended daily allowance is far below that at 15 mcg or 600 IU per day for adults ages 18-70.
The Big Vitamin D Experiment
Vitamin D also known as the sunshine vitamin is in the news a lot these days. We know its essential for healthy bones, but low levels have also been linked to a range of conditions from heart disease to cancer .
Research suggests that around half of adults in the U.K. dont have adequate levels of vitamin D, so whats the best way to boost those levels? Michael Mosley, with the help of Professor Helen Macdonald from the University of Aberdeen, put three recommended sources of vitamin D to the test.
Overweight People Tend To Have Lower Vitamin D Levels
Studies show that a higher body mass index and body fat percentage are associated with lower blood levels of vitamin D .
Several different theories speculate about the relationship between low vitamin D levels and obesity.
Some claim that obese people tend to consume fewer vitamin D-rich foods, thus explaining the association.
Others point to behavioral differences, noting that obese individuals tend to expose less skin and may not be absorbing as much vitamin D from the sun.
Furthermore, certain enzymes are needed to convert vitamin D into its active form, and levels of these enzymes may differ between obese and non-obese individuals .
However, a 2012 study noted that once vitamin D levels in obese individuals are adjusted for body size, theres no difference between levels in obese and non-obese individuals .
This indicates that your vitamin D needs depend on body size, meaning obese individuals need more than normal-weight people to reach the same blood levels. This could help explain why obese people are more likely to be deficient.
Interestingly, losing weight can also affect your vitamin D levels.
In theory, a reduction in body size would mean a decrease in your vitamin D requirement. However, since the amount of it in your body remains the same when you lose weight, your levels would actually increase .
And the degree of weight loss may affect the extent to which its levels increase.
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Dangers Of Hypovitaminosis D
Hypovitaminosis D can lead to various health issues for all age groups. In early childhood, hypovitaminosis can lead to Rickets, a deformity in bone growth. In adults it causes Osteomalacia, a bone thinning disorder. For all groups, prolonged deficiency can cause issues such osteoporosis, light-headedness, excessive sweating, fatigue, erectile dysfunction, and muscle weakness. Research also suggests it has a role in the advancement of breast, colon, ovarian, and prostate cancer.
For individuals suffering from depression, sunlight has regularly been recommended. Low levels of vitamin D have been found in patients who are diagnosed with depression. Sunlight makes us happy, which is why we feel our mood change when it gets cloudy. You might say that having adequate vitamin D is essential to keeping you in a good mood.
Foods That Are Bad For Your Bones
Ideally, you never want to exceed 4,000 IU per day, Clifford says. Too much vitamin D can lead to anorexia, weight loss, irregular heartbeats, and excessive urination.
It gets more serious when you end up with excess calcium absorption, which puts your heart, kidneys, and blood vessels at risk.
Symptoms of vitamin D toxicity include:
- Loss of appetite
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Consequences Of Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D is vital for healthy bones, muscles and teeth and it regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in our bodies. It is also thought to help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. It is known to be necessary for healthy cell growth and a robust immune system. With Vitamin D deficiency there is a risk of developing bone conditions such as rickets and osteomalacia, which manifest as bone deformation. Osteoporosis is another bone condition that can develop due to Vitamin D deficiency.
There are other health problems that have been attributed to Vitamin D deficiency including:
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
- Cognitive impairment
What’s Another Way You Can Get Vitamin D
“The best way to ensure you are meeting your vitamin D levels is to take a supplement,” says Greene. “A starting dose should be discussed with your doctor and will depend on lab values, however, chances are if you do not have a varied diet and do not get a lot of time outdoors, you will need to supplement.”
For more, be sure to check out The Worst Vitamin D Supplement To Take, Say Dietitians. Then, don’t forget to .
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Is Vitamin D2 Or D3 Better For You
There are two forms of vitamin D found in supplements: D2 and D3 . D2 is produced by plants, whereas D3 is found in animals and is what we produce using sunlight.
Although their chemical structures are different, they are both absorbed in the small intestine.
A few studies have shown that vitamin D3 supplements are better at raising vitamin D levels compared with vitamin D2.
/10can Sunscreen Affect Vitamin D Levels
We use sunscreen to protect our skin against skin cancers and sunburns. Sunscreen has chemicals that either reflect, absorb or scatter sunlight. When this happens, the skin is exposed to lower levels of the harmful UVB rays.
But UVB rays are important for making vitamin D and sunscreen can stop the skin from producing sunlight. Studies show that sunscreen with SPF 30 or more reduces vitamin D production in the body by 95-98 per cent. So, if you are wearing sunscreen, you might have to spend long hours in the sunlight for your skin to produce enough vitamin D.
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Can Medications Cause A Vitamin D Deficiency
Yes. Vitamin D levels can be lowered by certain medications. These include:
- Cholesterol-lowering drugs .
- Seizure-control drugs .
- A tuberculosis drug .
- A weight-loss drug .
Always tell your doctor about the drugs you take and any vitamin D supplements or other supplements or herbs/alternative health products that you take.
Foods Naturally High In Vitamin D
While there are a handful of foods fortified with vitamin D, few foods contain vitamin D naturally. Those that do are usually animal-based.
Based on the numbers above, you can consume the RDA of vitamin D by eating about 4 ounces of salmon, 13 eggs or a little over ½ a tablespoon of cod liver oil.
If you follow a vegan diet, getting vitamin D from food is going to be more difficult than if you eat animal products. So, in addition to making sure youre getting mushrooms in your diet, look for fortified plant-based milks and talk with your doctor or registered dietitian nutritionist about taking a supplement, experts suggest.
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Vitamin D: Whole Foods Vs Fortified Foods
Fortified foods are meant to help boost vitamin and mineralintake. Theyre designed to add nutrients that dont naturally occur in theproduct. Sometimes iron, fiber, zinc or vitamin A is added. For instance, most milkis fortified with vitamin D and calcium is sometimes added to orange juice.
Since so few foods found in nature are good sources ofvitamin D, fortified foods provide most of the vitamin D found in the Americandiet, explains Taylor.
But she warns that some fortified foods can contain addedingredients that make the product less healthy, like sugar or hydrogenatedfats. Cows milk and most plant alternative milks are typically fortified withvitamin D, but its important to look for products with no added sugar.
Many types of yogurt and cereal are also fortified withvitamin D, but could contain excessive added sugar or saturated fat. Margarineis often fortified as well, but some products contain partially hydrogenatedoils, which should be avoided. Read labels to choose the best product for yourfamily.
Optimize Your Other Nutrients
Its important to keep in mind that nutrients usually dont work in isolation.
Many of them depend on one another, and increased intake of one nutrient may increase your need for another.
Some researchers claim that fat-soluble vitamins work together and that its crucial to optimize your vitamin A and K intake while supplementing with vitamin D3 (
What Happens If You Take Too Much
It is a myth that it is easy to overdose on vitamin D.
Vitamin D toxicity is very rare and only happens if you take very high doses for extended periods .
The main symptoms of toxicity include confusion, lack of concentration, drowsiness, depression, vomiting, abdominal pain, constipation, and high blood pressure .
Vitamin D toxicity is very rare. The symptoms include confusion, drowsiness, depression, constipation, and high blood pressure.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin important for bone health.
For those low in this nutrient, increasing intake may also reduce depression and improve strength.
Your skin produces vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. Foods like fatty fish, fish oil, and liver also contain vitamin D as well as certain fortified foods and supplements.
Deficiency is fairly common due to limited sunlight exposure and a small selection of rich dietary sources.
If you dont spend much time in the sun and rarely eat fatty fish, consider supplementing.
Getting enough vitamin D can go a long way to boosting your health.
Can I Take Vitamin D Supplements Safely
While its possible to overdo it, vitamin D deficiency is actually more common than toxicity.
Certain groups have a higher risk of deficiency if youre over 65, have a higher body weight, have more melanin in your skin , or if youre indoors a lot, your doctor might prescribe a vitamin D supplement.
A simple blood test can confirm your vitamin D levels are at a healthy level.
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Choosing The Best Vitamin D Supplement For Your Health
If you choose to go the supplement route, Clifford recommends taking around 400 to 800 IU of vitamin D3 per day. Vitamin D3 is the form that is already stored in the body, so some studies have found it to be more effective, Clifford says. Also, take vitamin D with a healthy fat, such as sliced avocado, because it is a fat-soluble vitamin that requires fat to be absorbed.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesnt oversee supplements, so it can be tough to know if youre buying a good one. Some research has found the potency of supplements varies greatly among brands. The supplements tested in the aforementioned research had between 9 and 146 percent of the expected dose. The researchers found supplements from a USP-verified bottle were the most accurate and least variable, so when youre looking for a supplement, be on the lookout for the USP mark.
Meghan Sedivy, RD, of Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, recommends:
- Garden of Life Vitamin Code RAW D3
- Solaray Vitamin D3
Since D3 sometimes comes from animal sources, vegans should opt for vitamin D2 or a D3 supplement marked as vegan, such as Vitashine Vegan D3 Supplement.
Vitamin D Deficiency Why It Happens
The major source of vitamin D for children and adults is exposure to natural sunlight. Thus, the major cause of VDD is inadequate exposure to sunlight. Wearing a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 30 reduces vitamin D synthesis in the skin by more than 95%. People with a naturally dark skin tone have natural sun protection and require at least three to five times longer exposure to make the same amount of vitamin D as a person with a white skin tone. There is an inverse association of serum 25D and body mass index greater than 30 kg/m2, and thus, obesity is associated with VDD.
Patients with one of the fat malabsorption syndromes and bariatric patients are often unable to absorb the fat-soluble vitamin D, and patients with nephritic syndrome lose 25D bound to the vitamin D-binding protein in the urine. Patients on a wide variety of medications, including anticonvulsants and medications to treat AIDS/HIV, are at risk because these drugs enhance the catabolism of 25D and 1,252D. Patients with chronic granuloma-forming disorders , some lymphomas, and primary hyperparathyroidism who have increased metabolism of 25D to 1,252D are also at high risk for VDD.
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Symptoms Of Vitamin D Deficiency
While accepted lab values can differ, generally a blood test revealing 30 ng/mL or higher of vitamin D in the bloodstream is considered normal, 20.0 to 29.9 ng/mL is a vitamin D insufficiency, and less than 20 mg/mL is a vitamin D deficiency. Although there is some dispute among researchers about their validity, studies have shown that anywhere from 10% to more than 40% of the population have levels of vitamin D that are below normal.
While anyone can be low in this crucial vitamin, some groups are likelier to be deficient in vitamin D.
Older adults: Mature skin does not synthesize the vitamin as effectively.
Darker skin tones: Higher levels of melanin in the skin make it less able to produce vitamin D.
Breastfeeding babies: Human milk does not have sufficient levels of vitamin D unless the mother takes a supplement.
Obese individuals: Excess fat binds to the vitamin and prevents it from circulating in the bloodstream.
IBS or other intestinal diseases: People who suffer from intestinal diseases are less able to metabolize fat, which is required to absorb sufficient vitamin D.
Lack of sun exposure: People who rarely go outside, or cover up heavily when they do so, do not get the sun exposure required to create vitamin D.
Location: Those who live far north or far south of the equator have less exposure to sunshine.
“Your doctor can diagnose a vitamin D deficiency with a simple blood test.”
How Often Do You Need To Get Your Vitamin D Levels Checked
Doctors do not usually order routine checks of vitamin D levels, but they might need to check your levels if you have certain medical conditions or risk factors for vitamin D deficiency. Sometimes vitamin D levels can be checked as a cause of symptoms such as long-lasting body aches, a history of falls or bone fractures without significant trauma.
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Vital Choice Wild Sockeye Salmon Oil & Vitamin D3
This product contains vitamin D3 from lanolin, as well as wild salmon oil, which is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Three capsules provide 3,000 IU of vitamin D3, giving adults more than enough of this nutrient per day. However, a person can take fewer capsules if they want or need a lower amount.
This product is National Sanitation Foundation Certified for Sport, which means that it has undergone testing for contaminants and banned substances and that the manufacturers meet CGMP standards.
This liquid vitamin D product contains 100 IU of vitamin D3 per drop. Six drops would provide an adult with the recommended daily amount of vitamin D.
According to the manufacturers, in safe amounts, this supplement is also suitable for children.
This brand has certifications from Underwriters Laboratories , which runs the UL National Brand Certification Program. This means that the companys manufacturing, packaging, and warehousing practices are safe.
How Does Sunlight Give Us Vitamin D
When we get sunlight on our skin, our body produces a substance called cholecalciferol.
This is then turned into calcidiol and then calcitriol by the liver and kidneys.
Calcitriol is what your Doctor would measure to assess your Vitamin D levels.
There are three ways to get enough Vitamin D:
During sunny months, your body might make excess calcidiol. But it will not go to waste. Any extra will be stored in your body fat as a kind of back up for those grey winter days.
Experts think that just 10 minutes of sunlight on your skin is enough to avoid Vitamin D deficiency. So get outside when you can!
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