During the sunny summer months most people think they are getting enough of the “sunshine vitamin.” Vitamin D is called the “sunshine vitamin” because it can be synthesized by the skin when it is exposed to sunlight.
Surprisingly, over the last few months, most of my clients that have requested a vitamin D test from their doctors have been getting low test results. This has also been true of clients who are tanned and have been out in the sun. There are at least two factors that can contribute to low vitamin D levels. The first, for many people 3 months of sun exposure is not long enough to compensate for long dark winter months. Second, the use of sunscreen prohibits the production of vitamin D. If you are lathering up with sun block before you step outside you will never give your body the ability to make vitamin D. It is often recommended that you expose your skin to the sun for at least 20 minutes before putting on sun screen. However, it is important to be very careful and not burn your skin.
Vitamin D plays many important roles in the body, such as the maintenance of normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus. It also regulates cell growth. In addition, vitamin D supports the immune system and can improve your energy levels. A vitamin D deficiency has been linked to the following health issues: cancer, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, fatigue, depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), obesity and a host of autoimmune disorders. Considering the magnitude of vitamin D’s important functions, adequate intake is very important.
There are three different types of vitamin D and they are not all created equal.
- Calciferol – most absorbable type that is synthesized by the body
- Vitamin D2 (irradiated ergosterol – DO NOT BUY THIS KIND) – produced by yeast exposed to ultraviolet sources – fortified foods such as milk, cheese, butter, OJ and some nutritional supplements
- Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) – found in natural food sources, such as, mackerel, salmon, herring, butter and egg yolks
Recommended Daily Intake (FDA): Adults – 400 I.U.
Suggested Optimal Daily Nutritional Allowance: Adults – 960 I.U.
However, some medical doctors are now recommending up to 4,000-5,000 I.U. per day in the winter months and 1,000-2,000 I.U. per day in the summer for those who have low vitamin D levels. (ask your doctor for recommendations)
Since vitamin D is fat soluble, it can be stored in the body and create toxicity if levels are too high. For that reason, I recommend requesting a vitamin D test from your medical doctor.
Getting your vitamin D tested is the best way to make sure you are getting adequate amounts of this critical vitamin through all seasons of the year. There are two vitamin D tests:
- 1, 25(OH)D
The 25(OH)D test is the better marker of overall vitamin D status because it is most strongly associated with overall health. The test result reference range is quite large for many laboratories. With vitamin D levels you want to be closer to the top end of the normal range vs. the bottom of the normal range.
Besides sunlight, Vitamin D3 is the best and most natural source available. If you are concerned about your intake, I recommend a supplement from Pure Encapsulations in pill or liquid form. This high quality Vitamin D3 (never purchase synthetic Vitamin D2 supplements) is easily absorbed. I usually recommend getting your nutrients through your food, but in this case, deficiency is far too common.