Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in some foods, added to others, and available as a dietary supplement. While diet can be a source of vitamin D, exposure to sunlight for about 10 minutes a day produces a healthy level of vitamin D. However, many people do not get adequate vitamin D once the warm summer months end. If you’re one of them, talk with your health care provider about measuring your vitamin D level, and if it’s low, discuss taking an over-the-counter supplement. Your health care provider can advise you regarding the best supplement for your circumstances, but vitamin D, whether from the sun or a supplement, is essential to bone health, and has been scientifically proven to reduce the risk for heart disease, depression, cancer, multiple sclerosis and diabetes. Vitamin D has often been called the “sunshine vitamin,” but it should actually be called the “immune health vitamin.”
Recent studies have shown that persons with optimal Vitamin D status of 60-80 ng/ml had fewer incidences of respiratory illnesses. A JAMA study revealed that a Vitamin D deficiency increases a person’s risk for contracting Covid-19 by 77% compared to those with sufficient levels of the nutrient. Another study on Pub-Med revealed that Vitamin D supplementation reduced the risk of influenza and Covid-19 infections and deaths. Of course, randomized controlled trials with larger populations should be conducted to further evaluate these findings, but this is promising news.
While Vitamin D is known to support immune health, it also helps you achieve or maintain a healthy weight. Results of a 2012 study in Nutrition Journal found that taking Vitamin D can aid in reducing body fat in overweight and obese individuals. Lower vitamin D levels are also associated with mood problems, like depression. A 2008 study followed 441 overweight adults with depression for one year. They supplemented with 20,000 or 40,000 iu of D per week and saw improvements in their depressive symptoms, while the placebo group did not.
Receptors for Vitamin D are found throughout the brain and play a critical role in learning and making memories. Research in a 2015 issue of JAMA Neurology found that older adults with low levels of vitamin D experienced cognitive decline at a faster rate than people with healthy vitamin D levels. Promising research on humans in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease has shown that vitamin D may stimulate the immune system to rid the brain of beta-amyloid, the plaques seen in Alzheimer’s disease.
What’s a “normal” level?
Normal: 30-100 ng/ml
Optimal: 50-90 ng/ml
Having a “normal” level isn’t good enough. It’s recommended that you aim for the optimal level. Ask your doctor to test your levels today before the winter months.
How Do I Get Vitamin D from foods?
Foods high in Vitamin D are wild salmon, sardines, pasture-raised eggs and some mushrooms, like shiitake. The biggest sources of vitamin D in the American diet are not whole natural foods, however, but fortified, processed foods, which I don’t recommend. Fortified foods do not contain natural sources of vitamins, nor do they have the synergistic compounds that make a whole food healthy.
Supplementing with Vitamin D:
To supplement effectively with Vitamin D, you must first know your levels. Typically, when a client is low or not optimal, I use 5000 iu’s per day for several weeks to months to increase levels. Maintenance levels are usually 2000 iu’s per day for an adult. The most absorbable form is cholecalciferol (D3). You’ll also see a lot of newer supplements piggybacking D3 with Vitamin K for increased absorption. For maximum assimilation, Vitamin D should be taken with a fat, like eggs or avocado for breakfast.
On nice fall days, you’ll see me out riding my bike or walking with some skin showing to “soak in” those rays. It also boosts my mood. If you need assistance with testing or supplementation, please reach out. My favorite D supplement is Biotics Research DK-Mulsion drops, but they also have capsules. There’s a link to Fullscript on my website to order some.