Vitamin D research shows that this essential hormone produced in our body is responsible for more aspects of our health than just protecting our bones. Optimizing our vitamin D levels have been shown to prevent a wide range of disease processes including but not limited to:
*Various forms of Cancer
*Inflammatory bowel disease
The first important step to optimizing your vitamin D level is to ask a qualified health professional to check your serum (blood) of 25-Hydroxy-Vitamin D. This is the circulating form of vitamin D found in your blood that the kidneys and receptor cells in your body convert to the active form of Vitamin D3. This is currently the best indicator of the amount of Vitamin D available in storage form in your body. Optimal levels are around 60-80 ng/mL depending on your current health state. Because Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, there is concern for toxicity when taken in large doses for long term use. It is best to consult with your physician on the appropriate dose for you and re-test your levels if there is concern of toxicity.
Who is at risk for Vitamin D Deficiency?
*People with very little sun exposure are at highest risk. This includes those living in sunny populations that avoid sun exposure to their skin by either not going outside, wearing heavy sun screens or clothing/hats that cover skin.
*People living above the 35th parallel from November to April, the sun is not strong enough for any vitamin D3 production.
*People who wear clothing that covers most of their bodies.
*Hospital inpatients, residents of institutions, and those in-doors permanently.
*Sunscreen users and people with darker skin who reside in sun-deprived areas.
*People living in areas with high air pollution.
*Elderly people because age significantly reduces, but does not eliminate, the skin’s ability to create vitamin D3.
*Obese people because obesity causes vitamin D3 to be store in fat, which makes it less available for use.
*People with celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis and other conditions that impair the body’s ability to absorb vitamin D.
*People taking medications that reduce cholesterol absorption or otherwise interfere with the body’s vitamin D conversion process.
*People with chronic kidney disease or liver failure.
*Breast-fed infants when mothers are vitamin D deficient.
*Breast feeding mothers may become more deficient as the breast milk takes up the stored Vitamin D.
What kind of Vitamin D should I get and how much?
There are two main forms of Vitamin D: D2 (made in plants) and D3 (found in animal products and is formed in our sun-exposed skin). Both forms are available in fortified foods and for supplementation. Vitamin D3 is the more bio-available or potent form of Vitamin D. Appropriate dosing is dependent on your blood levels and also your health status and age group. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that breastfed infants receive a minimum of 400 IU supplemented in their diet, while 1,000 IU would likely be more sufficient. Breastmilk is known to be deficient in Vitamin D likely because the lactating mother’s are also deficient. Lactating mothers can supplement anywhere from 1,000 IU to 5,000 IU per day or higher depending on their vitamin D status. Those with chronic health conditions may require much higher doses for short term duration to boost their levels. The average population should take a minimum of 1,000-2,000 IU per day both adults and children alike.
How can you optimize your Vitamin D levels?
*Receive 10-15 minutes daily of sun exposure to bare skin in the middle of the day. Be cautious not to burn your skin, it is possible for some that the skin will burn before you are able to get enough Vitamin D.
*Tanning beds may be a means to get Vitamin D, however the ultraviolet light can cause overexposure to your skin.
*After sunning or tanning, delay bathing for as long as possible. The oils in your skin can convert to vitamin D for up to 48 hours after exposure to sun.
*Avoid chlorine pools if possible, the chlorine strips your skin of its oils and therefore reduces the amount of vitamin D you make.
*Food sources of Vitamin D3 are: organ meats, skin, fat, intestines and eggs. Sources of Vitamin D2 come from vegetable sources such as mushrooms, lichen and yeast. Some milk and orange juice products are fortified to contain small amounts of vitamin D.
*Vitamin D is available as a supplement and may be taken by injection, skin cream or orally (best when taken with food that is high in fat).