Vitamin D Deficiency is Easily Treated
More than half of us suffer from vitamin D deficiency.
In many cases that is because we have not heard how important vitamin D is for our health. Or if we have heard about it, we may think we are getting enough already.
People know that vitamin D is made when sunlight shines on their skin. So they don’t worry too much about vitamin D – just get a bit of sunshine every now and again.
That’s almost right.
It is true that fair-skinned people do not need to spend a lot of time in the sun to make an optimum daily dose of vitamin D. Fifteen minutes is plenty. Dark-skinned people need more – up to six times as much.
Getting Vitamin D from Sunlight can be done safely too, if you are careful. So sunshine could still be the best source of vitamin D. And sunshine has other benefits that scientists are just beginning to understand.
But here is the problem: if we want to get enough vitamin D from sunlight alone, we need to expose around half of our skin surface to strong sunlight, several times a week. Most people can’t manage that in summer, let alone winter.
So we need to supplement vitamin D, or we become deficient. (Food is not really an adequate source of vitamin D. See Vitamin D Sources.)
But before we start supplementing, we need to make some choices. And to do that, we need information.
Where to Start with Vitamin D
Best place to start? Learn why vitamin D is so important for your health.
Next, you may want to know whether you are vitamin D deficient right now.
There’s a great way to find out – take a vitamin D test. Or you can estimate your vitamin D status. That may not be as accurate as taking a test, but it will enable you to confidently plan your supplementation strategy.
Then you can decide how much vitamin D you should take.
Low-Dose Vitamin D
Some people start with a small dose. They don’t care to experiment on themselves by taking a massive dose , without knowing what effect it will have on them. That would seem to be sensible.
The problem is, they don’t know what is a massive dose of vitamin D, or what is a normal dose. All they have to go on is the bottle of vitamin D pills they bought – the label says “Vitamin D3 – 400 IU – Take one a day”.
So they check out vitamin D by taking one pill a day, like it says on the bottle. If they start taking it when they are feeling sick, they would be hoping that this wonder-vitamin will help them get better quickly.
They might take one vitamin D pill every day for a week or two. What do you think would happen?
Nothing. Nothing would happen. The vitamin D makes no difference. So they may write it off as just another over-hyped supplement that doesn’t actually do any good.
But that would be really sad, because there is probably no other nutritional substance on the planet that could have such a powerful impact on their health, as an effective dose of vitamin D.
So what is wrong with that approach? Why doesn’t it work?
Your vitamin D level is what counts
What is critical with vitamin D is the amount stored in your blood, organs and tissues. If they are holding enough vitamin D, then every cell in your body will have access to vitamin D. Your body can store a whole lot of vitamin D, but only if you make a lot, or take a lot.
If you have stored only a little vitamin D in your body, most of your cells won’t be able to find it when they need it.
So how much vitamin D is enough?
To reach an optimum concentration of vitamin D, your body may need to store upwards of 250 000 IU of vitamin D (accumulated over weeks or months, not taken all at once.)
A person who is vitamin D deficient might only have 50 000 IU stored in their body.
So taking 400 IU daily for a week – or even a month – will make very little difference to anyone’s vitamin D status.
(Taking 400 IU for a whole month would only add 12 000 IU into their vitamin D store. Not much compared with 250 000 IU.)
But don’t forget, a body also uses vitamin D. While you are taking 400 IU a day, you could easily be using 500 IU. So your vitamin D body store might actually be dwindling.
Even taking 1000 IU of vitamin D every day is not enough (for most people) to avoid being vitamin D deficient, although it is much better than taking none.
So a small dose doesn’t really do much good. Which still leaves you two choices:
- Take enough Vitamin D to avoid being deficient – let’s call that a moderate dose, or
- Aim for optimum vitamin D
Optimum vitamin D must be balanced with other nutrients
If you are aiming for optimum vitamin D, it is best to have a good understanding of the benefits and risks.
Vitamin D itself will not harm you, but there are consequences of taking it, especially if your nutrition is not well balanced in other areas. For example
One of vitamin D’s main functions is to facilitate the uptake of calcium in your body. Calcium is good, right?
Yes, its great in the right places (for example, in your bones). But as a deposit in your arteries, it’s bad – and even worse in your heart or kidneys.
Your body can use calcium the right way only with help from vitamin D. But it also needs magnesium, zinc, boron and vitamin k2. These are known as vitamin D co-factors, or helpers.
So if your body is not getting enough of these vitamin D co-factors - and is using calcium the wrong way – taking large doses of vitamin D and raising your vitamin D blood level can make things worse. You will absorb more calcium, courtesy of vitamin D, but will not be able to deposit it in your bones. So you can guess where it’s going to end up – more than likely it will deposit in those arteries!
Moderate Dose Vitamin D
If you don’t have time right now to look into these vitamin D effects, then it may be better not to aim for optimum vitamin D at this time.
Rather begin by taking a moderate dose. For most people in good health, a moderate dose is 2000 IU of vitamin D3 daily. (If you are not in good health and are under a doctor’s care, I recommend you talk to your doctor first, before you start your vitamin D supplementation program.)
Even if you are deficient in vitamin D right now, if you take 2000 IU per day you will, after several months, reach and maintain a level of vitamin D of around 25-35 ng/ml, which is an adequate level.
2000 IUs of vitamin D3 is probably less than half your optimum dosage. Even so, it is enough to protect you from the effects of vitamin D deficiency.
But if you do have time, and especially if you have a health issue that’s troubling you, then rather do some vitamin D homework now, so you will understand what you need to do to safely optimize your vitamin D status. Because optimum vitamin D has a profoundly beneficial effect on many health conditions.
Before we get to the serious stuff, you might like to hear from the dashing Dr Oz. He’s very passionate about vitamin D.
We love what Dr Oz has to say, but you’ll be glad to hear we don’t recommend cod liver oil as the best source of vitamin D! And please reserve judgement about your vitamin D dosage until you’ve done a little more research.
There’s stacks of information on this site. These are the articles you may find most useful for understanding vitamin D
- Effects of Vitamin D Deficiency
- What is Vitamin D?
- Vitamin D Benefits
- Vitamin D from Safe Sunlight Exposure
- Vitamin D Testing
- How to Estimate your Vitamin D Level
- Optimum Vitamin D
- How to Calculate your Personal Vitamin D Dosage
- Vitamin D Co-Factors
- Tips for Buying Vitamin D.
Thanks for visiting this website. I hope you find it useful, and fun to use. Feel free to let me know either way.
Alex St Clair
P.S. Did you check out our poll to see how much vitamin D people are taking? Thank you if you contributed to this. Currently around half of all respondents are taking 4000 IU of vitamin D per day, or more! These folks are aiming for optimum vitamin D. Wanna join them?
And if you are one of the many who have tweeted, liked, or shared any of our pages, thanks so much!