Vitamin D deficiency is becoming more and more common, especially this time of year when our sun exposure is more limited. In addition to decreased sun exposure— obesity, dark skin tone, low HDL levels and overuse of sunscreen can increase your risk.
Vitamin D deficiency can weaken your immune system thus increasing your risk of illness. This fat soluble vitamin plays an important role in promoting adequate absorption of calcium which, if impaired, can impact long term bone health. Deficiencies can also lead to general symptoms of fatigue and weakness and, when long term, inadequate Vitamin D levels have been shown to increase the risk for cancer, heart disease, autoimmune disease and more.
How do you know if you are deficient and what should you do about it? The single, best first step is to test your blood levels.
Ask your doctor to test for 25 OH Vitamin D. While the current range for “normal” is 10 to 55 ng/ml, many integrated and functional medicine practitioners feel this is low and recommend a range between 45-65 ng/ml. Read more here.
If your Vitamin D level is low it is important to take a supplement. Always opt for vitamin D3 (not vitamin D2) as it is more a bio-available form. Recommendations for supplementation range from 2000-10000 IU per day depending on the severity of your deficiency. If you plan to supplement with 5000-10000 IU it is recommended that you do so under a doctor’s supervision as vitamin D toxicity can occur. It is important to note that it can take months of supplementation to achieve optimal vitamin D levels.
Outside of supplementation, you can improve you vitamin D levels though adequate sun exposure. This translates into 10-20 minutes (depending on your skin tone) of full-body sun exposure without sunscreen. Sunscreen is still recommended for the face as this skin is more delicate and prone to burning.
Eat! While vitamin D is not readily available from food there are a few sources that can bolster your efforts including fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, cod liver oil (1 tablespoon contains 1,360 IU of Vitamin D), and whole eggs.
By: Katie Cavuto, MS, RD