It may seem like a simple subject talking about a vitamin that most people are aware impacts our health, but just how aware are we? I know that years ago before I started in the medical field I was well aware that Vitamin D was necessary for our health. It was all over T.V. in milk or juice ads, I mean even tanning bed companies were touting the benefits of Vitamin D exposure in their tanning beds (please don’t use tanning beds to get Vitamin D, or a tan, or a nap, or anything — that’s another blog that I don’t have time for right now). But until I started working at my first medical office 9 years ago, I was seriously under-educated about just how necessary Vitamin D is for humans and how much we should be consuming daily.
Let’s start with what Vitamin D does for the body:
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin primarily responsible for the gut’s absorption of essential vitamins and minerals such as: Calcium, Potassium, Magnesium, Zinc, Iron, etc. It is also directly related to immune function, new cell growth, muscular function, and is a natural anti-inflammatory. Sounds just as important as you thought it was, right?
Well, there are some other little side-effects that Vitamin D is responsible for. No big deal or anything, you can skip this boring part if you want….
A healthy D level can also be responsible for preventing CANCER, CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE, ALZHEIMER’S, AUTO-IMMUNE DISORDERS, OSTEOPOROSIS, DIABETES. Even DEPRESSION has been linked to low levels of Vitamin D.
So maybe it is a little bit more important than we all originally thought? It’s OK if you didn’t know just how much of an impact low-D can have on your body. Why would you know? It’s not like your traditional doctors are testing your levels or your insurance is paying for Vitamin D testing. So how could you have known?
It’s no secret in the medical community that Vitamin D is a major player. Heck, you can find all that I’ve written above on Big-Pharma baby, WebMD. So what gives? Why isn’t it being tested? Why does your insurance classify it as “experimental” when screened on a patient with no prior testing of Vitamin D, therefore no prior Vitamin D deficiency history? I don’t know the answer to that. I know there are some conspiracy theories we could lean into, but we’re not going to let this educational blog go down that rabbit hole.
Instead, we’re going to delve into how you can help yourself ensure your body it’s proper Vitamin D level.
So how do we know that you currently have a low D level?
Well, obviously, we don’t, hence the importance of testing. But, from just what I, personally, have seen in the 3 medical offices I have worked in over the last 9 years (2 holistic offices, 1 traditional office), is that most people just do.
The traditional primary-care medical world just doesn’t test for Vitamin D. They do the bare-bones, insurance mandated wellness screenings and only stray from the bare-bones test if there is an abnormality they need more information on (For example, a high fasting glucose level would lead to screening a confirming test for diabetes). Yet, they still don’t test for D. The only time that I saw them get remotely close to testing Vitamin D is when they would have post-menopausal women do their bone density scan once per year. But, even then, if the results showed osteopenia (precursor to osteoporosis), these women were told to take calcium and if there was a confirmation of osteoporosis, they were put on a drug. I mean, didn’t we just learn that D helps absorb calcium??
(…I know this is a bit long, but hang in there tiger, we’re getting to the good stuff & almost done…)
From what I have seen in the holistic offices I have been in, new patients transferring from traditional offices know something is missing. Turns out, there are usually many things that are missing but one common thread is Vitamin D. The vast majority of new patients coming into our office are D deficient. Vitamin D is screened on almost every new patient. I spend a lot of my day informing these patients that their results came in and their Vitamin D is low and here is how much your provider is recommending you supplement.
These patients aren’t aware that they have not and probably will never receive enough Vitamin D from their daily diets to maintain a healthy level. That is not to say they are eating unhealthy, even the healthiest eater can be Vitamin D deficient. There just isn’t enough D in the foods we are eating to maintain what our bodies need. This comes down to:
- Poor manufacturing processes
- Leaky Gut
- Sourcing inadequacies
We’ve been conditioned to believe that milk alone can provide enough daily Vitamin D. Well, this simply is not true. You’re better off giving up the dairy and switching to almond milk if you want a decent helping of Vitamin D.
Also, most people have heard that sun exposure boosts Vitamin D levels. While, yes, this is true, it is not true for everyone. This route really only works (somewhat) on people with lighter skin tones whereas darker skin-toned individuals will need about 10x the amount of sun exposure to equal the Vitamin D absorption of their lighter-skinned counterparts. This just isn’t sustainable. Also, what about people that live in areas that only have a few months of sunlight per year? Where are they to get their Vitamin D if their diet isn’t enough and they have no sun to lean on? I mean, even I’m Vitamin D deficient and I’m a young person with light skin and living in THE SUNSHINE STATE. Is anyone Vitamin D heavy anymore??
OK, I am going to calm down now and tell you where your Vitamin D level should be and how you can get it there.
First of all, ask to be screened by your PCP so you can get a number to work with. Yes, you may have to pay out of pocket for it, but it’s worth it at least once. Your lab will probably tell you that anything equal to or greater than 30 NG/ml is a good level. This is actually the absolute minimum you want to be. You really want your level to be between 60-80 NG/ml. This is important to everyone, but especially important to post-menopausal women. Healthy bones are essential and a good Vitamin D level is how you can avoid osteopenia or osteoporosis.
If you are an adult and have a level that is lower than 60-80 NG/ml you can start to build your Vitamin D level by introducing green-leafy vegetables to your diet such as kale, spinach, collards, watercress, and broccoli as well as almonds or almond milk. This is a great start, but you will also want to add a Vitamin D3 or Vitamin D3/K2 supplement to your daily regimen. You will want to take 4,000-5,000 units of Vitamin D3 daily (with food) to increase your level. You can do this for about 2 months, then decrease to 1,000-2,000 units daily (with food) to maintain your level.
If you cannot obtain a Vitamin D level through lab testing, you can still add the dietary recommendations and a supplement of 1,000-2,000 units daily with food.
Also, slow down for a minute, put your bare feet in the grass, and soak up a few minutes of sun. It’s good for your Vitamin D level and, more importantly, good for the soul.