each of us varies when it comes to the right supplements that match our body types, but one place almost all of us fall short is in the department of vitamin D. This essential nutrient — which is actually a hormone! — is known for reducing depression, boosting our mood and our immunity. As we can’t all move our office situation beach-side, we’re talking to functional medicine pro, Dr. Mark Hyman, about realities of vitamin D deficiency, and simple ways we can counter it…
What vitamin deficiency affects over half our population, is rarely diagnosed, has connections to many cancers, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, depression, fibromyalgia, chronic muscle pain, bone loss and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis? The correct answer would be vitamin D, which actually isn’t a vitamin or nutrient; it’s a hormone produced from a photolytic reaction with ultraviolet (UV) light.
Many of us live in more northern latitudes (in 2017, that would be pretty much anywhere north of Florida), where ample sunlight is not available year round. Even for those who do have year-round sunlight, many spend most time indoors or slather on sunscreen when they do go out.That means we probably need to get vitamin D from our diet.
I prefer patients get nutrition from food whenever possible, but vitamin D presents some obstacles. Food sources are minimal, which is why manufacturers fortify dairy and other food products with vitamin D. Some plants contain small amounts of the non-biologically active form of vitamin D, such as fungi-yeast, molds and mushrooms. The best animal sources are liver, and especially cod, herring, and sardines. Still, unless we’re eating 30 ounces of wild salmon a day or downing 10 tablespoons of cod liver oil a day (highly doubtful!), we should supplement with vitamin D to get optimal amounts.
Among the obstacles for your body to make sufficient vitamin D include age. The average 70-year-old creates only 25 percent of the vitamin D a 20-year-old does. The government recommends 200 to 600 IUs of vitamin D a day. That amount prevents rickets, a disease caused by vitamin D deficiency. But that begs a very serious question: How much vitamin D do we need for optimal health, not just deficiencies?
Much more than we think.
When my patients reach optimal levels, they frequently tell me how much better they feel. I see major improvements in their health. That’s why I put nearly every patient on vitamin D supplements, which are inexpensive and easy to take via softgels or liquid drops. At the same time, more vitamin D is not always better and very high levels can become toxic. These five strategies can optimize our levels to get all of this workhorse hormone’s benefits.
How To Optimize Vitamin D Levels
Before you supplement with vitamin D, you should ask your doctor for a 25-hydroxy test. This will give you an idea of how much you may need to supplement.
Take the right form
Use D3, not D2. Vitamin D3 is lanolin-derived, so strict vegans should find a lichen-derived D3. To improve absorption, take vitamin D with food that contains some fat, since it is a fat-soluble nutrient.
Take the right amount
If you have a deficiency, correct it with 5,000 to 10,000 IU of vitamin D3 a day for three months, but only under a doctor’s supervision. (You should ideally combine higher doses of vitamin D with vitamin K. Many better supplements combine these 2 vitamins.) For maintenance, take 2,000 to 4,000 IU a day of vitamin D3. Some people may need higher doses.
Get rechecked every 3 months
Since vitamin D is a hormone, it fluctuates for everyone differently. Seasonal changes affect it too. Different “optimal ranges” exist. Ideally aim for levels over 30ng/ml but not more than 80ng/ml.
It could take 6 – 10 months to “fill up the tank” for vitamin D if you’re deficient. Once this occurs, lower that dose to the maintenance dose of 2,000 –4,000 IU a day. (Again, please confer with a doctor about modifying doses.)
The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health related program.