Vitamin D benefits us in a multitude of ways. It can positively affect many conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and even cancer. Considering it’s notable benefits, many people are becoming more interested than ever in finding ways to get enough of this wonder vitamin. We know we need it, but what are the best sources, and how much should we be getting?
It’s common knowledge that vitamin D benefits are related to sunlight exposure, but can basking in the sun’s rays alone yield outstanding results? Do we need vitamin D from other sources? Doses in commercial supplements vary widely, which can make choosing one a difficult process. Do we need them in the first place, and if we do, in what quantity?
There are many things to consider when determining how much vitamin D benefits us each day. While there’s no magic dose which is right for everyone, there are many ways to tell if we need to be more mindful of our vitamin D intake.
How can we tell if we’re not getting enough vitamin D? Important things to consider include how much time we spend in the sun each day, where we live, our age, and our physical makeup and overall health. Old-fashioned sun exposure works well for many young, generally healthy people; for them, spending even 10 to 30 minutes in the sun can provide optimal vitamin D levels. Even if we’re getting sufficient UVB sun exposure, in our late 30’s we start to lose the ability to activate all the vitamin D our bodies usually need.
When the human body is exposed to the sun’s UVB radiation, a cholesterol derivative in our skin produces vitamin D. The sun’s UVB rays are less able to stimulate our bodies’ natural vitamin D production in northern areas due to the tilt of the earth’s axis. This means that if we’re not living in the right location, even if we’re getting a lot of sun, it still may not be enough. Those in southern climates fare better, with best results obtained near the equator. Those of us inhabiting points north may need to consider a supplement.
Naturally, the amount of vitamin D we need is closely related to our body weight. The more we weigh, the more we need. Even when a heavier person gets a great deal of sun exposure, they are likely still not getting enough to produce all the vitamin D they require.
vitamin D benefits those suffering from chronic illnesses greatly. These conditions can take a toll on the body’s vitamin D reserves. When our bodies are fighting to remain healthy, we often use vitamin D more quickly than we can produce it through sun exposure alone.
Inadequate sun exposure has a negative impact on our vitamin D levels in and of itself, but when combined with other factors, many of us find ourselves seriously deficient in this vital nutrient. The best way to find out if you’re getting enough vitamin D is blood testing. In terms of clinical tests, vitamin D testing is relatively inexpensive. While this is often done at the doctor’s office, online tests and even home testing kits are now in wide use.
60-80 ng/ml is considered an optimal vitamin D blood level, similar to that of a young, healthy person who spends enough time in the sun. Levels this high allow your body to maintain a reserve. It’s a good idea to start taking a vitamin D supplement at least two months before having your levels tested. This way, doses can be adjusted based on the results of your test. Experts recommend beginning a vitamin D supplement regime by taking 1,000 IU per 25 pounds of body weight. For example, a 150 pound person would start by taking an approximate 6,000 IU daily dose. If the results of the test show an insufficient amount of vitamin D, adding more is relatively simple. For most people, each 1,000 IU more vitamin D supplement ingested results in approximately a 10 ng/ml boost in vitamin D blood levels. Remember that this is general information, and to carefully customize your dose it’s necessary to repeat blood testing every few months.
Finding the best kind of vitamin D supplements can help acheive steady results. Oil-based vitamin D yields the most desirable results. Being fat-soluble, vitamin D is best ingested with some form of fat. Oil-based supplements facilitate maximum absorption.
The two most commonly found varieties of vitamin D are Vitamin D3 and Vitamin D2. Vitamin D2 is a synthesized form of the vitamin, manufactured by exposing various plant varieties to ultraviolet radiation. It’s mostly found in pill preparations, and is considered less desirable than Vitamin D3, which the body uses more efficiently. Vitamin D3 can be purchased in commonly available oil-based softgel pills.