When winter settles in unfortunately our vitamin D levels begin to drop as we see less and less of the sun.  Most Americans are severely vitamin D deficient.  This can cause osteoporosis, rickets, other bone conditions as well as increased heart disease, cancer, diabetes, depression, and autoimmune disease.

Here is why you NEED to take a supplement of this critical vitamin during the winter months.

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What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D  is actually a hormone, made naturally by the body from fat under the skin in response to sunlight.   The sun is the optimal way to naturally get the vitamin D we need.  Very few foods naturally have vitamin D.  Some example are fatty fish like salmon, grass fed raw dairy, egg yolks, and even some mushrooms.  Fortified foods are out there but most come in the form of packaged processed foods such as cereals, these are best avoided.

What is Vitamin D good for?

Vitamin D helps maintain healthy levels of calcium in the blood, ensuring that calcium is always available to the body’s tissues.  The body needs this vitamin to absorb calcium, which is essential for bone health.  Many studies indicate that vitamin D protects against internal cancers (colon, breast, prostate, ovarian); cardiovascular disease (hypertension, heart attack); and autoimmune disorders (multiple sclerosis,rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes) as well as depression and mental health.  Vitamin D play a direct role in the immune system and its ability to protect against infections.

Am I getting enough Vitamin D?

Most likely not!  Because Vitamin D comes from the sun and a few foods, winter is the time our levels drop below optimal.   The best measure of one’s vitamin D status is blood levels that can be checked by a doctor.  Either way numerous studies have shown that most Americans are severely deficient.

Should I take a Vitamin D supplement?

The best way to reach optimal vitamin D levels is through safe sun exposure.  If this is not possible than a supplement is ideal.

Which one is best?

Vitamin D supplementation should be in the form of vitamin D3.  Vitamin D2 is a synthetic form and should be avoided.

How much should I take?

From Dr. Oz to Dr. Mercola to even your own family doctor you will hear varying opinions on this. Vitamin D requirements are highly individual, and the amount that your body needs may depend on many different factors including the color of your skin, where you live, and how much sunshine you’re exposed to on a regular basis.

What you truly want to strive for are OPTIMAL levels vs. just fitting in  “normal” range. Reaching optimal levels (usually higher than what is considered normal) are where disease prevention and many of the vitamins benefits kick in.  The government recommends 200-600 IU of vitamin D a day.  This is the amount you need to prevent rickets. But is it enough?  The real debate among doctors is how much do we need for OPTIMAL health?  What level will prevent autoimmune diseases, high blood pressure, depression, ostoporosis, and cancer?  Its a fine balance.  The best way is to first get your levels checked and see where you fall in terms of deficient/normal/optimal.

According to Dr. Mercola your vitamin D level should never be below 32 ng/ml, and any levels below 20 ng/ml are considered serious deficiency states.

The OPTIMAL value that you’re looking for is 50-70 ng/ml.

This range applies for everyone; children, adolescents, adults, and seniors.

Through review of different studies it seems the optimal range to take is between 2,000-8,000 units for most adults.

I take a vitamin D-3 supplement of 5000 IU daily.  Don’t forget your kids too in the winter months though a daily dose of fermented cod liver oil is all they really need!

 

Sources:

Dr. Mercola, Dr. Mark Hyman, The Paleo Manifesto, John Durant. 

 

 

 

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