I have been noticing two interesting trends in my practice. First, a lot of my clients are not being tested for vitamin D levels. Second, when they are being tested most of my clients are falling below the optimal range. Today I wanted to talk a little bit about some of the benefits of optimizing vitamin D levels.
Vitamin D: Vitamin or Hormone?
We think of vitamin D as a vitamin because we cannot live without it. However, the evidence shows that it is really a hormone because it helps so many different cells and organs function.
Vitamin D supports:
- bone health
- strong teeth
- cardiovascular health
- immune health
- microbiome balance
- intestinal barrier integrity
- brain health
- endocrine health
- muscle movement
Vitamin D has also been shown to reduce pain, inflammation, and the risk of diabetes in people with prediabetes. Optimal vitamin D levels may play a part in stopping breast cancer cells from growing. In short, vitamin D is a superstar.
Sources of Vitamin D
Our primary source of vitamin D is sunlight. Our skin produces vitamin D when we spend time in the sun. Given a strong level of sun, 15-20 minutes of sunlight without sunscreen can be enough to keep vitamin D levels optimal. That is great if you live near the equator, have light skin, are under 70, and have a healthy digestive system.
Beyond sunlight, vitamin D is found in:
- fortified milk, cereal, and orange juice
- cod liver oil
- wild salmon, sardines, and other fatty fish
- beef liver
- egg yolks
For those with limited sun exposure (lifestyle and weather are key here), are over 70, have darker skin, have trouble converting vitamin D into the active form through our skin, liver, or kidneys, have digestive malabsorption issues, and/or don’t eat a lot of the food sources of vitamin D, getting enough vitamin D may be problem and testing becomes even more important.
What are your vitamin D levels?
Normal levels of vitamin D are usually considered 20-50 ng/mL. Optimal levels, however, are considered higher, more in the 50-80 ng/mL range.
It is unusual to get too much vitamin D from sunlight and food. High levels of vitamin D usually occur when someone is supplementing with high doses. Too much vitamin D can be toxic. Because vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, it can be stored in our tissues. That is why testing is so important.
When taking a vitamin D supplement, look for the vitamin D3 form. It is best to pair it with vitamin K2 and a little bit of fat in a meal to increase absorption.
There are so many reasons why we may not be getting enough of this important nutrient. I recommend testing to all of my clients, supplementing when needed, and then retesting again and adjusting as needed. Note that it can take a long time to build up vitamin D levels when we are low so be patient.
Interested in Upgrading Your Diet and Lifestyle to Build Health and Wellness
Wondering if you are low in vitamin D or other key nutrients that are affecting your health and wellness? Let’s set up a time to talk. If you are new to Barbara Sobel Nutrition, book an exploratory call (for new clients) or a follow-up visit (for existing clients) at book an appointment so we can dive deeper together.