Do you need to boost your vitamin D levels?

3 Minute Read

Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin! How much sunshine do you get compared to your ancestors? You get up in the morning, drive to work, sit in an office all day long, drive back home and now it’s dark. How much time did you get in the sun today? Our bodies are designed to be exposed to the sun and one major benefit of sun exposure is vitamin D production.

It’s no surprise that several studies have shown that a majority of adults in the US are vitamin D deficient. We are often deficient due to lack of sun exposure and use the sunscreens. A sunscreen with SPF 30 reduces vitamin D production by more than 95%! In addition, adults that live in northern regions or people that have darker skin are much more at risk for vitamin D deficiency. People with darker skin have more natural protection against the UV rays of the sun, so they require 3-5x more sun exposure than lighter skin tones.

Vitamin D deficiency is associated with so many health problems and can often be a hidden factor that isn’t tested by conventional medicine. Even if your vitamin D levels are tested, the ranges for vitamin D deficiency are different from your optimal ranges. You may test and come back as NOT deficient, but your levels are NOT optimal. Being in the optimal range for vitamin D levels is really where you will feel a difference in your health! Functional medicine doctors always want your body at optimal levels.

An inactive form of vitamin D is produced in our skin when exposed to sunlight. It is then converted into the active form in the liver and kidneys. Vitamin D is protective against cancer, heart disease, autoimmune diseases, the flu, type-2 diabetes, and depression. Low levels are highly correlated with obesity as well. This is why our vitamin D levels are so important!

Vitamin D is required for proper regulation of other minerals in the body, including calcium and phosphorus. A lack of vitamin D will reduce the absorption of both calcium and phosphorus, which are both necessary for bone health. Vitamin D also has anti-inflammatory effects in the body explaining why it is protective against heart disease, hypertension, autoimmune diseases and depression. It also reduces cell proliferation seen in cancer.

So, what can you do about a vitamin D deficiency so that you can start protecting your body? First, I always recommend that you get your vitamin D levels tested using a functional medicine doctor. It’s always best to know your levels so that we can make a plan to fix them. Second, get some sunshine! Typically, about 20 minutes of sunlight in the middle of the day is sufficient. Exposure for this time should not include any sunscreen on the skin. If needed, vitamin D supplementation can also be used to help increase levels.

While most of our vitamin D should come from the sun itself, we can also help increase levels through our diet. The following three food types are best:

Herring

While not as commonly eaten in America, herring is a nutritionally dense fish enjoyed in many parts of the world. Try it raw, smoked, canned, or pickled.

One ounce of fresh Atlantic herring contains 115% of your recommended daily intake.

Salmon

Easy to come by and versatile in the kitchen (try baking, grilling, or broiling it), salmon is a delicious fish to incorporate regularly.

Just 3 ounces of cooked salmon contains 112% of your recommended daily intake.

Sardines

Sardines are small, oily fish that contain an impressive array of nutrients beyond vitamin D, including healthy fats, calcium, and a variety of other minerals. Moreover, they are considered a sustainable seafood. Try tossing them into a salad or piling a few onto hearty crackers with a squeeze of lemon.

1 can of sardines (3.75 ounces) contains 63% of your recommended daily intake.

If you’d prefer to take a whole food supplement for your vitamin D needs, cod liver oil is an excellent source, with just one teaspoon delivering 75% of your recommended daily allowance.

If you’re not a fan of seafood, vitamin D can also be found in lesser quantities in egg yolk, liver, as well as in fortified foods, such as fortified milk and orange juice.

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3356951/

2. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/finfish-and-shellfish-products/4065/2

3. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/

4. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/finfish-and-shellfish-products/4114/2

5. http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fats-and-oils/628/2

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