Vitamin D is important for regulating numerous functions in the body and preventing disease, but most people don’t get enough of it. Typically referred to as the “sunshine vitamin,” this vitamin actually acts more like a hormone. Your body produces vitamin D when you skin is exposed to sunlight, and it interacts with enzymes in the body to promote many important processes, including calcium absorption and bone remodeling (which is the process in which new bone tissue is formed). Research shows that nearly every tissue type in the body has receptors for vitamin D, which means they all require vitamin D to function properly.
Lack of vitamin D has been linked to an increased risk of several diseases, including heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis. You might think that here in Florida, we would get enough sun exposure to ensure proper levels of vitamin D. But even in the sunshine state, people are falling short. Approximately 75 percent of adults and teens in the US don’t get enough vitamin D, and deficiencies are even higher among people with dark skin, because darker skin absorbs less sunlight. How much vitamin D your body produces also depends somewhat on your age, the time of year, and whether you use sunscreen. Sunscreen — even with a low SPF — blocks your skin’s ability to produce vitamin D.
How much vitamin D do you need?
Vitamin D supplements are a good way to make sure you’re getting enough. In fact, health experts are now recommending supplementation with much higher levels than the 600 IUs (international units) typically recommended. In fact, some researchers recommend as much as 8,000 IUs! Another benchmark is to take 1,000 IUs per 25 pounds of body weight, but not more than 10,000. So if you weighed 150 pounds, you would need to take 6,000 IUs. A typical multi-vitamin doesn’t provide this much vitamin D. Our vitamin D supplements contain 5,000 IUs, which is enough to maintain optimal blood levels for most people.
When should you take vitamin D?
Vitamin D is best absorbed with fat and should be taken with food. A 2010 study showed that taking vitamin D with the largest meal of the day improved absorption and resulted in a 50% increase in blood levels. As a general rule, take it with your largest, fattiest meal. (Remember foods such as meat, poultry, fatty fish, avocado, and olive oil all count as fat!) You could also take it with an omega-3 fish oil supplement to help absorption.
Is it safe to get vitamin D from the sun?
If you’re fair skinned and live in a sunny climate (like Florida), it might be possible to get all of the vitamin D you need from the sun. But since fair-skinned people are also more likely to get sunburned, it’s important to be careful and protect yourself from skin cancer. Ten minutes of sunlight at midday, with no sunscreen, while wearing shorts and a tank top, can provide you with about 10,000 IUs. If you plan to be outside longer than ten minutes, use sunscreen or cover up to avoid getting sunburned. If you have darker skin, you’ll want to continue using a supplement, even in the summer.
How do you know if you have a vitamin D deficiency?
A blood test can tell you if you have low levels of vitamin D. Garcia Weight Loss and Wellness Centers performs these tests in our offices. They are easy to obtain at most doctors’ offices and fairly inexpensive. If your results indicate that you are deficient in vitamin D, start taking a daily supplement. Be sure to take it with your largest meal. Re-rest your levels after 3 months and adjust your supplements as needed.
Our Ultra-Wellness services can determine if you have low levels of vitamin D or other chemical imbalances that could be contributing to fatigue, poor sleep, illness, and other symptoms. Contact us today to request a no-cost consultation and find out how to reach your health and wellness goals!