I recently did a happy dance when I learned my vitamin D level was 19 ng/mL. A wimpy showing at best, I realize, since the general recommended vitamin D level ranges from 30-80 ng/mL. However, for someone who struggles with an intolerance to vitamin D supplements, I was elated. My previous level was 13 ng/ml! Well below even the Institute of Medicine’s lower recommendation of at least 20 ng/mL for bone and overall health. I am however gradually improving my level through a more focused diet.
With that said, do you know what your vitamin D level is…and should you care? Yes, you should!
The fact is we should all place importance on maintaining an adequate vitamin D level since statistics suggest that approximately 85 percent of Americans are vitamin D deficient.
Aside from an array of potential health hazards associated with D deficiency such as weakened muscles and immune system, depression, Seasonal Affection Disorder (SAD), colon and breast cancer, Premenstrual Syndrome, asthma, and hypertension, this fat soluble vitamin is essential for calcium absorption, which is necessary for good bone density. Vitamin D also suppresses the release of parathyroid hormone, which is known to cause bone resorption.
Bone resorption = brittle bones = broken bones and I, for one, don’t consider a cast an accessory or fashion statement!
Wondering why so many people deficient? For one, only about 20 percent of our vitamin D source comes from food. It’s much easier to get calcium than vitamin D. There just aren’t that many foods that naturally contain large quantities of vitamin D. The short list includes:
- Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel
- Beef liver
- Egg yolks
Vitamin D fortified food sources include:
- Milk including almond and soy
- Fortified juices such as orange juice
The remainder of our natural vitamin D production comes from sun exposure. For an individual with fair skin, the recommendation is about 20 minutes per day – on more skin surface than just the face and hands to get adequate D production (loud groan heard here, because yes, sunscreen creates a barrier to the rays necessary for D production). Aging and darker pigmented skin require a more prolonged exposure to achieve similar production. Unfortunately, if you live in a seasonal climate where cold and snow prevent sun exposure, you are even more at risk of inadequate exposure.
Knowing the risk for a low vitamin D level exists, what can you do to keep your level up?
To start, consider boosting your vitamin D intake through diet. Consider time out in the sun if you tolerate it, but balance it with protection against overexposure. Another source of Vitamin D is found in supplements which are readily available as Vitamin D2 and D3 to take as directed. Studies suggest that vitamin D3 is 87 percent more potent than D2.
If you believe you are at risk for a low vitamin D level, talk to your doctor or naturopath. It might be beneficial to have your level checked. The blood test, 25 (OH) D Test, is an easy diagnostic tool to determine whether you are one of the 85 percent of vitamin deficient Americans. If your level is low, your practitioner may suggest a higher dose of vitamin D to boost the level. While vitamin D toxicity is rare, it is important to check before taking higher than the generally recommended dosage.
If you don’t take care of your body, where are you going to live? ~Unknown