Vitamin D: The Basics

Have you heard of the “sunshine vitamin”?  Has your physician ever told you that you need more vitamin D for bone health?  For most of us living in the northern hemisphere, we have insufficient or deficient vitamin D levels, mostly because of limited sun exposure.

There are three ways we can get vitamin D.  Primarily, our bodies make it when ultraviolet B radiation from the sun penetrates our skin to be converted to vitamin D.  We can also get vitamin D from animal sources such as fish, eggs or cod liver oil, or we can take a vitamin D3 supplement.

No matter how we get our vitamin D, it plays a much more complex role in our bodies than just helping our bones.  The activated form of vitamin D (calcitriol) is actually a hormone, attaching to almost every organ and interacting with almost every cell in our bodies.  It is very important to our immune systems, our muscles and our brains.

An adequate vitamin D level not only improves bone health and wound healing, but it decreases inflammation, lowers the risk of depression, migraine headaches, allergies, asthma attacks, type 2 diabetes and autoimmune diseases.

We are at greater risk for vitamin D deficiency in our modern world because we live in town, work in buildings and use sun screen.  We also live longer and, as we age, we synthesize vitamin D less efficiently.

Researchers have not found a definitive “best dose” of vitamin D, but agree that there are a lot of factors that determine how much each person needs. Because vitamin D is fat soluble (dissolves in fat and is stored in body tissues) and high levels can be toxic, it’s always best to discuss supplementation with your doctor before taking large doses.

We recommend that kids play outside for at least 15 minutes a day between 10am and 3pm from late spring to early fall.  Their vitamin D level should be checked every year, and based on the result, they may need supplementation at a higher than recommended dose.

Recommended doses for children:

A general guide for vitamin D doses based on blood levels:

Recheck the level after taking these recommended doses for 3 months.

Author
Kathy Standing RN/Health Coach

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