Vitamin D has been getting buzz for several years now and medical journals are teeming with new reasons why vitamin D is important. In a nutshell, we are finding that vitamin D acts more like a hormone than a vitamin. It plays an important role in cancer prevention, mood, our immune system and bone health to name just a few. Vitamin D is present in very few foods. Humans create vitamin D when the cholesterol in our bodies is struck by UV light through our skin. In other words, this is a sunshine vitamin!
Here are some scenarios in which you might not be able to make optimal levels of vitamin D:
- Live at a latitude above 37° from Nov-Feb (that's anything north of Atlanta, GA in the US - MN is 45°!)
- Using SPF above 8
- Your sunlight is coming through a window
- Having skin with darker pigment
- Living in areas with elevated atmospheric pollution
- Skin with excess subcutaneous fat (overweight)
It is important to have your vitamin D levels checked at least once per year to make sure you are staying in an optimal range. Remember, the 'normal' values next to your blood results represent the averages from the population. Our population is vitamin D deficient, so those numbers are depressed and do not represent an optimal level.
Check your numbers and make sure your serum vitamin D level is between 60 and 80 ng/ml.
Since most of the population is deficient in vitamin D, especially during the winter, I often recommend taking a vitamin D supplement. The product I suggest most is Vitamin D3 Complete by Allergy Research Group. What I love about this product is that it combines all of the fat soluble vitamins in one pill. We competitively absorb our fat soluble vitamins so taking vitamin D all by itself can decrease your other fat soluble vitamins (A, E, and K). These vitamins also work together in the body. For example, vitamin D increases calcium absorption and vitamin K is instrumental in putting that calcium in to the bones. You always want to balance your vitamin D intake with vitamin K. Another tip is to take your D3 Complete with a meal that has some fat in it. Since these vitamins are fat soluble the fat in your meal with aide in their absorption.
When shopping for vitamin D make sure the product you are using is in the D3 form, has all four of the fat soluble vitamins, (A, D, E, and K) and does not contain any soybean or hydrogenated oils.
Have anything else to add about vitamin D and its importance? Please join the discussion below.
Dr. Sara Jean Barrett is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor and co-founder of Wellness Minneapolis. She is also the Vice President of the Minnesota Association of Naturopathic Physicians and a Member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. Click here to learn more about Dr. Barrett.