Vitamin D is one of the most common nutrition supplements I see my clients self-prescribe. In this article I would like to share what I tell my clients to help them ‘Do the D’ safely and effectively.
First, know the limits. There is actually an ‘upper limit’ that is considered safe for this fat soluble vitamin. This is 4,000 IU’s D3 daily. It is set by the Institute of Medicine, and it indicates a dose where toxic side effects have been documented when taking more than this. If on a dose larger than this, monitor it by reviewing it with your physician and have your Vitamin D labs drawn at least once a year.
Second, catch your lows and highs. Know you are likely going to catch your lowest vitamin D lab levels in March if living in Sheridan. During the winter months, we at the 45th parallel cannot make adequate amounts of vitamin D from the sun (which is normally the primary way you get vitamin D). Therefore, by the end of these months, you will likely catch your ‘nadir’ — or lowest point. This is good to consider if you are like most people and get your vitamin D lab in the fall. The fall is likely one of your highest points of the year (late August to early October). If you have had low vitamin D levels in the past, you may want to consider having your D taken in the fall and the early spring to catch your potential highest and lowest point (costs about $50 without insurance).
Third, optimal lab levels are likely a total D (25-OH Vitamin D) of 40-50 ng/ml (if needed to convert your labs from nmol/ml to ng/ml , divide the nmol number by 2.5). According to the Vitamin D Council, “These are the levels of vitamin D humans evolved with…. In modern times, these are the levels that hunter gatherers still living traditional outdoor lifestyles in Africa have.”
Fourth, sun instructions. To get adequate vitamin D from the sun, here are some simple instructions. First, you are going to make significantly more vitamin D from the sun if your shadow is shorter than you, the sky is clear, there is no glass between you and the sun and you have no sunscreen on. If just your calves, forearms and face are exposed in these conditions for a total of 20 minutes a week, for most people this is sufficient to make enough vitamin D.
To stay protected from the sun, you can go outside for 5-10 minutes without sunscreen before you put it on.
Fifth, purchasing supplements. It is helpful to know that 40 IU = 1 mcg cholecalciferol (D3) when shopping for supplements. Taking D3 (cholecalciferol) is the preferred form.
Sixth, detecting toxicity. The first toxic symptoms include muscle and joint stiffness/pain. I am seeing this more; as people are taking levels of vitamin D well over 4,000 IU a day for years without any blood work or health care monitoring.
Finally, just a reminder of what D does. It really is a hormone, acting as a chemical messenger to regulate your calcium and phosphorus levels, as well as regulate key parts to your immune system. Ensuring adequate vitamin D levels helps control or prevent diabetes, high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis, colorectal and breast cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Georgia Boley, MS,RD,LD,CFSP, is the owner of Tailored Nutrition LLC.