Nutrition

The Wonder Vitamin — Are You Deficient In Vitamin D?

Written by Ryan Murdock

The sun warms your skin as you lie on your towel, listening to the waves lap gently at a sandy beach. A soft breeze carries away all your worries. All your stress. You lie there enjoying the peace and the calm. At that moment, nothing else matters. Nothing at all.

And then you wake up and realize summer’s long gone — along with daylight savings time and any real chance to soak up some rays.

And that’s a problem when it comes to your health.

Sure, the sun will be back. And it IS kinda nice to shut off the AC and slip on your favorite pair of jeans.

vitamin-sunBut what’s not so nice is if you didn’t get much sun during the summer, and you aren’t going to vacation in the tropics for the winter. You won’t just miss out on all that hot beach body scenery…

You’ll also miss making vitamin D, when your levels are probably already low.

Unless you’re an exception, you probably spend the majority of your days in an office building or in your house. You sit — a lot — and if you exercise, you do it inside a gym. You’ve gotta pay the bills, right?

I understand. I’m typing this article from my house, and I did my workout at home today too.

For most of my life, my advice to myself and my clients was to get some sunshine and not worry about vitamin D. There aren’t many foods rich in D — wild fish gives you about 1/10 of your daily needs — and the sun is readily available here in the Midwest.

And then I was diagnosed with celiac disease. If I eat things that contain wheat, barley, rye, or anything “contaminated” with them, my gut goes “crazy ninja” and attacks itself. But the lab work also showed low levels of Vitamin D.

People with autoimmune problems tend to use more D, so that made sense. But it also made me curious.

Why YOU Need Vitamin D

Several months of research later, I knew a lot more about Vitamin D. Including that D3 is the version that gives you the best results. But there was other stuff too…

For instance, you might know that you need good levels of Vitamin D for your bones to be healthy. But did you also know that the right levels of vitamin D3 can slow cancer growth? Vitamin D3 can modulate your innate and adaptive immune responses too, and that means it can change how your immune system protects you so you can more easily fight off the flu or any other infection.

But what if you aren’t getting enough? A deficiency in Vitamin D is associated with increased autoimmunity, an increased susceptibility to infection, more inflammation (aches and pains) and even neuromuscular problems.

The biggest surprise wasn’t any of that. Nope. The biggest surprise was that I was wrong about most people getting enough Vitamin D from the sun.

Our office lifestyles don’t give us enough sun exposure. It takes 30 minutes of full-body sunshine a day — and more if it can’t be full-body exposure. Not many of us strip down for lunch outside at the office (nor would most companies be happy if we did). So that leaves nearly all of us in a state of deficiency.

I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to change my schedule enough to get more daily sun while still earning a living. And with winter approaching, even if I could get outside, I wouldn’t be running around in a bikini.

So my solution is to supplement with a good quality Vitamin D3.

vitamin-d3Vitamin D Supplements: How Much is Too Much?

Research suggests that the right amount can help keep you healthy. But not enough leaves you vulnerable to disease and infection. If you’re an office worker who isn’t eating a boat load of wild fish or spending hours outside, you would most likely benefit from taking a little D3.

I take 2000-4000 IU each day. Now, keep in mind that I have celiac disease, so I need more. And I can take 2000+IU every day because my doc regularly checks my levels. Most people don’t need that much on a daily basis.

In fact, anyone who takes more than 2000 IU each day needs to have their values monitored — too much of a good thing is, well, still too much. You don’t want to wreck your bones.

But what about the short term? A higher amount isn’t a problem for a few days to a week or two. Just don’t turn it into a long-term daily habit. If your supplement is more than 2000 IU, don’t take it every day.

I hope that sheds some light on vitamin D and why it’s helpful to supplement when you can’t have fun in the sun.

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About the author

Ryan Murdock

9 Comments

  • Thank you for the Great information and benefits of Vit. D.
    I am a Prostate Cancer patient and undergoing treatment since June 2012.
    I am also taking Vit. D ( 0.25 mcg ). Is this amount sufficient ? Please advice

    • Rudy,
      0.25 mcg is only about 10 IU, which is a very small amount. However, the amount you’re taking needs to be discussed with your doctor because of your other health issues. You might need more or less depending on what’s being used for your treatment. In some cases, the vitamin could even interfere with the effectiveness of a drug. So please, ask your doc. Best of luck and much health to you!

      • Thanks for your kind response. I shall check with my doctor on this subject.
        For your info. I spent about 60 mins golfing under the sun for 3 times per week between 8.00am -9.00am.

  • My partner is almost certainly deficient in Vit D as he avoids the sun all the time! However, he’s also vegetarian. I know D3 is animal based, and D2 is not. What quantity of D2 should my partner be taking to ward off deficiency? Is it the same? Or more?

    • Hi Alixandrea,
      There is a vegan form of D3 derived from Lichen. I think Vitashine is the name it’s sold under, but I’m sure a quick google search would find it. I have no experience with that brand except knowing it exists as a vegan option.

      D2 is tricky because it doesn’t work quite the same, and there are a few studies that suggest supplementing with it leads to higher cancer rates while D3 lowers the rate. So if the vegan supplement of D3 isn’t an option, it might be best to search for a lamp that allows your partner’s body to produce vit D naturally. There are a few out there, but I don’t have a brand to recommend.

      I hope that helps. 🙂

  • I just looked at my daily supplement intake upon reading this article. I take 1-2 fish oil capsules a day, and it turns out that they include 2000 IU of D2 in each capsule. Also, my green supplement contains 2000 IU of D3 from a vegan source and I take that every day too. It seems I am getting 4000-6000 IU a day.

      • Hi Joe,
        For some people, that amount is fine. For others, it will be too much. The best way to know if it’s right for you or not is to see your doc and have your levels tested. It’s a simple blood test.

        As I said in the article, higher amounts for the short-term aren’t anything to worry about. You just want to make sure that the amount you’re taking on a regular basis isn’t driving your values so high that there are negative consequences.

  • Many vitamin D experts, like Dr. Holick and Dr. Cannell, are now promoting the idea that vitamin D is just one of many physiological benefits of sunlight exposure. They say that a low 25 (OH)D level in your blood is a very strong and relevant marker of that you didn’t get enough sun exposure. Since you only can make any relevant amounts of vitamin D from sunlight on a totally clear day when the sun is higher than 45 degrees above the horizon, many of us don’t have many possibilities to get our vitamin D in this way, even during summer.
    Sunbeds can, however, be even better vitamin D producers than real sunlight if you know your A, B and C for D about how to use them.
    Since the time in a vitamin D sunbed needed to get an optimal (15,000-20,000 IU) dose of vitamin D is about half of the time it would take for you to get burned, there is virtually no risk involved in using indoor tanning as your favorite method for UV-exposure.
    Read more in this article:
    http://www.thetanningguru.com/tanning-advice-2/healthy-indoor-tanning-for-vitamin-d/

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