There has been a lot of talk about vitamin D the last few years. It seems everywhere you look, there is different information on the topic. As new studies are being done, the recommendations for this vitamin seem to keep changing. So, how are you to know if you are getting enough? And how much should you take if you need to supplement the amount you are already getting? Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to those questions. The goal of this article is to help you start doing the research and come to your own conclusions on your vitamin D needs.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is produced in the skin when exposed to sunlight. Depending on how far from the equator you live and the season, it can be very difficult to get enough vitamin D from sun exposure alone. Also, sunscreen blocks UV rays and prevents the body from making its own vitamin D. Considering these factors, it seems quite possible for many people to become deficient in this vitamin, especially in the winter months.
Whether you are getting your vitamin D from the sun, supplements or food sources, your body needs magnesium to be able to utilize the vitamin. Several studies have also shown that without adequate vitamin D levels, your body can’t properly absorb calcium. Because of this, you’ll often find all three in formulas for bone health.
There are two different forms of vitamin D available in supplement form. D2 is the plant source of vitamin D. It is the only option currently available for vegans. Because it doesn’t match the form your body produces when exposed to the sun, it is believed that it is not as well utilized by our bodies.
The other option is D3. This is believed to be better utilized by the body as it closely matches what our bodies naturally produce. In supplements, it is sourced from either lanolin (the oil found in sheep wool) or fish oils.
Besides getting vitamin D from the sun, it is often added to fortified foods, such as cereals and milk. The typical amount added is about 100 iu per serving. It’s also found naturally in fatty fish such as salmon or tuna. So, with so few foods containing vitamin D, it seems sun exposure or supplementation may be the best sources if you are already deficient.
Again, there is no easy answer to this question. There are two tests commonly done by health care providers to test vitamin D levels. The first is called 1,25-dihydroxy-vitamin D. There has been a lot of debate about this test recently. It tests for calcitriol levels in the blood. Unfortunately, depending on your calcium levels, the amount of calcitriol can fluctuate. Because of this, many experts warn this test can’t accurately test for vitamin D levels in the blood.
The other test is called, 25-hydroxyvitamin D. This is generally recognized as a more accurate way to test vitamin D levels and tests calcidiol levels. Unfortunately, there is also a lot of debate over how to interpret the test results. Experts still haven’t pinpointed exactly what normal results should be. Most experts now believe normal levels fall between 30 and 50 ng/ml, but there is still a lot of research being done on the topic and hopefully we’ll have more information soon.
Your Co-op carries several options in vitamin D supplements. For adults, we offer both tablets and softgels in dosages ranging from 400 iu to 5,000 iu. We also carry a chewable gummy option containing 1,000 iu for those who don’t like swallowing pills and a couple liquid options as well. For children, we carry a gummy vitamin D containing 400 iu. We also just brought in Carlson’s Baby D drops, which contain 400 iu per drop.
I’m sure after reading this you have more questions than you feel you have received answers. Believe it or not, that was exactly my intention. As I mentioned earlier, there is no easy answer, and the information is constantly changing. I am not a medical professional and am by no means qualified to tell you whether you should be supplementing with extra vitamin D and how much you should be taking. The best place to start when trying to determine if you are getting adequate amounts of Vitamin D is to speak with your healthcare provider. I’d also recommend doing your own research on the topic and come to your own conclusions about your vitamin D needs. If you determine you need to supplement with extra vitamin D, we’ll gladly show you all the options available at your Co-op.