The Importance of Getting Enough Vitamin D
There probably was a time, not so long ago, when low Vitamin D levels were not an issue. More people had outdoor jobs and spent more time overall outside in the sun. Fresh sunshine on our skin is the major way that our bodies make Vitamin D.
With the advent of computers and the fact that most jobs (mine included) involve entering data into those machines all day, most of our light comes from those attractive energy-saving bulbs over our heads in the office. Combine that with the fact that we are terrified of skin cancer and slather on SPF 99 and wear hats to protect us from the cancer-producing rays of the sun and few of us are set-up to produce much Vitamin D at all.
It is probably safe to say that we were not designed to sit indoors in front of a computer screen all day. Our ancestors spent much more time outdoors in the sun and probably did not have access to SPF-anything. Our Vitamin D producing capacity likely evolved taking this much greater sun exposure into consideration. Now many of us have low levels and there really should be no mystery as to why.
Why is Vitamin D Important?
The main function of Vitamin D is to get calcium into your bones. Osteoporosis, or low-bone density, can result from not having enough Vitamin D. Vitamin D has also been associated with cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, diabetes, and hypertension. In my clinic I have some patients who swear it helped their skin, hair, and depression. Interestingly, Vitamin D is also needed to make testosterone, estrogen, and growth hormone.
A simple blood test will determine if you have low levels. The preferred blood test is the Vitamin D 25-OH level and we routinely do this as part of a complete physical examination. Vitamin D levels are measured in ng/ml and are quantified as follows:
Unfortunately, there is great debate about what is normal and “ideal.” It seems that anything less than 30 is not enough for basic processes and that 40-60 is probably the “desirable” range for optimal functioning. Remember, as with most things, more is not necessarily better and can be harmful.
How To Supplement
Vitamin D (along with Vitamin A, D, and K) is a fat-soluble vitamin and needs to be taken with fat in your stomach or you will not absorb it. Eggs, nuts, avocado, or any other fatty food will do. Do not just wake up, drink a glass of water, and take your Vitamin D - you will not absorb it.
There is not much difference in the Vitamin D supplements on the market. If your levels are still low despite supplementing, consider adding Magnesium and/or Vitamin K2 as these can help with absorption. Retest your levels after a few months. Now, go get tested and do something about it!
Dr. Jeffrey Blue, MD