We are currently in the midst of an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, appears to be in short supply for many of us. We think there is so much vitamin D deficiency now because of sunscreen usage and this generation spends more time in doors than any previous generation. Most of the vitamin D we get is from the sun, with only a small portion coming from our diet. Sunscreen, while very important for prevention of skin cancer and premature aging of the skin, blocks the majority of the D we get from the sun.
Why is D so important? We have known for years that Vitamin D is needed for healthy bones. Children low in D are prone to Rickets or soft bones. Adults low in D are prone to Osteoporosis or brittle bones. Recent studies have shown us that Vitamin D deficiency affects us in more ways than just our bone health. Low D has also been associated with depression, dementia, heart disease, breast, colon and prostate cancer, fibromyalgia, inability to lose weight and more. Replacing low D levels can help the elderly with balance and prevention of falls as well as help athletes perform better. It is hard to read a medical journal these days without reading about the effects of Vitamin D deficiency.
The only way to know if you are deficient is to have your level checked. You want to have a 25- hydroxy D serum level drawn. Normal range of vitamin D depends on which lab you have your blood work checked at. We use Lab Corp and the normal range is 32 to 100. I like to see a level of 50 or more.
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin. If you are low in D, we need to replace your vitamin D storage. This is unlike vitamin C which is water soluble. You can take high doses of Vitamin C on a daily basis with little or no harm as you will excrete excess through the urine. Vitamin D is a little trickier. Because of this, we monitor replacement with blood testing and are cautious against high dose recommendations for all people. Our approach is more individualized.
We use high dose to replace those who are deficient. We use 50,000 IU of Vitamin D on a weekly basis, for 2 to 3 months, depending on what your level is. We also recommend a daily dose.
D comes in D3 and D2. If you are buying a D vitamin, look for a vitamin that contains D3. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Practice recommends 400 IU of D3 for infants who are breast fed and children who do not drink at least a quart of milk a day. Adults should take at least 800 IU of D3 daily and the elderly may need as much as 2,000 IU a day.
Discuss your Vitamin D needs with your provider. A blood test may be needed to determine your personal Vitamin D needs.