When summer rolls around, most of us are not too concerned about whether or not we are getting enough vitamin D thanks to getting out in the summer sun. But don’t assume that your levels of what I consider an often-undervalued nutrient are good enough to keep you healthy.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient that plays a key role in pretty much all of your physiological functions. Vitamin D is possibly the most powerful steroid hormone in your body and protects over 2,000 of your genes from expressing negative traits. At optimal levels and in its active form, vitamin D may be responsible for protecting you against many modern-day diseases. For example, if you have a genetic predisposition for a disease, you may be able to prevent it by optimizing your vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is also an important immune system regulator.
Vitamin D3 vs Vitamin D2
There are actually many forms of vitamin D, with vitamin D3 and vitamin D2 being the two most common types. So what are the differences between the two and does it matter which one you take?
- Vitamin D3 has the highest absorption rate by your body (70% more than D2) and is less toxic compared to the more popular vitamin D2.
- Vitamin D3 will stay in your fat cells longer and help you get through the winter when you are less likely to experience natural sun exposure.
- Vitamin D3 is primarily derived from the sun but is also found in cod liver oil and some fatty fish so supplementation is possible.
Interestingly, vitamin D2 is still used to fortify foods such as milk and orange juice and is the main pharmaceutical form of vitamin D support. The good news is that many pharmaceutical companies are now switching to vitamin D3.
Vitamin D Deficiency
Because our bodies do not naturally produce vitamin D and there are very few foods that are either fortified with vitamin D or naturally contains vitamin D, it is possible for you to be deficient in vitamin D. This is especially so if you live in a place where there is very little exposure to natural sun all year round. Vitamin D deficiency disease, also known as rickets was reported as far back as the 1600s as a bone-softening disease. Rickets was originally treated with cod liver oil supplementation in the 1800s but it was not until the 1930s that vitamin D deficiency was discovered as the cause.
Researchers have found that those who live in climates where natural sun exposure was the greatest had fewer instances of rickets. In northern climate studies, it has been shown that up to 61% of Americans are vitamin D deficient, and during the winter months, the deficiency rate can climb up to as high as 87%. 
Vitamin D deficiency is considered a major cause in at least 17 varieties of cancer as well as other ailments such as:
- heart disease
- hypertension/high blood pressure
- autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis
- impaired immune function
- muscle weakness & wasting
- birth defects
- periodontal disease
- respiratory diseases
- chronic itch and hives
- Crohn’s and IBS
- ear infections in children
- cancer (breast, colon, lung, lymphoma, prostate etc.)
- and more…
Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
But how can you tell if you are deficient in vitamin D? You can get a blood test to see if your vitamin D levels are optimal. Most of the studies showing the benefits of vitamin D are seen in individuals that achieve optimal levels in their bloodstream. If you are deficient in vitamin D you may experience some of these early signs and symptoms. 
10 Common Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency:
Getting sick easily or often
Chronic pain (often in your bones)
Wounds that don’t heal
Bones that break easily
And you are at a slightly greater risk for vitamin D deficiency if:
- You are 50 or older
- You have dark/olive skin
- You are overweight
- You have high muscle mass and low fat
- You don’t eat dairy or meat
- You live in a polluted city
- You have impaired kidneys
- You have digestive issues like Crohn’s, celiac or IBS
Health Benefits of Vitamin D Optimization
As mentioned, vitamin D can potentially offer you quite an extensive protection against a multitude of diseases from cancer to everyday colds and flu. Vitamin D has also been shown to regulate your mood and help keep out depression. Studies have also been done to show that people who take a daily calcium and vitamin D supplement tend to be able to lose more weight than people who do not. This is because vitamin D has an appetite-suppressing effect on our bodies.
Vitamin D and the Sun
Unfortunately, most of us (greater than 70% in the United States) are deficient in vitamin D. Years ago there was a correlation between higher risk of cancers and increased distance from the equator. This began the hypothesis between less sun exposure and certain types of cancer. Today we realize that sun exposure increases vitamin D production leading to higher levels in the bloodstream.
Your body produces vitamin D when exposed to natural sunlight. However, even though it is sometimes called the “sunshine vitamin”, very few of us get enough exposure to reap the benefits of adequate levels. Moreover, depending on where you live, your skin type, and many other environmental factors, excessive and unprotected sun exposure can increase your risks of skin cancer.
The Problem with Sunscreens
Although the use of sunscreens has been shown to provide effective protection against sun damage, not all sunscreens are created the same. Years ago, when it was thought that it was UVB rays that were causing cancer, SPF ratings were created. Notice how those ratings have gone higher and higher from 10 to 30 or 40 or higher. That’s because sunscreens have not been preventing skin cancer even though we’ve been made aware of how important it is to use protection while soaking in the sun. Sadly, it’s the UVA rays that have been causing the problem.
Most conventional sunscreens only block out UVB rays, but not the UVA rays that are more abundant and penetrate deeper into the skin. Hence when choosing a sunscreen product, pick one that blocks both the UVA and UVB rays.
How to Optimize Your Vitamin D Levels
In my opinion, your goal should be to maintain your vitamin D levels between 60 and 80 ng/mL. Testing is the only way to know for sure that you are maintaining these levels. It is best to test your levels in the fall when they are the highest and in March when they are the lowest. With those two numbers, you can usually safely calculate your vitamin D supplementation needs.
If you are deficient in vitamin D, it may take several months to adequately replace vitamin D within this range. After 6-9 months of regular supplementation of vitamin D, you may want to have your blood levels checked again.
Foods High in Vitamin D
Very few foods naturally contain vitamin D but you can supplement your diet with these 8 great food choices:
- Foods fortified with vitamin D, like some dairy products, orange juice, yogurt, butter, and cereals
- Fatty fish, like tuna, mackerel, and salmon
- Beef liver
- Egg yolks
- Mushrooms like shiitake and button mushrooms
- Cod Liver Oil
Note that fruits and vegetables, while very important to consume on a daily basis to stay healthy, are not good food sources of vitamin D.
Vitamin D Supplementation
Once you achieve your optimal vitamin D level, we can have a look at some cutting-edge supplements that are going to give you the best clinically useful doses of vitamin D3 among other things.
If your vitamin D levels are low, I would recommend you to start a course of Vitamin D Supreme which is a formula containing higher therapeutic doses of vitamin D and it includes vitamin K2 as well. Vitamins D and K2 work as a team and are essential for optimal bone and arterial health and for maintaining immune system balance. The amount of vitamin D and K2 in this formula may be beneficial if you are not getting enough sun exposure and/or dietary sources of these vitamins.
Before I get off the subject of vitamin D, I want to discuss the importance of vitamin K2. Vitamin K is essential for the functioning of multiple proteins in the prevention of blood clotting. In addition, vitamin K helps activate osteocalcin which drives calcium into bones instead of soft tissue and the vascular system. Activated osteocalcin also stimulates adiponectin which is protective against inflammation for the vascular system. Studies have shown that those who take regular vitamin K have a 50% reduction in heart disease. Ok, enough on vitamin K2 and back to vitamin D.
Another supplement that I would recommend is Vitamin D Synergy. The Vitamin D Synergy formula offers the perfect dose of both vitamin D3 and vitamin K2 and it is easy for your body to absorb.
There is also Vitamin D Complex that contains 2000 IUs of vitamin D, along with vitamin K and fat-soluble vitamins A and E.
Additional Guidelines for Using Oral Vitamin D3
Since it is possible to overdose on vitamin D3 supplements, it is important that you always check in with your health care provider or a certified nutritionist before starting a course of vitamin D3 supplement regime. Therapeutic doses of vitamin D3 should be prescribed by your healthcare practitioner. I am talking about taking more than 4000 IUs per day and over an extended period. But everyone’s needs are different so it is important to find out what your body is saying about you and how to supplement with this nutrient.
Research has shown that typically, daily supplementation of about 1000 IUs is enough the help most of us achieve an acceptable level of vitamin D in our bodies. And consuming 2000 IUs per day is probably enough for anyone. So do not go overboard with vitamin D supplementation. And as always when it comes to your health when in doubt, speak to your healthcare practitioner or a certified nutritionist that you trust. 
There is so much more to learn about vitamin D and all it can do for you and your body. CONTACT ME today and let’s have a closer look at this super-important nutrient. Everyone needs some D in their life!
Check out the most recent articles on health and wellness.
Sign up for my FREE newsletter.
Bonus: Download my ’12-Key Tips for Healthy Digestion’ Guide