Many people know Vitamin D as the “sun” vitamin. For those of us living in Florida and getting year-round sunlight exposure, we may assume that plenty is made in our skin, without much further thought. As it turns out, Vitamin D deficiencies are extremely prevalent, likely due to jobs that keep us indoors as well as our tendency to heed warnings about too much sunlight causing skin cancer.
Vitamin D is a crucial nutrient required by your body to absorb calcium, regulate blood sugar levels, reduce hyptertension, various cancers, and ensure proper immune system function. But it doesn’t stop there. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means it is an important component of hormonal function. We are not talking just estrogen and testosterone, but body hormones too, like insulin and thyroid hormones, cholesterol and lipids. The body uses these hormones to communicate and a proper Vitamin D level is crucial for regulation of these body hormones.
Risks for Deficiency
Obesity is a major cause of vitamin D deficiency, because Vitamin D is fat soluble, and becomes irreversibly sequestered into the fat pool, especially if body mass index is greater than 30 and the person does little outdoor activity. This provides a lesser amount for use in the body tissues and bloodstream, where it mainly needed to function.
Inadequate exposure to the sun
Dark skin requires up to 5 times the length of exposure to the sun to produce Vitamin D. Ultra violet B light, needed to produce Vitamin D, is at its maximum from 10:00am to 2:00pm; and the length of time needed is defined by how long you can be exposed before the skin begins to turn slightly red. This varies from person to person depending on skin type. This length of exposure can provide the equivalent of 10,000 IUs of Vitamin D.
When the body has been saturated with sunlight and vitamin D, the extra sunlight will actually begin breaking down the vitamin D that is forming, so you could never overdose from Vitamin D from the sunlight. However, too much sun is associated with skin cancers. Fifteen to twenty minutes is adequate for most people to produce sufficient Vitamin D for the day. However, a 70 year old person’s skin can synthesize only 25% as much vitamin D as a young person, because the conversion process is considerably lessened.
People with lactose intolerance and those following a vegan diet are at a greater risk for deficiency because they consume less fortified foods like milk, yogurt, and dairy. Malabsorption syndromes like Crohn’s disease and cystic fibrosis also puts people at greater risk.
Am I deficient?
The only way to find out if you are deficient in Vitamin D is to have this level tested. For optimum health, blood levels should be between 32-46ng/ml year-round, in both children and adults. A proper Vitamin D level is especially important for healthy weight loss.
The dose of Vitamin D is largely dependent upon the degree of deficiency you have. If you are only mildly deficient, a dose of 1,000 – 5,000 IU’s will be adequate. However if your vitamin level is very low, pharmaceutical doses may be used to safely bring Vitamin D levels into a healthy range. A recheck of the vitamin D level will be done from six weeks to three months after beginning supplementation.
Can I get too much?
Vitamin D can be stored in the body in fat cells. Many people are concerned about over-dosing or getting too much Vitamin D. The major form of Vitamin D has a half-life of between 10-19 days. At Cederquist Medical Wellness Center, we use the lab result from the blood test to determine a safe, effective dose for individual Vitamin D repletion. This dose will vary between patients, and we modify and change dosages as needed to ensure a proper supplementation treatment.