Growing up, I was aways curled up inside with my nose in a book, so my mom was constantly urging me to "Go outside and get some fresh air and vitamin D!".
So, for most of my life, I thought if I was in the sun.......I was getting vitamin D!
Turns out, it's not that simple.
There are many factors which can affect how much vitamin D you're getting, and most people in the United States (an estimated 80%!) don't get enough vitamin D.
Usually, it's because they spend too much time indoors, live in in cloudy areas, or live at the wrong latitude to receive enough D.
This is because your body's ability to make vitamin D is totally dependent on the right the angle of the sun (the distance you are from the equator), and the time of day.
Any location more than 35 degrees away from the equator means that you can only get vitamin D for part of the year.
If you're less than 35 degrees away, you can get vitamin D year-round, but in either case, you can only generate vitamin D during the midday hours; usually between 12-4pm, and you'd need to have a lot of skin exposed.
Normally it's best get all your vitamins from food, but vitamin D is one of the few things worth supplementing because it's so rare for most people to get enough from sunlight, or their diet.
If you live within 35 degrees from the equator, and if you ARE able to get outside between 12-4 pm for 20-30 minutes (with significant skin exposed) then definitely take advantage of that.
Because getting your vitamin D from the sun will always be the cheapest, easiest, and most pleasant way to supplement.
For the rest of use, we need to rely on supplementation, with occasional sun exposure when possible.
Vitamin D benefits:
Most people don't realize vitamin D is actually a Prohormone and has far-reaching affects on the body, such as the ability to strongly affect sex hormone production, overall metabolism, skin, bones, brain health, energy and mood.
In other words, it's as powerful as any immunomodulator out there.
It has been known for some time now that Vitamin D deficiency is implicated in the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases, weight gain, thyroid issues, arthritis, fibromyalgia, diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, birth defects, aging skin, and depression.
One of the main reasons for Vitamin D's affect on bone health is that it helps the body retain and utilize calcium properly.
Dr. Johnston of Henry Ford Hospital found that women would constantly lose calcium (even when large amounts were present in the diet) until vitamin D was added.
So, if you want to eliminate rheumatoid arthritis or autoimmune symptoms (or fix any health issue, for that matter) vitamin D is important to check, and maintain regularly.
Because it's linked to musculoskeletal pain, it should not only be checked for normal health reasons, but also for prevention and treatment, and even for basic pain relief for anyone with arthritis, or autoimmune issues.
But sadly, both the testing and treatment commonly used is neither helpful or effective, because recommended ranges are inaccurate for most people, and supplements are often ineffective, or poor quality.
To make matters worse, in alternative health circles there are often problems with over-supplementation causing the same problems as under-supplementation, because too much vitamin D can be just as problematic as too little.
This is common sense, if you think about it, because the same principle applies to any vitamin or nutrient. You want the right amount; not too much.....not too little.
Even too much water, for instance, can make you hypertonic, nauseous, and sick.
All that being said, in the majority of people, vitamin D levels will be too low...... not too high.
Fortunately, vitamin D is fairly easy to test for, and is also one of the more reliably accurate blood tests.
You can get tested through your doctor, or even online without ever having to leave home, by using a simple finger-prick mail-in test kit.
So, before supplementing or creating any change in diet, definitely get tested first, so you have a stable starting point and can track how your diet, supplements and sun exposure affect your levels.
The easiest way I've found to test for D, is by ordering through the vitamin D council here. It's $58, compared to the normal $75-150 for lab tests through doctors or other labs.
It's quick, and best of all you don't have to make a doctor appointment, and then make another one just to see your test results.
Instead, test at home, and get the results sent straight to your email!
Another option (besides your doctor of course) is ordering a test online and having it processed through a local lab. If you don't mind the extra step, you can order one here for $47.
Once you get tested, start supplementing if your levels are under 50 ng/ml.
Never go past 60 because too much vitamin D is toxic, and can be as problematic as too little. 55 is probably the most optimal number.
Keep in mind, as with all things you'll want to incorporate your supplementation into a healthy, whole food, unprocessed and hopefully organic diet.
Your body needs countless nutrients regularly, so you should always be getting the bulk of your minerals and vitamins from food.
1. Supplement type
First of all, don't use vitamin D2, only use D3.
D3 is the kind your body makes in your skin; D2 is the synthetic kind made from radiating mushrooms, and it's inferior to D3 in raising blood levels, not to mention there's evidence that it's might be quite toxic.
Vitamin D is oil soluble, so the best kind of vitamin D supplement will be in an oil form, with NO additives other than the carrier oil.
Also, the type of oil also matters.
In my opinion, if you need to take large doses (or really any dose, for that matter) the only safe carrier is olive oil, coconut oil, or lanolin. Ideally organic, when possible.
Dry tablet or pill supplement forms of vitamin D aren't usually as effective as the oil soluble form because they're not as biologically available to the body.
And worse, tablets are almost always made with cheap binders which increases the risk of you accidentally dosing yourself with heavy metals or other noxious fillers, so stick with fat soluble, oil-based forms.
Also, get one with minimal ingredients.
Out of hundreds I've looked at, I've only seen a couple good ones without soy (a major endocrine disrupter), or junk additives, so always read the label before buying and using.
There is a lot of debate about the right amount of D to take and a big part of that confusion comes from vast array of miserably poor supplements.
Evaluating all vitamin D supplements as the same causes a lot of misinformation about vitamin D, in general.
The type, the amount, the quality, etc all can make a drastic difference in results.
So, make sure you're using a supplement known to work, or one you've verified through testing.
There's no point in trying to saving money by buying cheap supplements, because if you're not sure it works, you might just be throwing your money away.
The other BIG thing to keep in mind is that the RDA for vitamin D is currently at 400 IU, which is waaaay to low for the vast majority of people.
This helps explain why almost 80% of Americans are deficient.
Even if they ALL supplemented daily (which they don't), 400 IU's would never be enough.
Most people need about 10x that amount (4,000 iu's daily), to feel strong and healthy.
And because it's fat soluble, if you're quite low, you can actually supplement large amounts at first, for a short period of time (say 2-3 weeks) to "restock" your vitamin D levels, and then drop down to a maintenance dose.
3. Oral vs Transdermal (topical):
Another problem that skews vitamin D results is poor oral absorption.
Anyone with inflammation is prone to digestive and nutrient absorption issues, so no matter the quality, in some people the utilization of the supplement will be poor.
This is why transdermal is the most sure-fire method of application.
But, FYI: it definitely costs more this way.
This is because, topical absorption is estimated to only be about 10-20% of the dose applied.
So, if you normally take 5,000 IU's, and you switch to transdermal at the same dose, you're probably realistically getting about 500 to 1000 IU's.
Clearly, this means you'll need to increase the dose significantly when changing from oral to transdermal, but it's worth it if your digestion is poor, because you might not be getting ANY orally.
But here's the bright side....
Vitamin D is excellent for preventing and improving the appearance of wrinkles, and aging skin!
Thousands of skin cells die per minute, but Vitamin D3 helps to produce keratinocytes, which are responsible for the production of new skin cells.
Keratinocytes support healthy skin tone and texture, and help to keep the skin moist.
This in turn, keeps your skin soft and elastic, which prevents wrinkles, sagging, and thin, fragile skin.
So, if you compare it to most facial creams, it's really not that much pricier to take vitamin D topically, vs orally.
Plus, there's no toxic chemicals, which you'll find in almost every facial product.
Oral supplementation can work for some people, but for most of us, D3 often gets used up long before it can provide much benefit to the skin, because the skin is not the body's first priority.
Sadly, the skin is often last in line for nutrients.
So for those reasons, I use topical application and I love how it makes my skin look!
Plus, I feel good that I'm not getting scammed into the next $80 facial cream full of harmful ingredients.
Did you know your liver has to process EVERYTHING you put on your skin? This is why it's so important to have personal care products with ONLY simple, real ingredients.
I like knowing exactly what ingredients I'm putting on my skin, and the resulting potential effects.
Want to steal my guilt-free, chemical free anti-aging skincare regimen? Click the image below to grab it for yourself!
4. Complimentary fat-solubles: A, E and K
Like anything else you eat or supplement with, supplementation can potentially affect multiple other processes in your body, because there's a domino like cause-and-effect response.
So before you supplement D, make sure you're getting plenty of vitamin A, K, and E as well, because each one can alter the affect of the other.
For instance, if you ONLY take vitamin D, you'll likely throw off your vitamin A balance, which is also frequently abnormally low in states of inflammation, pain, fatigue, or depression.
And chronically low vitamin A can prevent your vitamin D levels from rising. Think of it like a see-saw effect; you really don't want to take one without the other.
Increased levels of D, requires increased vitamin A, and also usually vitamin K2 which are needed to help maintain proper levels of vitamin D.
Dietary sources of vitamin A and K2, include:
- Saturated fats found in grass-fed organic beef, butter, cream, milk
- Well-cooked spinach, or kale
The very best source of vitamin A is definitely, and especially liver.
I can't emphasize that enough. In fact, liver is so dense in vitamin A you only need to eat a few ounces a couple times a month to get enough A.
If you can't stand the taste of liver, below is a capsule form which I like, and have used. Real liver is aways best, but it's a great back-up option to have.
So, all that being said, if you're low in D, there's a good chance you're low in vitamin A as well.
There's not really a great test for vitamin A, so in my experience, the easiest way to know if you're low in A, is simply by observing your symptoms.
Symptoms of vitamin A deficiency include; kidney stones (resulting in painful urination), dandruff, acne, fatigue, lowered immunity, impaired vision, and hormonal imbalances.
Skin breaking out, and fatigue are probably the clearest, most common signs.
In health circles it is often thought beta-carotene is a safer way to get vitamin A, but people with inflammation often have an impairment in their ability to convert beta-carotene to vitamin A.
So if you've been supplementing your diet with beta-carotene and are feeling worse, one thing to look for is orange calluses.....this is a sign of too much beta-carotene (which will crash your thyroid and make everything worse).
Because the impairment of beta-carotene conversion is actually very common, it's much safer to just use pure retinol when supplementing vitamin A, so that you know your body can actually use it.
And pssst....You can ALSO use vitamin A (Retinol) on your skin, just like vitamin D, and save your money on the expensive, toxic synthetic version of vitamin A; Retin-a.
A, e and K Doses
First, use a tool like Cronometer, to determine how much of each fat soluble vitamin is already in your diet.
Vitamin A, K and E have benefits too numerous to list, but they include: bone health, hormone balance, energy, digestion, eyesight, skin health, mental health, sleep quality, oral health, and aid with inflammation and immunity.
As with anything else, each person's vitamin needs will vary depending on their current health, their diet, their activity level, etc.
If you don't know how much to take of each, below are some safe starting doses for most people. Dose according to your symptoms. Some people may need a lot more.
- Vitamin A - 2,500-5,000 IU's a day. Too much will lower your thyroid function, so carefully observe your symptoms.
- Vitamin E - 400 IU's daily
- K2 - 1 to 5mg a day. There is no known upper limit for toxicity. There are 2 types of Vitamin K, Mk-4, and Mk-7.
Mk-7 is not economical, so save your money and get Mk-4.
Once you start supplementing vitamin D, it's best to wait about 8 weeks or more between tests, because it takes approximately that long for levels in your body to reach a stable amount.
You'll also want to keep track of your levels over time so that you maintain them, once you've reached a good, healthy level.
An easy way to I've found to do this is with an app I've found called, Dminder.
It'll tell you when's the best time to get D depending on your location, no matter where you are in the world.
It even lets you set your target by either the amount of D to get, or time you want.
Then it will count up or down to your target, applying all the factors that determine how much D you can get: skin tone, age, weight, amount of skin exposed.
All your doses of D, including supplements, are used to estimate your current level.
You can get it for free here or by clicking on the picture below.
- Get tested before you start, and supplement until levels are at or around 50-55.
- Use D3, not D2
- Make sure to get a liquid form in either coconut oil, lanolin, or olive oil with no additives
- Start with transdermal (topical) placement to be sure it reaches your bloodstream
- Make sure to account for sun exposure, and use sun over supplement whenever possible
- Include Retinol (vitamin A), K2, and E in your diet or supplement regimen
- Test a few times a year to maintain levels
And most importantly, always incorporate your supplementation into a whole food, unprocessed, organic diet and lifestyle for optimal vitality.
Some people have reversed their diseases with vitamin D alone, but that's not a good long-term game plan, because eventually you'll run into other health problems without a cohesive healthy lifestyle and diet.
So get yourself some sunshine, some vitamin D, and watch for better energy, mood and mobility!