Most of what is known about vitamin D was just learned in the past ten or fifteen years. Our needs are actually much greater than previously believed. Due to false assumptions about sun exposure and low nutritional recommendations, it is said that 85% of the American public and about 95% of senior citizens are deficient.
Now we are told that sunshine actually helps prevent cancer. It is only over-exposure and sunburn that cause problems. I had my share of both as a teenager.
After having basal cell carcinoma on my nose in the 1970s, I had been advised to always wear long sleeves, a big hat, and sun block. As soon as I read about the new discoveries regarding vitamin D, I knew this was important information for me. Although by this time I was eating free-range eggs and my own organic vegetables, I knew I had to be deficient.
I started taking 5,000 IU of D3 per day and noticed that my skin improved, my eyes didn’t feel dry anymore, and my wrist pain vanished. I don’t know how low my blood level had been; but when I later got my first test, my serum blood level was at 35. I switched to taking 10,000 IU per day and in six months my level had improved to 51. After averaging 7500 IU for the next six months, my blood level was 61. Now I try to maintain my level between 50 and 70 for optimal health.
The brand of D3 that we use comes in 5,000 and 10,000 IU. When I fill our little boxes marked for the days of the week, I put one strength in every other compartment and then fill in with the other size. This is more economical than taking more pearls of a lesser potency to equal 7,500 IU per day. If we should find that we can decrease our dosage even more, we will farther reduce the frequency of taking 10,000 IU.
Let me back up and explain some of the above figures. The only way we can know for sure if we are getting enough vitamin D is to get a blood test. The ideal blood level is now said by the Vitamin D Council to be 50 to 70 Nano grams per milliliter, rather than the old baseline of 25 for rickets prevention. Research indicates that blood levels between 70 and 100 can be beneficial for those fighting disease, but levels above 100 could be toxic.
Unlike the water soluble vitamins which are measured in grams (g), milligrams (mg), or even micrograms (meg), the oily vitamins are measured in international units (IU). While water soluble vitamins that are not absorbed pass easily through the body, the fat soluble ones could possibly be accumulated to excess—hence the need for occasional testing.
Vitamin D can prevent many diseases. It is now said to be more of a hormone, rather than a vitamin. It regulates 10% of our DNA and can cut our risk of cancer by as much as 50%. I think you will agree that just taking enough D3 to prevent rickets is far from adequate.
It has been discovered that taking 35 to 40 IU per pound of body weight per day is effective against seventeen types of cancer, as well as heart disease, hypertension, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, depression, osteoporosis, chronic pain, muscle weakness, birth defects, periodontal disease, and many other diseases and conditions. This would be a dose of 6,000 IU per day for a 150-pound adult, just as an example.
All children need a proper level to form good teeth and bones, as well as to boost immunity. A fifty-pound child can take 2,000 IU per day and prevent a lot more than rickets.
Senior citizens are said to be the most deficient. Improved levels have been found to relieve pain, as well as prevent falls, broken bones, and much more.
Infants are deficient also. It had been assumed that babies didn’t need much, because there is practically no vitamin D in human breast milk; but it turned out that this has only been true because most lactating women are deficient.
There are some terrible stories in this country about breastfed babies being removed from their natural parents because of broken bones or other perceived abuse. Actually, these babies were so deficient in vitamin D that they had rickets or similar conditions with bones soft enough to be damaged just through normal daily care. Then when they were placed in foster care and given commercial formulas containing a minimal amount of vitamin D, their condition might improve enough to appear that they were no longer being abused. Without a prior test for vitamin D, it could be impossible to prove that there was no intentional abuse. It seems to me that any baby suspected of being abused, but without bruises, should immediately be tested for vitamin D before other formulas are given.
It is shocking that an infant blessed enough to be fed naturally by its mother could be so severely harmed by a deficiency in her diet. Maybe a Serum25(OH)D test could be done soon after birth, if they are drawing blood at that time anyway; or pregnant women should be advised about the need for adequate vitamin D3. More education is definitely needed.
The broader picture is that our whole society is deficient in vitamin D, but when researchers presented the information to the authorities they refused to increase their recommendations to reasonable amounts. They did increase the amount somewhat for babies, but not for adults.
Some researchers say that almost any adult should be able to take 10,000 IU of D3 per day for two weeks. If you see any improvement in your health and comfort, you should take time to get a Serum25(OH)D test, to see how much you can take to optimize your health. If I had it to do over, I would want to know how deficient I was before supplementing, just to satisfy my curiosity.
Sunlight is a natural source, but for most of the year it is difficult to get enough. The further from the equator you live, the greater chance you have of being deficient. Also, the darker your skin, the more difficult it is to absorb enough.
The early morning and later afternoon hours, which used to be recommended for avoiding sunburn, are now known to provide only the UVA rays that can cause cancer. The same is true of cloudy or overcast days. UVB light is the wave length needed for vitamin D production. I remember that by telling myself that the B stands for “best.”
Getting sunlight on large areas of your skin for 15 minutes without sun block on a clear day can equal 10,000 units. That is a little clue if you are concerned that taking 10,000 IU might be too risky. I have read that five to 35 minutes per day, three times per week between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. might provide enough to maintain good health. That sounds easy enough. However, most Americans are at work or school during those hours of the day and are not dressed for sun bathing.
After UVB rays on the skin cause a cholesterol derivative to be converted to vitamin D3, it takes up to 24 hours or more to be absorbed. Unfortunately, if you bathe with soap in the meantime, it may be washed away first. How many of us want to wait that long to take a good bath after being out in the sun?
One suggestion is to avoid lathering up large areas of skin which have just been exposed to sunlight. I don’t know about you, but I will have to rely on vitamin D3. I don’t want to discourage anyone from getting their vitamin D free from the sun, however, because some researchers think there could be additional benefits not yet discovered.
Tanning equipment with the right type of rays can actually be beneficial, w’hile other units should be avoided. Just remember that you only W’ant UVB rays. A similar w’arning is that sunlight through glass should be avoided, because only the beneficial UVB rays are filtered out.
Even lifeguards or others who get plenty of vitamin D from sunshine in the summer may need to take supplements during the winter.
Vitamin D2 should be avoided. Although it might still be used for prescriptions and in many food products, it is actually poorly absorbed. By law* it is added to milk, but not to milk products.
Vegetables can be a source of natural vitamin D, but they don’t contain very much. Milk and cheese have very little. Oily fish may contain the most. Supplementation of vitamin D3, rather than cod-liver oil, can help prevent colds and flu and might even be a good alternative to flu shots.
One of my best friends was seeing a doctor for osteopenia and pain, until they finally did a blood test and found that her vitamin D level was only 16.1 was really surprised because she was very tanned and athletic, but it just shows that you can’t really tell without proper testing. Her doctor prescribed huge amounts of D2, because that was all that was available for prescriptions at the time.
Vitamin D3 has now become available in units of 50,000 IU, which can be prescribed to be taken once a week. As an alternative, you might decide to take 10,000 IU every day until a test shows a proper level, since it is inexpensive and does not require a prescription. Then you can determine what daily amount is needed to maintain that Wei with less frequent testing.