Do You Need Vitamin D Supplements?
Do You Need Vitamin D Supplements?
We're talking everything about vitamin D. So I'm going to be giving you some really practical tools to take away, like what app is great. We're tracking them out to vitamin D.
You're getting from the sun.
What's the difference between vitamin D2 and D3?
And do you need vitamin K when you supplement vitamin D should you take the supplement?
If you're low, what's a good lab level? What's even a good way to get your lab checked in more?
So I'm Ashley Oswald. I'm a functional medicine, dietitian, and gut health specialist. And founder of Oswald digestive clinic, where we help people improve and eliminate bothersome gut issues like gas, quote, diarrhea, constipation, and more, and we're now taking insurance.
So why is vitamin D important? Well, first of all
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is actually a hormone made from cholesterol and it supports and can affect 3000 to 30,000 genes in our body, meaning that it can influence things like heart disease and autoimmune disease, and even depression.
So by increasing our levels of vitamin D, we can see improvements in these disease states and symptoms related to them.
Further, it can help to close off gut health junctions so it can help to heal the gut. It's estimated that 65 to 80% of the United States population is low in vitamin D. And this is likely related to the fact that most of our states are in a latitude where we cannot absorb vitamin D from the sun between labor day and Memorial day.
So over the winter months, meaning that we could, yes get it from food. But so many foods do not have high amounts of vitamin D. We can find it in fish and then we can find a little and like beef, liver, and yolks, but usually not enough to support our levels throughout the winter months.
So we really need to be building up stores of vitamin D over the summer months by getting enough sun exposure. And hopefully, it'll last us through the winter months, or we need to supplement if it doesn't or on vacation where we can get it from the sun. And we'll get to that in a bit.
So an ideal goal for vitamin D. Is 60 to 80 nanograms per liter and the Cochran reports, which is a meta-analysis of 50 studies show that over 50 is really ideal for reducing a variety of different chronic and neurological diseases.
I also want to add that this has been a known issue of vitamin D deficiencies in the 1930s. And in the United States, our government actually started fortifying some foods with vitamin D to help decrease the number of deficiencies to what will still to this day see cereals and orange juice fortified.
So that means adding to food where it originally is not there naturally to help get more vitamin D into the diets of the people living in the United States.
So now you might be wondering, man, I haven't had my vitamin checked. I wonder what it is. How can I get this checked? Well, you have three options:
1. You can ask your main healthcare provider and often you get insurance coverage for this.
2. You can use a direct-to-consumer link like through Ulta Labs, and you can really easily just order this vitamin D lab yourself. I would always encourage getting practitioner interpretation. My lawyer would enjoy me sharing that. So, this is just information, not medical advice.
3. SpectraCell has a full micronutrient panel that you can check your vitamin D on and a variety of other vitamins and minerals in our clinic can order this for you.
That one, you would have to go through our clinic to get access to because the interpretation requires a lot more knowledge and effort. Because we have the mega dose replace them for four to six months for all the vitamins and minerals that you might have a deficiency in.
Vitamin D from the sun is the best source to get vitamin D, it's a sulfated version. Basically, the bacteria on your skin helped to convert it from the sun into your body.
And that sulfation also helps to heal the gut. So it's really a double whammy when you're getting vitamin D from the sun. Just 15 to 20 minutes of sunlight when it's a time of the year that you can actually absorb it.
This is an important note:
If you're in the Northern states, even if the sun is out in the middle of winter, you're not going to be able to absorb vitamin D from it. So if you're in a place where you can absorb vitamin D, then 15 to 20 minutes is going to get to 10,000 IUs. And the recommended amount daily to maintain levels is about 2000 IUs. You're getting a significant amount.
You will not get toxicity this way because the extra is just converted into a benign form. So your body's really smart. It takes care of that so you're not going to get vitamin D toxicity.
And then the parts of your body where you're going to absorb it the best in your arms, your shoulders, your neck, your face. I think it goes without saying that if you have sunscreen on, you're not going to be absorbing it. So make sure to get at least 15 to 20 minutes without that sunscreen.
Practical Tools that you can use:
There's an app called the "D M I N D E R App" that you can use to kind of track the amount. The estimated amount of vitamin D that you're getting from the sun is based on your skin's pigment, the amount of time that you're out there, and what body parts you have exposed. So it's really a cool app.
So we already talked briefly about the foods that you can get it from. If you want to track how much vitamin D you're getting from food, you can use like "Cronometer App" likely not going to be much. And that App is really cool also for tracking other vitamins minerals, etc.
If you want to just see what your usual eating week to week is and what nutrients you might be at risk for a deficiency of if you eat a pretty regular, like the same foods week to week, which. Most people do, honestly.
And then we talked about getting vitamin D from the sun. There's a sun lamp that you can use Sperti Sun Lamp indoors to get some vitamin D that way as well. So the lamp runs a few hundred dollars, but if you have a kind of ongoing issue with getting enough vitamin D in the summer. Maybe that would be worth it to you.
And then the last option, which is usually the go-to, if you get a low lab level is to use supplements.
Vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 supplements. What's the difference?
The vitamin D2, there is a slightly higher risk of cancer. If you're using it long term, there might be some benefits to use in vitamin D2, if you have like a chronic kidney disease certainly just see a renal dietician specialist.
If you're exploring that option for everybody else, steer to the vitamin D3 with K2, because that K2 is going to help your body better use that vitamin D3 supplement, you can also get mega dose injections of vitamin D so like a hundred thousand IUs or something like that and then retest the labs in a few weeks to see how much that affected the lab for people who are just replacing with like a liquid vitamin D3 with K2 supplement. Usually about 5,000 to 10,000 IUs a day. And the key thing is just retesting that lab.
And I want to also share that if you're working with a provider and you have an albumin level, which is a different lab, there's actually this complicated calculation that we can run to determine how much vitamin D supplementation you might need to replace that with a low lab level.
And then winter retest is a big question. So 25 hydroxy vitamin D has a half-life of about 3-4 weeks. So really you could retest in a month and have an accurate retest level.
But for insurance purposes, a lot of people will choose to do about two to three times a year because sometimes insurance won't cover more than that so you just want to check your plan.
If you'd like to explore any of this information further or obtain an individualized nutrition plan, you can schedule an initial appointment at our clinic. We also take insurance and some of our clients get full coverage, which is great.
You can download our free guide: 5 ways to improve gut health.
Thank you and I hope you'll have a great rest of your day.