93% Of People Have A Vitamin D Deficit—Here's How To Supplement
Vitamin D is a hormone-like micronutrient produced from a photolytic reaction with ultraviolet (UV) light—which can be hard to come for those of us who spend a lot of time indoors.
Why it's so hard for most people to get enough vitamin D.
Many of us live in more northern latitudes (pretty much anywhere north of Florida), where ample sunlight is not available year-round.
Even for those who do have access to lots of sun, many folks spend the majority of time indoors or slather on UV-blocking sunscreen when they do go out.
As you get older, your body also naturally slows down its production of natural vitamin D (skin photosynthesis becomes much less efficient).
The average 70-year-old creates significantly less vitamin D3 than a younger person.
Skin color makes a difference, too, as people with darker skin (i.e., more melanin) produce less vitamin D.
All things considered, you probably need to look beyond the sun to get enough vitamin D, especially if you're older.
Unless you're eating 30 ounces of wild salmon a day (i.e., 7 plus servings of fish) or downing 5 plus tablespoons of cod liver oil with breakfast, you might need to start taking a supplement to make sure you're getting optimal levels.*
I put nearly every one of my clients on vitamin D supplements, which are inexpensive and easy to take via softgels or liquid drops.*
What's the right amount of vitamin D?
Here are five ways to optimize your vitamin D levels to get all of the benefits from this workhorse hormone:*
The National Academies recommends4 the general population consume 400 to 800 IU of vitamin D a day. That's 400 IU for infants, 600 IU for those ages 1 to 70, and 800 IU for individuals older than 70. To be clear: That is the amount to prevent frank vitamin D deficiency and two serious clinical bone mineralization defects, rickets and osteomalacia, which are directly caused by vitamin D deficiency and require medical attention.
But the real question is: How much vitamin D do you need for optimal health? Probably more than you think—but thankfully, here's what you can do about it:
1. Get tested.
2. Take the right form.
To improve absorption, take vitamin D with food that contains some fat since it is a fat-soluble nutrient.*
3. Take the right amount.
If you have an insufficiency or deficiency, correct it with 5,000 to 10,000 IU of vitamin D3 a day for three months—preferably in partnership with your healthcare provider.*
4. Get rechecked every three months.
Since everyone is a unique individual, genes and all, vitamin D status and response to supplementation can vary, and obviously seasonal changes affect it too.
The goal is to keep your vitamin D levels sufficient and steady for life.*
5. Be patient.
It could take six to 10 months to "fill up the tank" for vitamin D if you're deficient.* Once this occurs, you can lower the dose to a maintenance dose.
As I mentioned earlier, please talk to your doctor about making any changes to your normal health routine, as every body has different needs.
Dr. Mark Hyman is a practicing family physician and an internationally recognized leader, speaker, educator, and advocate in the field of Functional Medicine. He is the founder and director of The UltraWellness Center, the Head of Strategy and Innovation of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine, a 13-time New York Times best-selling author, and Board President for Clinical Affairs for The Institute for Functional Medicine. He is the host of one of the leading health podcasts, The Doctor’s Farmacy. Dr. Hyman is a regular medical contributor on several television shows and networks, including CBS This Morning, Today, Good Morning America, The View, and CNN. He is also an advisor and guest co-host on The Dr. Oz Show.