Vitamin D: Are You Getting Enough?

If you wonder whether or not you’re getting enough Vitamin D, you’re not alone. Depending on who you listen to, different organizations recommend different daily intakes all based on how they interpret current research. Confused? You’re not alone.

Your body turns vitamin D into a hormone “activated vitamin D” or “calcitriol.” This active form is used by your body to manage the amount of calcium in your blood, bones and gut and to help cells communicate properly. Vitamin D is important for good overall health and strong and healthy bones. It’s also an important factor in making sure your muscles, heart, lungs and brain work well and that your body can fight infection. There is also research that shows it has anti-cancer properties.

Because there are only small amounts of vitamin D in food (fatty fish, beef liver, egg yolks, fortified milk and orange juice, fortified cereals and infant formula)  the two best ways to get enough are by exposing your bare skin to sunlight or by taking vitamin D supplements. Because foods contain such small amounts of Vitamin D, it is difficult to get enough from food alone.

Large amounts of vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) are produced in your skin when you expose all of your body to the sun’s ultraviolet (UVB) rays. This can happen very quickly; around half the time it takes for your skin to turn pink and begin to burn. For example, just 15 minutes for a very fair skinned person, yet a couple of hours or more for a dark skinned person. Your body can produce 10,000 to 25,000 IU of vitamin D in just a little under the time it takes for your skin to turn pink. You make the most vitamin D when you expose a large area of your skin, such as your back, rather than a small area such as your face or arms.
There are a number of factors that affect how much vitamin D your body produces when your skin is exposed to sunlight. These include:

  • The time of day – your skin produces more vitamin D if you expose it during the middle of the day.
  • Where you live – the closer to the equator you live, the easier it is for you to produce vitamin D from sunlight all year round.
  • The color of your skin – pale skins make vitamin D more quickly than darker skins.
  • The amount of skin you expose – the more skin you expose the more vitamin D your body will produce.

How much Vitamin D do you need?

Recommended daily intakes from various organizations vary because some researchers believe that there isn’t enough evidence to support taking higher amounts of vitamin D yet. On the other hand, some researchers believe that research is proving, or will prove, that taking lower amounts isn’t enough.

Vitamin D Council

  • Infants 1,000 IU/day
  • Children 1,000 IU/day per 25lbs of body weight 
  • Adults 5,000 IU/day 

Endocrine Society

  • Infants: 400-1,000 IU/day
  • Children: 600-1,000 IU/day
  • Adults: 1,500-2,000 IU/day

Food and Nutrition Board 

  • Infants: 400 IU/day
  • Children: 600 IU/day 
  • Adults: 600 IU/day, 800 IU/day for seniors

Vitamin D is fat-soluble, which means your body has a hard time getting rid of it if you take too much. Keep in mind that while some of the recommendations above seem like a lot, your body can produce 10,000 to 25,000 IUs of vitamin D after a little bit of full body sun exposure. Side effects from vitamin D supplementation usually happens if you take 40,000 IU a day for a couple of months or longer.

If you are interested in supplementing with higher doses of Vitamin D, work with your doctor and have your levels tested to ensure that your blood levels stay in a healthy range. Supplement with vitamin D3 as found in a product like D Drops rather than vitamin D2. Vitamin D3 is the type of vitamin D your body makes upon sun exposure; vitamin D2 is not. Although most people can supplement with vitamin D safely, take care if you have a medical condition or are taking certain medications. In these cases, your doctor will be able to guide you.