When I lived in Florida, my vitamin D levels were always at an optimal level. Since living in Tennessee, it is harder to maintain adequate levels to get me through the winter. Recently, I found a solution for my vitamin D deficiency, which I will explain at the end of this post. First, it's crucial to understand more about why this particular vitamin is so important, how to monitor your levels, and how to increase vitamin d levels quickly.
Vitamin D Deficiency
Why do we need vitamin D? The sunshine vitamin is technically not a vitamin, it is a prehormone. It is responsible for everything from healthy bones to improving weight loss. Meanwhile, the health risks of having low vitamin D levels are numerous. Certain medical conditions are directly linked to low levels of vitamin D, such as osteomalacia and rickets.
There is well-documented research linking breast cancer, as well as other forms of cancer, and vitamin D deficient patients. 1
Vitamin D deficiency can increase your risk of developing osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's Disease, colon, breast, prostate, ovary, esophageal cancer, infertility, and heart disease. Children need proper intake to avoid health problems and to encourage bone health. Low levels of vitamin D have been implicated in autoimmune illness.
“An observational study from the Nurses Health Study found an increased risk of type 2 diabetes in those with low vitamin D.” 2
Vitamin D has a direct impact on your immune system
However, most importantly, Vitamin D plays a major role in strengthening the body's defenses. Building a robust immune system is more important now than ever before.
Vitamin D deficiency has a direct impact on the immune system, creating an increased susceptibility to infection. Adequate levels of Vitamin D increases the body's ability to fight a variety of infections. Therefore, it is essential to note that a deficiency of this critical vitamin can put you at higher risk for conditions like respiratory infections.
“Vitamin D has been used (unknowingly) to treat infections like tuberculosis before antibiotics were invented.” 6 Avoiding influenza is another reason you want to keep your vitamin d levels optimized. In one randomized trial of vitamin D supplementation, researchers gave students a placebo or 1200IU/d of Vitamin D3 supplementation. In the placebo group, “Influenza A” occurred in twice as many children as those supplemented with vitamin d3. (7)
Those who suffer from insomnia may benefit from maintaining their vitamin D blood level at 60-80 ng/ml, as this is where optimal sleep occurs. Make note that it is the D blood level, not the strength of the supplement we take, that determines our health and good sleep cycles.
What are the symptoms of low vitamin D?
People deficient in vitamin D may experience some or all of the following symptoms:
- Seasonal Affective Disorder
- Muscle weakness, pain, or cramps
Vitamin D Levels in the Bloodstream
Vitamin D improves the body's ability to absorb calcium in the small intestine. Our body fat is a storehouse for Vitamin D. The primary form of Vitamin D has a circulating half-life of approximately 2-3 weeks, meaning the amount of time it takes for half to disappear.
However, some studies suggest that in the cellular system, the half-life may be as low as 24 hours. Therefore, for vitamin D to have a meaningful impact on cellular functions you need a new supply every day. Many of our body's tissues can convert vitamin D to its active form within the tissue.
Vitamin D metabolism occurs when our skin manufactures vitamin D in response to exposure to ultraviolet light. Sunlight is our primary source of UV rays, but many of us simply aren't exposed sufficiently. In addition, using sunblock can hinder vitamin d production. Unfortunately, UVB rays are not able to pass through glass. This means you won't be getting vitamin D while sitting in your car or near a window.
Impact of melanin on Vitamin D
Those with dark skin have a greater difficulty maintaining adequate vitamin D levels. Melanin in the skin limits D3 production. Fair-skinned people can generate vitamin d with shorter periods of exposure than darker-skinned people. If you have darker skin, you will want to get medical advice about how much of this nutrient your body needs.
People who live further from the equator also produce less vitamin D from sunlight. In the northern part of the United States, people produce less vitamin D than those in the south. During fall and winter, ultraviolet B rays are weaker and temperatures are colder. People wear more clothing and have less exposure to ultraviolet rays, which in combination with weaker UV rays can mean lower levels of vitamin D.
When UVB rays reach the surface of your skin, your skin begins a process to convert to vitamin D3. However, vitamin D3 produced by your skin does not immediately enter the bloodstream. Some studies suggest it may take up to 48 hours before the vitamin D3 is able to get into the bloodstream.
My dad always recommended avoiding soap after sun exposure to optimize the body's ability to convert sunlight to the active form of vitamin d. Some doctors also suggest that if you use soap immediately after exposure to ultraviolet rays, you might prohibit the conversion to vitamin D. This PubMed article suggests this theory is incorrect:
Most of this UVB radiation is absorbed in the epidermis and as a result when exposed to sunlight most of the vitamin D3 that is produced in the skin is made in the living cells in the epidermis. This is the reason why after exposure to sunlight vitamin D3 remains in the skin even when the skin is washed with soap and water immediately after the exposure to sunlight. 3
The conversion of UV into Vitamin D and whether or not bathing with soap has an impact is controversial, so use your best judgment.
What Foods Are High in Vitamin D?
Can adequate levels of vitamin D be acquired by foods alone? The short answer is no. Although it is still important to consume vitamin D foods whenever possible to increase your body's ability to maintain a healthy immune response. There are better ways to obtain vitamin D.
Vegans may be at a greater risk for vitamin D deficiency, however, it is easy to correct with proper exposure to UVB. However, vegans are not the only ones who may not get enough vitamin D from foods. Experts agree it's hard to get enough d from food sources, but adding certain foods to your diet can gradually improve low levels of vitamin D.
- salmon and other oily fish
- other fatty fish
- egg yolks
- cod liver oil
- beef liver
- mushrooms (the only good plant source of vitamin D)
Fortified with Vitamin D
Many foods that contain zero vitamin D naturally, but are fortified with the vitamin to help consumers improve their vitamin d intake. This practice began in the 1940s to irradicate rickets, which often occurred in children, causing soft bones and bone pain.
You can compare the amount of vitamin D in a given product against the RDA listed on the nutrition fact label. There is a good bit of debate about whether or not food is a good source of Vitamin D. However, foods that may contain vitamin D include:
- orange juice
- breakfast cereals
- fortified milk
Odd when you think about the fact that a prehormone (since we now know that “vitamin D” was originally labeled incorrectly as a vitamin) is added to foods. 4
Your body's ability to create its own vitamin D
Vitamin D is measured in international units. The most common types of vitamin D are vitamin D2 and D3. Compared to D2, vitamin D3 is said to be more effective and is the preferred form for addressing insufficient levels of vitamin D by the office of dietary supplements.
Your liver and kidneys activate vitamin D. When UVB rays strike the surface of your skin, your skin will then convert a cholesterol derivative, which will turn into vitamin D3. Calcifediol is further hydroxylated (an enzymatic reaction) by the kidneys to form calcitriol (also known as 1,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol), the biologically active form of vitamin D.
Supplementation with Vitamins
Balanced doses of vitamin A, along with D, K, and E are the most likely to create optimal health. Supplementation can sometimes be problematic, so it is important to monitor blood levels of vitamin D via a blood test. Health professionals are aware of the risk factors of deficiency as well as overdose.
It's important to note that while you can overdose on vitamin D supplements, you won't need to worry about your body producing too much vitamin d from ultraviolet exposure because your body can self-regulate. This means your body will only produce the amount of vitamin d that it needs.
Unfortunately, chronic vitamin D deficiency may take months of supplementation and exposure to bring up vitamin D levels. This is why it is important to eat foods with vitamin D, supplement when necessary, and get safe exposure to ultraviolet rays.
Exposure to ultraviolet light to correct vitamin d deficiency
Moderate and safe sun exposure and or Vitamin D supplementation can improve our levels of vitamin D. Low Vitamin D typically responds well to sun exposure; however, too much sun may come with the risk of skin cancer. Sunscreen can be problematic as it can block your body's ability to generate Vitamin D by up to 95% – this has a direct impact on vitamin d deficiency.
Sensible exposure to ultraviolet B radiation from the sun or a lightbox is an effective method of maintaining adequate vitamin D levels. Using a lightbox to increase vitamin D levels can be more beneficial than dietary supplements. This is because of your body's ability to self-regulate vitamin D production.
Some individuals cannot tolerate or properly digest and absorb supplements and supplemented foods. If you take vitamin D supplements, it is important to monitor your blood levels.
While it is recommended to use protection against the sun to prevent skin cancer, too much sun protection can result in vitamin D deficiency. 5 Many Americans work indoors or are afraid of the sun and therefore are not exposed to enough ultraviolet rays to make sufficient vitamin D.
How I Increase My Vitamin D Levels
As I stated earlier, my own vitamin D levels have been up and down depending on where I live, how much time I spend outdoors, and supplementation.
For years, I have monitored my vitamin d levels, in spite of supplementing with 5000 IU of vitamin d, my levels were not optimal. This year I began using a sunlamp to raise my levels. After doing some research into the safety of using ultraviolet light, I sought out a UV lamp to correct my deficiency. Finding the unit and reading multiple good reviews, I decided to test it for myself, after Sperti agreed to provide a vitamin D lamp for my review.
The graph below shows the natural process of converting UVB rays into Vitamin D. Sperti's Vitamin D Lamp emits a higher percentage of the desired UVB rays than sunshine, so a five-minute session with The Vitamin D Lamp would be *approximately the same as 15 minutes of sunshine exposure.
The Sperti Vitamin D Sunlamp provides the particular UVB rays that will generate Vitamin D naturally in your body. This Vitamin D Lamp is the only FDA recognized ultraviolet product for Vitamin D production in the human body, and independent studies have verified its effectiveness. The portable Vitamin D Lamp is easy-to-use and a convenient way to get Vitamin D quickly and naturally.
Each morning as I get ready for the day, I stand in front of the lamp. It's as simple as that. Here are my vitamin D levels between January and May. (I use Heads Up Health to track my biometrics.) I will also continue to update this post as I have labs drawn. My next ones are due in July.
How long does it take to increase vitamin D levels?
How long it takes to increase vitamin D levels depends on many factors. One of those is how deficient you are when you start. It is important to work with your medical provider to discover the best route for improving your vitamin D levels. Using proper supplementation, foods with vitamin D, and safe ultraviolet exposure will help.
The UVB from a Sperti Vitamin D Lamp will help to increase Vitamin D levels quickly. How quickly your levels increase in part, depends on your skin type. From my experience, I've been able to improve my vitamin D levels in about a month to six weeks.
It is critical that you keep an eye on your vitamin D levels if you want to achieve superior health. For further study about how to increase vitamin D levels quickly, read “The Vitamin D Solution” by Dr. Michael F. Holick.
This content is for educational and informational purposes only. The information in this article is not intended to take the place of advice or treatment from a personal physician. Readers of this content should consult a health professional. The publisher of this content, nor the author, take responsibility for the possible health consequences of anyone who reads or follows the information in this article.
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- Sunlight and Vitamin D: A global perspective for health Matthias Wacker, Michael F. Holick – Dermatoendocrinol. 2013 Jan 1; 5(1): 51–108. Published online 2013 Jan 1. doi: 10.4161/derm.24494