So, here I am in the northern climes of Sweden for the holidays. While it’s true that lack of sunshine during winter can result in low vitamin D levels, it’s also not uncommon for people in sunnier climates to also have low vitamin D levels due to lack of outdoor activity, diet or age.

So, why care about vitamin D levels?

Vitamin D is a precursor hormone for calcitriol which is critical for cell regeneration as well as bone strength. This helps slow down the aging process! Yes, please.

Preventative benefits of having optimum vitamin D include

  • reverse estrogen dominance
  • depression
  • reversal of autoimmunity
  • breast cancer
  • metabolic disease
  • insulin resistance
  • diabetes type 1 and 2
  • hair loss – both alopecia areata (autoimmune disease) and androgenic alopecia
  • anemia

Self Assessment Checklist for Vitamin D Deficiency

Take this test and see how many you are ticking “yes”

  • I rarely go out in the sun
  • I put on sunscreen before I leave the house
  • My clothes cover most of my body
  • I live above 35 degrees latitude in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere (in other words north of Atlanta and LA or south of Sydney-Australia, Santiago-Chile or Buenos Aires-Argentina)
  • I do not take a vitamin D supplement
  • I do not eat wild, oily fish (salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines) two or three times a week
  • I do not eat a lot of mushrooms
  • I drink fewer than 10 glasses of fortified milk or orange juice a day
  • I’m dark skinned
  • I’m older than 60
  • I’m younger than 20
  • I’m overweight and carry significant fat
  • When I press firmly on my sternum (breastbone around your heart), it hurts
  • When I press firmly on my shins, it hurts
  • I feel less energy and muscle strength than I should
  • I’m depressed
  • I have an autoimmune disorder (like Hashimoto’s, Graves’, Celiac, etc)

If you checked more than 3 of the above, there is a chance you are vitamin D deficient. The source of this checklist is from Dr. Michael Holick, the leading expert on vitamin D and author of “The Vitamin D Solution.”

Optimum Vitamin D Levels

Optimum vitamin D levels also help improve sleep which is critical in the detoxification process of the brain.

According to most functional medicine doctors, the optimum range of vitamin D is 60 to 100 ng/mL.  If you are below 60 ng/mL, supplementing with 5,000 to 8,000 iu of vitamin D3 (not D2) with added vitamin K per day will help bring you up to optimum range, in addition to eating foods high in vitamin D. A maintenance dose is 2,000 iu per day. Note that vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, so it’s a good idea to eat some fat with your supplements.

Foods naturally containing vitamin D include

  • Cod liver oil
  • Fatty fish (Sockeye Salmon is great)
  • Egg yolks
  • Lard

Vitamin D from the sun is also great but when it’s 20 degrees F, baring your arms for 20 to 30 minutes may seem like a tall order! If you aren’t in a cold weather area right now, do get out into the sun without sunscreen and bare your arms for 20 to 30 minutes. Don’t expose yourself long enough to get sunburned of course!

How did you score on the self assessment? What next steps will you take to bring your vitamin D levels up to optimum level?

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