How Can I Raise My Vitamin D Level Quickly?

How Can I Raise My Vitamin D Level Quickly?

Scientifically reviewed by: Michael A. Smith, MD

We all know vitamin D is an essential nutrient. There’s a reason food manufacturers add it to popular foods we consume, including dairy products, cereals, orange juice—our bodies need it to keep us healthy.

Unfortunately, vitamin D deficiency is common; about 40 percent of people in the U.S. (and 50 percent worldwide) have low levels of this vitamin. The good news is that you can take steps to be proactive about maintaining optimal vitamin D levels. In fact, you can raise your levels of vitamin D to where they need to be fairly quickly—with the right strategy.

 So, how do you know if you have enough of the sunshine vitamin and what to do about it if you don’t? Let’s get started.

What is vitamin D good for?

Our bodies naturally produce vitamin D from UV exposure—they don’t call it the “sunshine vitamin” for nothing. This fat-soluble vitamin behaves like a hormone, which means it is involved in regulating several systems throughout the body, and every cell has a receptor for it.

That’s why vitamin D is a star player in bone health, cognitive performance, blood pressure, immune health—and so much more.

But factors like spending too much time indoors (or how much sunscreen you use), aging, poor diet and malabsorption can cause vitamin D levels to drop, leading to health concerns.

Do I have a vitamin D deficiency?

A deficiency in vitamin D means you don’t have enough to satisfy your body’s needs. Symptoms of insufficient levels of this vitamin are subtle and easily mistaken for other causes. So, it’s important to pay attention to what your body is telling you.

“A clinical deficiency could manifest in many ways, including bone pain and muscle weakness. But for many people, the symptoms aren’t obvious,” explained Life Extension’s Education Specialist, Dr. Crystal M. Gossard, DCN. So, if you notice you get sick more often or feel tired all the time, you may want to check your vitamin D level.

Here are other signs and symptoms associated with low vitamin D levels:

  • Slow-healing wounds— Research suggests that the vitamin helps increase the production of compounds involved in forming new skin.
  • Low bone density— Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption and healthy bone density.
  • Hair loss— While we tend to blame stress, severe hair loss may indicate low vitamin D levels.
  • Depression— Research has shown that vitamin D intake for people who are deficient may help improve mood, including seasonal depression that can occur during winter months.

Not to mention, having low vitamin D has been linked to high blood pressure and other heart-related health concerns, which leads to an increased risk for serious heart disease.

The best way to know if you have a deficiency is by measuring your vitamin D blood level. “The test tells you whether your levels fall within an ideal range,” explained Life Extension’s Blood Lab Manager, Dylan Blaiwes. “Our tests assess vitamin D status by measuring 25-hydroxyvitamin D,” he added.

A level below 20 ng/mL is considered a clinical deficiency, but emerging research suggests that at least 40 ng/mL is ideal for optimal health, and some even recommend levels up to 50-80 ng/mL. To avoid risk of toxicity, blood levels shouldn’t exceed 100 ng/mL.

So, if your results show that you have a less than ideal level, having a strategic plan can help you get back to an optimal level.

How much vitamin D should I take?

Everyone processes vitamin D a bit differently; dosing will vary for most people depending on their age, weight, ethnicity, and even geographical location. The closer you live to the equator, for example, the easier it is for your body to make vitamin D when you spend some time outside.

“In general, choose dosing that delivers between 125-200 mcg of vitamin D,” Dr. Gossard added. After several months, check your vitamin D levels again. Then you can adjust your dose to ensure you stay in a healthy and optimal range.

Take a look at the recommended dietary allowance in the chart below.

Age

RDA

0-12 months*

10 mcg (400 IU)

1-70 years

15 mcg (600 IU)

>70 years

20 mcg (800 IU)

*Adequate Intake (AI)

Chart adapted from Office of Dietary Supplements https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/

Note that these intake levels are only enough to avoid outright vitamin D deficiency in most people; in order to have optimal vitamin D levels, you’ll likely need much more than just the adequate intake.

Foods high in vitamin D

There are two main dietary forms of vitamin D: ergocalciferol (D2) and cholecalciferol (D3). And few foods have naturally high concentrations of vitamin D. You’ll find vitamin D3 in foods such as lamb, beef, fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines, cod liver oil, eggs and dairy products. Mushrooms are a great source of vitamin D2.

While your body can effectively absorb both forms of this vitamin, studies show that vitamin D3 is more effective at raising blood levels than D2. Several studies have shown that vitamin D2 yields less 25-hydroxyvitamin D (the primary circulating form of vitamin D in your blood) than an equal amount of vitamin D3.

How long does it take to restore vitamin D levels?

How quickly your body replenishes your level of vitamin D depends on a number of factors ranging from geography to your unique physiology. And of course, it also depends on how low it was to start—the lower your blood level, the longer it’ll take for it to bounce back to a healthy range.

Here’s where reestablishing the connection with your body will come in handy. By noticing how you feel and regularly monitoring your blood serum level, you’ll be able to track how your vitamin D level is doing. “It’s best to re-test your blood level after about three months,” noted Dr. Gossard.

Your body knows what to do. You can do your part by building sustainable habits that help you maintain optimal vitamin D levels—because maintaining health is always going to be easier than repairing it. Try to make time to enjoy the outdoors in moderation and add vitamin D-rich foods to your meals.

References

  1. MedlinePlus. “Vitamin D Deficiency.” MedlinePlus, February 2017, https://medlineplus.gov/vitaminddeficiency.html
  2. Spritzler, Franziska. “8 Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency.” Healthline, July 2018, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vitamin-d-deficiency-symptoms  
  3. Tripkovic, Laura, et. al. “Comparison of vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 supplementation in raising serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D status: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Am J Clin Nutr., June 2012, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22552031/