Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and is vital to maintaining healthy bones, muscles, and teeth. The human body is capable of making vitamin D naturally; however, most individuals receive the necessary amounts of the vitamin through their diet and supplements. In order to know how to maintain vitamin D levels, it’s essential to know how much vitamin D per day is needed per person.
While every individual body is different, some general guidelines can help guide you in determining how much vitamin D per day you need:
- Birth to 12 months of age: 10 micrograms (mcg)/400 international units (IU)
- 1 to 13 years of age: 15 mcg/600 IU
- 14 to 18 years of age: 15 mcg/600 IU
- 19 to 70 years of age: 15 mcg/600 IU
- 71 years of age and up: 20 mcg/800 IU
- Pregnant/breastfeeding women: 15 mcg/600 IU
While most of the vitamin D that your body gets is through food and supplements, your body can make vitamin D naturally through the absorption of sunlight. During the warmer months, when people can be outside more often, it is possible to meet most of your daily vitamin D requirements. It is even possible to do so when sitting near a window on a particularly nice day.
However, it is crucial to note that you cannot and should not rely on sun exposure to meet your daily vitamin D requirement because excessive sun exposure can have negative side effects.
So, what happens when you do not know how to maintain vitamin D levels? If you are not careful, you could be at risk of a vitamin D deficiency.
What is Vitamin D Deficiency?
A vitamin D deficiency is defined as a lack of adequate vitamin d in the body, which can lead to moderate to severe side effects, including (but not limited to):
- Mood changes
- Joint/bone pain
- Unexplained fatigue
- Muscle weakness and/or cramps
- Bone loss
- Frequent infections/immune system disorders
- High blood pressure/heart disease
- Cancer, etc.
A vitamin D deficiency can be caused by a lack of sun exposure or a poor diet. However, several other things could be at play and preventing your body from properly absorbing the vitamin as it should.
What Prevents Vitamin D Absorption?
Believe it or not, there are many reasons why your body may not be absorbing vitamin D as it should. Some of the most common reasons why your body is not producing or absorbing the vitamin are due to factors such as:
- Skin tone: Having a darker skin tone makes it more difficult for your skin to absorb sunlight.
- Where you live: Depending on where the sun is located, the chances of UVB exposure can be limited. For example, during the winter months, the days are shorter, meaning your UVB exposure chances are limited.
- Air pollution: Did you know that carbon particulates in the air scatter and absorb UBCC rays, preventing them from reaching you? On the other hand, holes in the ozone layer can enhance vitamin D levels since ozone absorbs UBC radiation; however, it is not recommended to spend time outside on days such as these.
- Age: The older you get, the harder it is for your body to absorb the necessary amounts of vitamin D.
- The health of your gut/liver/kidneys: If your digestive system is healthy and functioning normally, then you shouldn’t have to worry much about poor vitamin D absorption. However, certain conditions affecting this system can significantly reduce the amount of vitamin D your body can absorb. Liver disease, celiac disease, chronic pancreatitis, and cystic fibrosis can all reduce vitamin D absorption rates in individuals.
What Are the Symptoms of Low Vitamin D?
If you are unsure how to maintain vitamin D levels, you could easily find yourself dealing with a vitamin D deficiency. Unfortunately, it is not always easily detectable, as low vitamin D levels can often share the same symptoms as other common ailments.
Some of the most common symptoms of low vitamin D levels include:
- Back pain
- Bone weakness/pain
- Depression and other mood disorders
- Frequent illnesses (vitamin D is essential for fighting off infections)
- Hair loss
- Muscle pain/cramping
- Slower wound healing speeds
- Unexplained fatigue
Since many of these symptoms can indicate other health concerns, you must never try to self-diagnose yourself. Should you believe you are suffering from a vitamin D deficiency, bring it up to your primary care provider. They can then order the necessary tests to help you get the answers you need.
How Long Does It Take to Recover from Vitamin D Deficiency?
If you have been diagnosed with a vitamin D deficiency, then you’re likely going to wonder how long it will take to recover from your deficiency. Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast answer to this question. In fact, most professionals will tell you that it depends on the severity of your deficiency and that it could take a few weeks or a few months.
Determining how long it takes to recover from a vitamin D deficiency will also depend on the chosen treatment option.
Vitamin D Deficiency Treatment Options
Vitamin D deficiency treatments will vary slightly by the individual and the severity of their deficiency. However, in most cases, you will be asked to take a vitamin D supplement to reach and then maintain an adequate level of the vitamin.
Vitamin D supplements come in two forms:
- Ergocalciferol/vitamin D2: Typically comes from plant products and requires a prescription from your primary care provider.
- Cholecalciferol/vitamin D3: Typically comes from animal products and is available over the counter without a prescription.
Again, the exact treatment for vitamin D deficiencies will vary by individual; however, a typical treatment plan often includes taking an oral dose of ergocalciferol at 50,000 IU for eight weeks to reach an optimal vitamin D level. After that, a patient may be instructed to take between 800 to 1,000 IU per day to maintain optimal levels.
Learning how to maintain vitamin D levels requires understanding your ideal levels, as well as the signs and symptoms of a possible deficiency. There are many frequently asked questions regarding vitamin D and how it works and its effects on the body, and we have outlined a few of the most common questions for you below:
Do Vitamin D Pills Work?
When conducting your research on the effectiveness of vitamin D pills, you will likely come across several resources that say taking vitamin D pills will not work and that it’s nothing more than wishful thinking. Here is the thing: if you are a relatively healthy individual, then chances are adding a vitamin D pill to your daily regimen will have little to no effect.
However, for those at risk of a vitamin D deficiency, such as post-menopausal women and the elderly, a vitamin D supplement can positively impact your overall health and well-being.
Does Low Vitamin D Cause Weight Gain?
While there is a common correlation between obesity and vitamin D deficiency, there is no current research proving a direct connection between low vitamin D and weight gain.
Which Vegetable is High in Vitamin D?
When it comes to which foods are the richest in vitamin D, there are many options to choose from, especially for those who enjoy fish. As for which vegetable is highest in vitamin D, mushrooms are considered one of the best choices.
What Foods are the Richest in Vitamin D?
Again, there are a variety of foods available to help you ingest vitamin D throughout your day. However, some of the vitamin D-rich foods you can include in your diet include:
- Whole milk
- Fortified ready-to-eat cereals
- Fortified orange juice
- Almond milk
If you are unsure of the best ways to include vitamin d-rich foods into your diet, it is best to speak with a licensed nutritionist who can help you create meal plans best suited for your needs.
When Should You Take Vitamin D? Morning or Night?
There is currently no conclusive research on when you should take your vitamin D supplement. Since vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, it is suggested that you take it in the evening with your dinner as taking them on an empty stomach can lead to nausea in some individuals.
If you are unsure of when you should be taking certain vitamins or supplements, always consult with your primary care provider.
How Long Does It Take to Raise Vitamin D Levels?
This will depend heavily on how severe your vitamin D deficiency is. The more severe the case, the longer you may be required to take higher doses of prescribed D2 vitamin. In most cases, treatment will range between six and eight weeks.
If your body does not absorb vitamin D well on its own, then you will likely have to take vitamin D supplements long-term to maintain adequate vitamin D levels.
How Can You Raise Your Vitamin D Levels Quickly?
The quickest and most efficient way to raise your vitamin D levels quickly is through the introduction of vitamin D3 supplements. However, that does not mean you should ever consider self-medicating should you believe you are suffering from a vitamin D deficiency. Doing so can lead to a possible vitamin D overdose.
Can Too Much Vitamin D Be Harmful?
While taking vitamin D does have its benefits for those who need it, those who don’t need the additional boost or take too much can be putting themselves in harm’s way.
The old adage is true: there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.
One of the most common side effects of vitamin D toxicity, known as hypervitaminosis D (although still considered rare), is hypercalcemia caused by a buildup of calcium in the blood. Common symptoms include nausea and vomiting, muscle and bone weakness, and frequent urination.
Other signs of too much vitamin D may include:
- Elevated blood levels
- Poor appetite
- Stomach pain
- Digestive complains
- Kidney failure
Learning How to Maintain Vitamin D Levels is Important
To have a well-balanced lifestyle, it is crucial that you take the time to research and ask plenty of questions regarding what vitamins and nutrients you need to keep yourself healthy. While many of your vitamins and nutrients are provided to you through what you eat and drink, there are many instances in which you may need a little extra help.
This is where taking supplements can be extremely beneficial. When it comes to the “trendy” topic of vitamin d and its benefits, you should take the time to learn how to maintain vitamin d levels and what is and is not considered healthy.
With the right guidance from your primary care provider or a licensed nutritionist, you’ll find all the answers you need and more!