I am often asked by patients if they should include daily sun exposure in order to attain healthy vitamin D levels.
Most medical professionals agree that Vitamin D levels are crucial to health but have no exact answer as to how it should be attained. Additionally, given the skin cancer epidemic, it is not wise to spend excessive time in the sun.
Therefore, I believe it’s best to use oral supplementation rather than basking in the sun.
Everyone should, in my humble opinion, include a vitamin d3 supplement in their daily diet.
There has been is a multi-fold increase from past dosing-recommendations as a result of many studies that supported a higher daily dose for overall optimal health.
Current recommended dosing is:
Life Stage Recommended Amount Birth to 12 months 400 IU Children 1-13 years 600 IU Teens 14-18 years 600 IU Adults 19-70 years 600 IU Adults 71 years and older 800 IU Pregnant and breastfeeding women 600 IU
Foods that contain Vitamin D include:
- Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel are among the best sources.
- Beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks provide small amounts.
- Mushrooms provide some vitamin D. In some mushrooms that are newly available in stores, the vitamin D content is being boosted by exposing these mushrooms to ultraviolet light.
- Almost all of the U.S. milk supply is fortified with 400 IU of vitamin D per quart. But foods made from milk, like cheese and ice cream, are usually not fortified.
- Vitamin D is added to many breakfast cereals and to some brands of orange juice, yogurt, margarine, and soy beverages; check the labels.
**Table and food list copied from the National Institute of Health
I personally advise patients to simply get a baseline vitamin d level, so that persons with larger deficits can be identified and treated more aggressively.
I have personally discovered, as a dermatologist, that in my practice patients with psoriasis tend to have dangerously low(10-20) vitamin d levels (optimal levels are 50 and above). Interestingly enough, psoriasis is actually treated with very expensive topical vitamin d analogs/cremes.
If you are a psoriasis patient, make sure you have your vitamin d level drawn and, if needed, corrected for better health.
Psoriasis, an immune-related disorder, is not the only immune related disorder where vitamin d optimization is crucial. Multiple sclerosis (MS) also is noted to have a significantly increased prevalence in children whose mothers were vitamin d deficient. Vitamin d supplementation is prescribed in most MS patients.
Other disorders linked to deficiency of the “sunshine vitamin” are:
- Breast cancer
- Colon cancer
- Osteomalacia (softening of the bones in adults) and osteoporosis (increased fragility of the bones) (1)
- Rickets (softening of the bones in children) (1)
- Mental health conditions such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and depression (1)
- Increased susceptibility to infections and illnesses (1)
- Glucose intolerance and type 1 and type 2 diabetes (1)
- Obesity (1)
- Cardiovascular diseases (conditions affecting the heart) such as hypertension, heart failure and ischemic heart disease (1)
- Cancer of the colon, breast or prostate (1)
- Rheumatoid arthritis (1)
- Hair loss (alopecia) (1)
- Tuberculosis (1)
- and more
Many also believe that optimizing vitamin d levels improves immunity against the common cold.
What do you have to lose? Optimize your vitamin d3 levels.
Shoot for healthy levels and make your mind and body happy! Ask your doctor for this simple test and supplement as needed.
Written by: Dr. Vassilia D. Young and employees of Black Hills Dermatology
Dr. Vassilia D. Young received her undergraduate degree from Minot State University in North Dakota and her MD from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. She currently practices as the head dermatologist at Black Hills Dermatology in Rapid City and Spearfish, SD. She specializes in Mohs surgery as well as a variety of laser and cosmetic procedures.