As a functional medicine practitioner, one of the most common deficiencies I find in my patient's lab work is low vitamin D - 25(OH). And what's frustrating is the fact that many of these patients have been told by their M.D.'s that they are within normal range...even when they're in the low 30's and 40's.
Even though these numbers may fall within the "normal" range, as we increase these levels, I've seen remarkable changes in my patient's health. What should vitamin D levels be at? I like to get my patients as close to 100 as possible, and some practitioners will shoot for even higher levels - closer to 150!
Why is vitamin D so important?
Insufficient vitamin D levels can cause:
It's amazing how this one vitamin deficiency can be the underlying culprit of so many symptoms and disease processes. But just as amazing is how easily these problems can be resolved - or better yet, avoided, simply by supplementing your diet with sufficient vitamin D intake.
How much vitamin D should a person take?
We are actually supposed to produce our own vitamin D when we're exposed to sunlight. But even here, in sunny California, it doesn't seem to be enough. I don't know if it's attributed to our poor Standard American Diet, or possibly all the toxins we're exposed to, somehow effecting our vitamin D synthesis. (The average adult has been documented to have over 700 toxins in their system...many of which are carcinogenic.) But I've only found 2 patients over the past 10 years of lab testing that had healthy levels of serum vitamin D...and they were already supplementing with high doses.
Foods that are rich in vitamin D
D3 (from sun exposure and meat products) is substantially more effective than D2 (found in plants) in raising your vitamin D levels. Wild salmon, herring, sardines, cod, trout, mackerel, shrimp, oysters, canned tuna, egg yolks, mushrooms, milk and cheese (which I highly recommend organic, if you must drink milk), soy milk (which I discourage my patients from, as soy is an endocrine disruptor, and can cause hormonal problems), almond milk, liver, ham, and other "fortified" foods (orange juice, dairy, cereal, etc.), pork chops, beef and chicken all contain higher levels of vitamin D. But even if you are eating these foods regularly, I would challenge you to have your serum vitamin D levels checked...especially if you are experiencing any of the symptoms or health disorders described above.
Foods that are "fortified" are usually processed or pasteurized, which destroys their natural vitamin content. So to be considered healthy and nutritious, large food corporations add synthetic vitamins to make it sound healthier. Synthetic vitamins are not recognized by the body the same as natural occurring vitamins...but that's for another time.
If you are supplementing your diet with vitamin D, I typically start my patients on 10,000 iu/day (as well as taking that much, myself). If you are "lab low" in vitamin D (below 35), have your doctor monitor your lab work every 3 months until you get up as close to 100 as possible. If you go above 100, you can back off to 5,000 iu/day. Yes - your M.D. will freak out if he/she sees your vitamin D above 80 - but that's OK. It's YOUR health - not theirs. And unless your MD has had post-graduate training in nutrition, they will likely know nothing about nutrition (other than what the drug and pharmaceutical companies teach them). Too high vitamin D levels are rare, and usually require long-term VERY high doses of supplementation. You won't get too much vitamin D from simply eating vitamin D rich foods.
Symptoms of too high vitamin D levels (typically not found in levels below 300) include: Nausea, vomiting, fatigue, forgetfulness, and slurred speech, among others. But again, you would have to be on very high doses of supplementation for a long time. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, and it can therefore build up in your system. But compared to the risks of low vitamin D, getting too much should not even be a concern.
Wishing you Abundant Health,
John Filippini, D.C.