Vitamin D plays a vital role in helping your body with the absorption of nutrients like calcium and phosphorus, and in facilitating normal immune system function. It’s also been shown to decrease all cause mortality in patients! Like anything else, though, it’s only good in the right amounts! Unhealthy overconsumption of vitamin D can lead to toxicity or a number of unpleasant side effects, while patients who don’t get enough will miss out on the critical benefits of vitamin D. That’s why having a physician with a strong understanding of nutrition and supplementation regularly monitoring your vitamin D levels to ensure they’re in the sweet spot is so important!
Studies show that approximately 42% of Americans are vitamin D deficient, meaning that on average almost half of patients are consistently failing to get enough vitamin D in their daily lives. The impact of vitamin D deficiency can be seen in other areas as well, with 83% of patients who were hospitalized for COVID-19 showing signs of vitamin D deficiency.
The good news is that increasing your vitamin D intake is easier than you might think! There are lots of great sources of vitamin D out there, some – like sunshine – that you may already be familiar with, and today we’re taking some time to walk you through some simple ways to increase your vitamin D levels.
How to Get More Vitamin D
There are several ways patients can add more vitamin D to their lives, whether through dietary changes, the addition of supplements, or simply spending more time out in mother nature! While we don’t have time to cover every single option, here are 6 great sources of vitamin D for patients looking to ramp up their levels.
1 – Safe Sunlight
One of the easiest ways to get more vitamin D is to get outside and catch some rays! Our bodies naturally produce vitamin D in a bio-available form when exposed to ultraviolet light (specifically UVB). The light that is uptaken through the eyes gets converted to the greatest extent, but we can also absorb it through the skin. Unfortunately, extensive sun exposure can also lead to sunburn, skin damage, and increase your risk of developing skin cancer later in life, so it’s important to balance your desire for sunshine (and the vitamin D benefits that result) with safe sun practices to minimize the risk to your skin. Dr. Muzzi recommends 15 minutes of sun exposure per day without sunscreen or sunglasses, in order to improve vitamin D levels. If you’ll be out in the sun for longer periods, always make sure that you’re applying SPF sunscreen and wearing protective sunglasses, hats or long sleeves. Most people need to couple this method with a few of our other suggestions below to truly generate optimal levels of vitamin D you’re hoping for!
2 – Vitamin D Supplements
Vitamin D supplements are a great way to control your intake without having to make any significant adjustments to your lifestyle. You can take them on the go, and since every pill contains a pre-measured amount there’s no uncertainty about how much vitamin D you’re actually getting.
Supplemental vitamin D usually comes in two forms: D3 and D2. Vitamin D3 is the form Dr. Muzzi typically recommends, but based on your specific nutritional needs, background, and preferences she may recommend a D2 supplement instead. Regardless of which vitamin D supplement you end up adding to your routine, be sure to remember that vitamin D is fat soluble – so it should always be taken with food! It is also important to note that if taking higher doses of vitamin D by supplement, you should make sure to get adequate amounts of vitamin K.
Vitamin D will improve calcium absorption from the foods you eat, and vitamin K will help your body route the calcium to the appropriate place (ie. your bones) and not elsewhere (the urinary tract, heart arteries, etc.). If you’re unsure which type of vitamin D supplement you should be taking or how much vitamin D you need, don’t hesitate to sit down with Dr. Muzzi and talk through your options!
Here at Optimum Direct Care our patients have access to top-shelf supplements at affordable, wholesale prices, so if you’d like to go the supplement route then we can help you stock up without breaking the bank!
3 – Fortified Foods and Drinks
Since public knowledge about the importance of vitamin D has increased in recent years, many food producers have started adding supplements directly into their foods and beverages. You will find vitamin D added to cow’s milk, plant-based milks, cereal, tofu, yogurt, and many other products. Be sure to check the ingredient list on your grocery items the next time you’re at the store – you may be surprised at the number of foods available to help boost vitamin D!
4 – Wild-Caught Fish
If you like fish, wild-caught fish actually has quite a bit of natural vitamin D stored within the fat. Some great picks would be wild-caught (not farmed) salmon, sardines, tuna, and mackerel.
5 – Liver
One of the highest dietary concentrations of vitamin D can be found in the livers of cows. Believe it or not, the liver and kidneys are the most important organs in a mammal’s body for converting unusable sources of vitamin D into usable ones, so inert forms of vitamin F are usually stored nearby until they need to be converted. This may not be the most palatable option for increasing your vitamin D, but it’s certainly efficient!
6 – UVB-Exposed Mushrooms
According to a recent study, certain mushrooms can be a great source of vitamin D as well. Much like people, mushrooms are able to synthesize vitamin D directly from the sunlight. In fact, simply placing store-bought mushrooms in direct sunlight can help boost vitamin D levels enough to provide significant supplementation! For patients who are more adventurous or find themselves out in the woods frequently, you can also look into safely foraged mushrooms like chanterelles and oyster mushrooms.
Vitamin D is an important nutrient and plays a crucial role in patients’ overall health, but remembering to stay in that “sweet spot” of not too much and not too little is key. Regardless of which methods you use to regulate your vitamin D levels, make sure to consistently check in with your doctor to ensure that your levels are right where they should be – especially if you’re prone to vitamin D deficiency or have a history of vitamin D levels that are too high. This way, you and Dr. Muzzi can evaluate the efficacy of your chosen supplementation method and make adjustments whenever necessary to help you stay in the sweet spot and maintain optimal health!