Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that regulates cellular function, wards off disease, and keeps your bones strong by helping your body absorb phosphate and calcium. Approximately 42% of the population is vitamin D deficient in the United States alone. This number is even higher among those with poor nutrition habits and people like premenopausal women, those who work indoors, and those with higher melanin content in their skin.
Could you be one of the many experiencing a vitamin D deficiency without knowing it? Find out if you may be deficient and learn how to raise vitamin D levels quickly in the content below.
What Is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is simultaneously a hormone made naturally within the body and a fat-soluble nutrient obtained from the food. Most foods have limited vitamin D content, so most is obtained through the skin.
When you expose your body to sunlight, the ultraviolet rays synthesize a precursor to vitamin D found in the epidermal layer of the skin. Then, the kidneys and liver convert vitamin D from its inactive state to an active form through a chemical process called hydroxylation. After it is consumed through food or synthesized by the skin, it is stored in the body’s fat supply until it is needed.
How Much Vitamin D Do You Need?
If you’re wondering how to boost your vitamin D, it’s essential to know how much you need first so you don’t overdo it. Health experts say it’s usually sufficient to spend 10 to 30 minutes outside in the afternoon a few times per week to obtain optimal vitamin D levels. Those with dark complexions may need more time outdoors; the high melanin content in their skin slows vitamin D conversion. Those who can’t spend much time outside or are prone to skin damage can take supplements to fulfill their needs.
If you take vitamin D supplements, the minimum recommended dosage is 10 to 20 micrograms or 400 to 800 IU; however, there has been much disagreement among the international medical community on how much vitamin D people should be supplementing daily. Organizations such as the Endocrine Society recommend that the average adult takes between 1,500 and 2,000 IU each day, while the United Kingdom says 400 IU is sufficient. This is why it’s critical to speak with your general physician beforehand to verify the proper dosage for your unique needs and health history.
How to Know If You Need More Vitamin D: Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
Certain people are more susceptible to vitamin D deficiencies than others. Health professionals have identified elderly, dark-skinned, and obese individuals as the highest-risk groups for vitamin D deficiency for various reasons. Older adults may lack the mobility to go outside; dark-skinned people have high melanin content that prevents their skin from synthesizing vitamin D efficiently; and obese individuals may not be getting the nutrition or exercise needed for their bodies to make vitamin D. Additional risk factors include Crohn’s and celiac disease, liver or kidney failure, medications, or severe malabsorption of the nutrient.
Vitamin D deficiency symptoms are fairly common and can be mistaken for other conditions. Those who have the condition may experience:
- Brain fog
- Hair loss
- Weight gain
- Temperature sensitivity
- Pain in the bones and muscles
- Recurring infections or frequent illness
If you have recently been affected by one or more of the above, it’s worth getting some more vitamin D to determine whether a deficiency is the problem. If it is, we’ve outlined how to raise vitamin D levels fast below.
How to Raise Vitamin D Levels Quickly
Fortunately for those with a vitamin D deficiency, it’s easy to raise your levels back to a healthy place. Below, we’ve named several simple tips and foods you can incorporate into your lifestyle to achieve better health.
Spend More Time Outside
The best way to get enough vitamin D is to spend more time outdoors in the sunlight, where your skin can make vitamin D naturally. When you obtain the nutrient this way, researchers say it stays in your system for longer and may even be more potent. It may also be the fastest way to raise your vitamin D levels, as supplementing the nutrient usually takes months to come to fruition.
There are plenty of enjoyable ways to bask in the sunlight. Consider taking a scenic walk, sitting out on your front porch with a good book, visiting the dog park with your four-legged friend, having a picnic with your significant other, or going for a nature hike.
Try a UV Lamp
UV lamps make it possible to get your daily dose of vitamin D without having to go outside. According to a scientific study, individuals struggling with vitamin D malabsorption were able to increase their vitamin D levels by 25% after just two months of using a UV lamp. These are available for purchase online with prices ranging between $20 and $150, depending on the size, features, and brand.
Eat Vitamin D-Fortified Foods
Few foods have naturally high vitamin D levels. If you’ve ever seen a food label advertising its vitamin D fortification, this means the manufacturer has added vitamin D for nutritional value. The food industry typically fortifies breakfast cereal, eggs, yogurt, cow’s milk and milk alternatives, orange juice, and tofu.
Eat Vitamin D-Rich Foods
Although vitamin D can be hard to find in food, there are still a few rich nutrient sources — particularly in egg yolks, liver, cheese, mushrooms, and especially seafood. Salmon, tuna, and sardines, in particular, are chocked full of vitamin D. You can get nearly half of your daily intake from 3.5 ounces of canned salmon. Just be aware that the vitamin content may vary depending on how the fish was raised and that cooking the fish reduces the vitamin D content. This makes raw sushi a rich (and delicious) source of vitamin D.
Get More Exercise
Research has shown that those who exercise for three or more hours during the week have higher levels of vitamin D in their systems. Jogging, cycling, playing a sport, or simply taking a 15-minute walk outside on your lunch break may help increase your vitamin D levels.
Sit Near Windows
People working in offices all day may find it challenging to get adequate vitamin D. If you have any control over where you sit, try to choose a desk close to an unobstructed window. While many types of glass are designed to filter out UV rays that synthesize vitamin D in the skin, some allow specific wavelengths to pass through.
Take a Supplement
Vitamin D supplements are over-the-counter products that don’t require a prescription for purchase. You can find them online, at your local drug store, or even the neighborhood grocer. Vitamin D2 and D3 supplements have been linked to improvements in immunity, fatigue, muscle and bone pain, and depression.
What Are Potential Side Effects of Vitamin D?
As with every other drug or supplement you start taking, talk with your doctor first to learn how to increase vitamin D in a way that is safe for you. Start with low doses and work your way up to the full dosage to determine if your body reacts negatively to the substance. Some people experience nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, weakness, constipation, headaches, lethargy, confusion, and/or arrhythmia. If you take too much, you could end up with excess calcium in your bloodstream, which can interfere with heart, brain, bone, and kidney function.
How Long Does It Take for Vitamin D to Work?
If you supplement vitamin D into your diet, you can see the results in as little as two or three months with the maximum dosage, depending on your weight, age, and the severity of your deficiency. When you visit your medical doctor, they will recommend a specific dosage and explain how long to raise your vitamin D levels.
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