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Dr. Tanya Wylde, ND answers all your questions on Vitamin D

Dr. Tanya Wylde, Naturopathic Doctor…Q&A on Vitamin D3, March 2020

Spring is around the corner, daylight’s saving time happened yesterday, and spring starts in less than two weeks!!! Woot woot!!  I can’t wait to get more sunshine and to start single track riding with our son in the Durham and Vaughan Forests when the mud clears.  It seems people aren’t thinking about the sun shining…since corona virus weighs heavily on everyone’s mind…so even though summer is almost here… let’s talk vitamin D.  Vitamin D is such an important vitamin to keep you strong and from getting run down, immune system and mood wise. Let’s face it, the death rate is higher with the Corona virus (3.5% vs. .1% with the regular influenza flu) but we are always more susceptible to viruses when we are run down and we are more run down when vitamin D levels are low.  So vitamin D is on my mind and I want to share with you all that I know about this very important vitamin.

I will answer your most common vitamin D questions that I often get in patient visits.   Also feel free to ask away in the comments below if I don’t cover it all.  See my link in linktree above to read the full Q&A on vitamin D.  Here are the first 3 questions with answers:

Spring is around the corner…

  1. Does this mean that you should stop taking your vitamin D? No.  Since many of you don’t get your daily dose of vitamin D since you use sunscreen and you lack sun exposure even through the summer.
  2. Did you get enough vitamin D this winter? Maybe!  Consider getting a vitamin D test this spring, before the sun really starts to shine, to see your levels coming out of the winter. This way you will know what dose to take through the summer and next winter. 
  3. How do you know that you, as an individual, got enough vitamin D?  Do a blood test; 25-hydroxy-vitamin D (25-OH-Vitamin D).  Doing this simple blood test is the best way to monitor your vitamin D intake if you wish to achieve optimal levels for a healthy immune system, bone density and mood through the year.  The amount of 25-OH-Vitamin D in your blood is a good indication of how much vitamin D your body has.  Normal levels in Ontario are considered 75-250 nmol/L.  I usually recommend people aim for the upper third of the range.  
  4. Is this vitamin D blood test covered by OHIP? No, unless you have a history of osteopenia or osteoporosis.
  5. When should you get your 25-OH-Vitamin D blood levels tested? Consider testing once in the springtime (especially if you’ve been taking the recommended 1,000-3,000iu daily dose) to see if that was enough for you to fall in the upper third of the range.  Then consider testing again in the fall to see if your daily sun exposure in addition to taking 1,000iu on the days you don’t get sun exposure is enough for you to maintain healthy levels through the summer time. 
  6. What’s the equivalent sun-time exposure to 1,000iu of vitamin D? In the summer it’s fairly easy to get a 1,000iu dose of vitamin D3 by spending about 20 minutes in t-shirts and shorts, with 25% of your body exposed.  Here’s the caveat, you can’t be wearing sunscreen.  The best time to get sun exposure for vitamin D3 production during the summertime is around 12pm eastern time.  But….this is also when you are most likely to burn so it’s safer to get exposure from 9am to 10:30 and after 3pm so that you don’t burn. 
  7. How do you get vitamin D from sunlight if you are trying to avoid basal cell carcinoma (BCC) or melanoma (due to a family history) or maybe you just don’t want to age your skin? You don’t.  You always use sunscreen and cover up when in direct sunlight and instead take oral vitamin D3.  In fact, if you are trying to prevent BCC and melanoma and aging your skin, you should put sunscreen on, (especially on your face, neck, and hands) before you get into the car and drive, through the whole year, even in the wintertime.  
  8. Can excessive exposure to sunlight cause vitamin D intoxication?  No, because sunlight degrades any excess provitamin D3.  
  9. Can you get excessive exposure from taking oral vitamin D3?  Yes, that’s why it’s best to figure out if you are taking the right dose for you, as an individual through a simple blood test, once in the spring and once in the fall. (see above for details.)
  10. Do some people absorb vitamin D more than others? Greater amounts of the pigment melanin in the epidermal layer result in darker skin and reduce the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D from sunlight. Bottom line, the *darker your skin, the harder to absorb vitamin D. Also because vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, people with conditions that affect *fat malabsorption may be more prone to vitamin d deficiency. Fat malabsorption is associated with a variety of medical conditions, including some forms of liver disease, cystic fibrosis, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, as well as ulcerative colitis. *A body mass index ≥30 is associated with lower serum 25(OH)D levels compared with non-obese individuals; people who are obese may need larger than usual intakes of vitamin D to achieve 25(OH)D levels comparable to those of normal weight.
Optimal Vitamin D levels that generally won’t cause overdose, but best to test to be sure!
Bare minimum amount to not become deficient in vitamin D

Food sources of vitamin D

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