The sun’s getting higher in northern latitudes, but some may still need to supplement.
Just now I sat out for several minutes in the bright mid-March Colorado sunshine. It’s part of a gradual process that will over the next two months gradually lead to a healthy tan without burning — and naturally increase levels of vitamin D in my body.
With the sun getting higher in northern latitudes of the world, many people can now obtain natural vitamin D from sunshine, while those in the southern realms may wish to supplement to keep their levels healthy. At certain latitudes the sun is not sufficient for vitamin D production during the winter months.
However, maintaining adequate levels can be a tricky process. Factors, like age, stress, high activity, or poor health, may affect your ability to convert adequate levels from the sun. And some people, like me, may need to supplement year-round.
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I check my vitamin D levels periodically so I have a good idea of where they are at certain times of the year. Traditionally health care professionals have recommended levels above 30 nanograms/milliliter, but in recent years evidence is increasing that levels of 50 ng/mL may be better for reducing the risk of illness and disease. Vitamin D levels are also associated with improved athletic performance.
Vitamin D has also been found to have an association with the risks of COVID-19. People with higher vitamin D levels have been found to be more resistant to infection, and also less likely to become severely ill or die.
In addition to the sun, vitamin D can be obtained from food sources such as fatty fish like trout, salmon, tuna, and mackerel, and fish-liver oils. It is also available in smaller amounts in beef liver, cheese and egg yolks.
The body’s ability to produce, absorb and store, as well as vitamin D usage is highly individual, which is why regular testing is essential to know just how much you may be lacking, and to plan an effective supplementation program.
For example, I know my levels don’t hit 50 ng/mL even at the end of summer when I spent a great deal of time outdoors and with extra supplementation. During the winter months they begin to crash after November, and if I don’t supplement I’m tempting colds and flu.
Since I know that my levels run low anyway, I continue to supplement during the summer, typically taking 5,000 IU daily. In the wintertime, I double my supplementation to 10,000 IU daily.
This seems to suit my needs. This past winter I never even had so much as a cold even though I sometimes work as a substitute teacher in a school with several hundred kids. Now as the sun gets higher I can increase my skin exposure and decrease my supplementation.
Vitamin D is a vital nutrient that is best obtained from the sun, but is also available in some foods. It is essential to know your levels by blood tests, and to strategically supplement if they are low.
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