Vitamin D is a crucial component to immunity and overall health. Studies have shown that being deficient in vitamin D can increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and depression. Healthy vitamin D levels are linked to better cardiovascular health, greater immune function, and decreased cancer risk. The catch? We don’t all process or absorb this essential vitamin the same way.
Why It’s Hard to Keep Your Vitamin D Levels Balanced
One detriment to getting all the vitamin D we need is our penchant for avoiding direct sunlight. We slather on sunblock, stay in the shade, and don’t go outside during the hottest time of the day. That’s all great for your skin’s health (and for helping to prevent sun damage and skin cancer), but it can mean that our vitamin D levels suffer.
For those of us in northern latitudes, it’s even harder to get the right dose of vitamin D. We have less access to the sun during colder seasons, and the sun isn’t as strong when we do get ourselves outside—and even then, we’re likely wearing big parkas and not getting direct sunlight on our skin.
People of color can also have additional trouble with vitamin D absorption. Skin with more pigmentation is usually a result of adaptation to high sun exposure, and in turn, can also be less efficient at creating vitamin D.
If you have any type of gut dysfunction (leaky gut, autoimmunity, SIBO, IBS, etc.), you’re also less likely to absorb nutrients well, vitamin D included. That’s why supplementation doesn’t always work.
On top of all that, if you choose vegetarianism or veganism, you might be more prone to low vitamin D levels. In order to produce vitamin D, your body needs cholesterol—and a plant-only diet can’t provide adequate amounts of that.
How to Manage Your Vitamin D Levels
If you’re concerned your vitamin D levels are too low, the first step is bloodwork. That will determine what your deficiencies are, and how much support you need. You’ll want to partner with your doctor to review your tests, and to provide guidance on which vitamin D route is best for you.
For some, direct sunlight can be the game-changer. Thirty minutes of direct sunlight (we suggest a brisk walk during high sun hours) can provide enough vitamin D for the average person. Use the dminder app on your smartphone to help you optimize your vitamin D levels based on your location, body type, and time of day, all while keeping you safe from skin damage with risk and warning reminders.
Vitamin D supplementation can also be a great next step. If your levels aren’t consistently or concerningly low, adding up to 2,000IUs of a vitamin D capsule is a simple option to boost your body. This isn’t a great option for vegans or vegetarians, because most vitamin D supplements are animal derived, so we’d also recommend adding ethically sourced fish or krill to your diet.
If your vitamin D is extremely low over an extended period of time, vitamin D injections might be for you. Sometimes supplements aren’t enough, especially if you’re one of those people with gut dysfunction or a genetic component that prevents optimal absorption. Injections bypass decreased gut absorption and provide a month’s worse of vitamin D in one day. It gradually dissipates into your system over time, helping to balance your levels, and improve your health.
The best plan of action to balance your vitamin D levels is to speak with your doctor about what’s right for you. If you’re interested in working with us on your vitamin D levels, or you know you have a deficiency, injections might be for you. We’re offering them for current patients only right now, but if you’re interested in learning more, reach out to us.
Dr. Cassie Wilder is a registered Naturopathic Medical Doctor (NMD) and founder of MIMC. Her passion is empowering her patients through education, understanding, and support through their healing journey. After graduating from Iowa State University with a Bachelors of Science in Kinesiology and Health, Dr. Wilder earned her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine & Health Sciences, a fully accredited and nationally recognized institution in Phoenix, AZ. During her clinical training, she received extensive hands-on training with many leading experts in the field of functional medicine and developed a passion for treating hormonal imbalances, thyroid disorders, cardiovascular concerns, and adrenal fatigue.