Vitamin D: Check Your Levels, Avoid Illness

All summer long as sun hits our skin, our body transforms the sunlight into vitamin D. Our body stores much of that vitamin D, but as we stay holed up in the winter or face the cold outside in hats, scarves, and mittens, our vitamin D levels decline. Low levels of vitamin D may wreak havoc on our brains and we may develop depression. Low vitamin D may play a role in cancer as well.
Should you take a vitamin D supplement to avoid disease?
As with all nutrients, our vitamin D status is individualized. You may not need vitamin D at all and supplementation may cause a vitamin D overload. If you have lighter skin, you tend to make more. If you have more sun exposure, you make more. If you are obese, you need more. If you do not eat foods high in it or fortified with it, you need more. The surest way to know if you are low in vitamin D is to test for it.
Check Your Vitamin D LevelsIt has not always been possible to get a clinical test of your vitamin D status. Doctors had to rely on your body signs of deficiency which is a blunt measure at best. Today’s technology allows us to get a reading of our vitamin D levels. In fact, such tests are easily ordered from the Internet and administered right in our own homes by putting a spot of our blood on the test kit paper. We send in the test kit for a vitamin D reading and receive our results in the mail. We can use that reading to determine, first, if we are deficient and would benefit from supplementation and, second, to track our progress after we have begun a supplementation regimen.
Baseline Vitamin D TestYou will receive your baseline vitamin D results with some basic information about what vitamin D levels are “normal.” There is actually a great deal of controversy over what a “normal” level is. Typically the labs that administer the vitamin D tests are on the aggressive side. Many doctors will be on the more conservative side suggesting that a low test result is actually a “normal” one.
As consumers, it is difficult to know which interpretation to follow, but history appears to be supporting the side of more aggressive supplementation. Government recommendations on daily intake of vitamin D is going up, not down.
In any case, follow the recommendations from your lab report and make sure you stay out of the “low” end of the spectrum.
Track Your LevelsAfter your initial test, you want to continue tracking your vitamin D levels, every three months to start, then every six months to one year. You track your levels to make sure your supplementation regime is effective and also to ensure that you do not take too much vitamin D.
Vitamin D in large doses is toxic. During the summer months, in particular, if you are in the sun a lot, you could end up with vitamin D overload if you continue your supplementation. When sunshine hits your skin, you body produces vitamin D. You cannot overdose on vitamin D from sunshine — your body will make enough for your current needs and store some for the winter time. If you are taking a supplement on top of sun bathing, you could end up with too much. Do track your vitamin D status to avoid any future problems.

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