How to Get More Vitamin D

Two Methods:Increasing Your Vitamin D IntakeUnderstanding the Importance of Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a nutrient that can prevent a wide variety of chronic illnesses, including several types of cancer. However, most people are vitamin D-deficient, because most foods just aren't rich in it. The most abundant source of vitamin D is actually the sun, but extended sun exposure is dangerous for skin health. Maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D can be challenging, but through diet, careful sun exposure, and supplement use, you can reap the benefits of this important nutrient.

Method 1
Increasing Your Vitamin D Intake

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    Take vitamin D supplements. Although vitamin D is important for your health, it’s not found in abundance in the foods we eat.[1] As such, it’s not possible to get enough vitamin D through diet alone.[2] Although you should look for food products for some of your vitamin D, supplements are an important part of your health regimen for this scarce nutrient source. Vitamin D supplements are found in two forms over-the-counter: vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol ) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol).
    • Vitamin D3 is the form that is found naturally in fish and produced by the body when it metabolizes sunlight.[3] It’s also thought to be less toxic in large amounts than vitamin D2, though it’s the more powerful form and has more health benefits.
    • Most experts recommend vitamin D3 supplements over D2 ones.[4] Ask your health care professional for dosage and brand quality recommendations.
    • Make sure you a magnesium supplement along with your vitamin D. Magnesium is necessary for the absorption of vitamin D, but is depleted by the process. Taking vitamin D without increasing magnesium intake can lead to a deficiency.
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    Opt for vitamin D2 supplements if you are vegan. Vitamin D3 is more complete, but it is derived from animal products. Vegans and vegetarians may wish to avoid it, despite its health benefits. Vitamin D2 supplements, on the other hand, are produced synthetically using mold, and do not involve animal products at all.[5]
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    Improve your access to sunshine, with care. Although vitamin D is scarce in our food sources, it is abundant in sunlight. However, you have to strike a delicate balance between not enough and too much sunshine: you don’t want to burn or over-expose your skin. To find this balance, you can spend 10 to 20 minutes in the sun twice a week, with sunscreen on only your face. Alternately, you can spend 2-3 minutes in the sun several times a week, still with sunscreen on only your face. Either way, make sure not to bathe for an hour after sun exposure.
    • Be careful not to overexpose your skin to UV rays in sunlight. UV radiation causes skin cancer, resulting in an estimated 1.5 million cases in the US every year.[6] Avoid sunburns at all cost — not because they hurt, but because they damage skin cells in a manner that can result in cancerous growth.
    • Continue to use sunscreen for all other instances of sun exposure. You will likely still take in some vitamin D while wearing sunscreen, but its ability to protect the skin from harmful UV radiation also decreases vitamin D production.
    • Your skin doesn’t even have to tan for you to get enough vitamin D through sun exposure.
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    Be aware of factors that might affect vitamin D production from sun exposure.[7] Your proximity to the equator is also a factor; people who live closer to it will have stronger sun exposure than those who live closer to the northern and southern poles. Your natural skin color can also affect vitamin D production, as pale skin produces it more readily than darker-toned skin because of lower melanin content.
    • While you may not be able to change those factors, you can choose what time of day to expose yourself to the sun. Choose the midday hours, rather than early morning or evening ones. In the middle of the day, the sun is stronger, and you’ll produce more vitamin D.
    • Expose as much skin as possible. During those few minutes that you’re purposely laying out in the sun, don’t cover up with long pants and sleeves! The more skin you expose, the more vitamin D you’ll produce. However, use your judgment. If you live in an area with very strong sunlight, such practices might result in burning.
    • Be aware that sun exposure is still high even in full cloud coverage.
    • Your body stores vitamin D, so systematic exposure in the spring and summer can keep you safe all year.
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    Eat foods richer in vitamin D. While there’s not enough vitamin D in a normal diet to satisfy our needs, you should still try to get as much of it through food as possible.[8] The best natural source of vitamin D is fish, including salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines. If you can stomach it, cod liver oil is also a good source. Dairy products like egg yolks and cheese also have small amounts of vitamin D in them.[9]
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    Look for fortified food products. As awareness of the benefits of vitamin D spreads, more and more companies are adding vitamin D to foods that otherwise would not be good sources. Read nutrition labels to see whether or not a product has been fortified with vitamin D. The most common products are milks and breakfast cereals.
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    Limit your caffeine intake. Studies have shown that caffeine may interfere with vitamin D receptors and inhibit its absorption.[10][11] Because of its effect on vitamin D, caffeine can negatively affect calcium levels in the body, since vitamin D helps the absorption of calcium.[12] Avoid overconsumption of caffeine-heavy products like coffee, tea, and caffeinated soft drinks.
    • Try to take Vitamin D later in the day, such as lunch time, and not with your morning coffee or tea.
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    Use all of these suggestions together. There’s no one thing you can do to guarantee adequate vitamin D levels. Research suggests that supplements aren’t as effective a source of nutrients as food, and yet our food sources don’t provide enough vitamin D for optimal health. The only abundant natural source of vitamin D — the sun — is also incredibly dangerous in large amounts, and can cause cancer. The best approach is to combine all three methods — supplements, sunlight, and diet — to increase your vitamin D levels.

Method 2
Understanding the Importance of Vitamin D

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    Understand the health benefits of vitamin D. A wide variety of recent studies have shown vitamin D to be an effective preventative measure for a number of chronic diseases.[13] In particular, it’s known to increase increases the body’s ability to absorb calcium, preventing bone health issues from rickets to osteomalacia (bone softening) and osteoporosis. [14][15][16][17] Other studies suggest that raising your vitamin D levels can lower blood pressure, decrease the chances of having a heart attack or stroke, and reduce the risk of diabetes, autoimmune diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.[18][19]
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    Be aware of the dangers of vitamin D deficiency. It’s important to make a concerted effort to bring up vitamin D levels in your body because deficiencies have been linked to a wide variety of chronic illness. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to type 1 diabetes, chronic muscle and bone pain, and several types of cancer, including breast, colon, prostate, ovarian, esophageal, and lymphatic cancers.[20]
    • About 40-75% of people are vitamin D-deficient, largely because it’s not abundant in natural food sources and many people live in areas with insufficient sun exposure.[21] Furthermore, more recent awareness of the link between UV rays and cancer has increased the use of sunscreen, which lowers the production of vitamin D.
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    Know if you're at risk of vitamin D deficiency. Though 40-75% of people don't have enough vitamin D in their systems, those who fall into certain categories are at an even higher risk of deficiency. It's important to be aware of your risk, so you can take steps to track and maintain your vitamin D levels. At risk categories include:
    • People who suffer from gallimau free, or sun sickness. These are people to whom sunlight is toxic.
    • People who rarely venture outdoors,
    • People who are sun-phobic
    • People with poor nutrition resulting in extreme light sensitivity
    • Babies who are exclusively breast-fed
    • Those who suffer from a fat malabsorption disease
    • Those who wear head-to-toe covering clothing daily
    • The elderly, for whom skin absorption is less effective
    • People who are indoors all day — for example, in a nursing home, etc.
    • Some people with strict dietary regimes.
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    Get tested for vitamin D deficiency. Check to see if you insurance covers the blood test for vitamin D deficiency, called the 25(OH)D test or calcidiol test.[22] The doctor will take a blood sample from you, then send it off for lab analysis.
    • If insurance does not cover the calcidiol test, you can purchase at-home tests online.[23] While they are not inexpensive (around $50), they may be more affordable than going through a doctor without insurance coverage.
    • Vitamin D deficiency can be difficult to recognize, as it tends to mimic many other symptoms. Therefore, getting your vitamin D levels checked regularly is absolutely crucial.
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    Keep your vitamin D levels within the recommended range. When you get the results from your calcidiol test, you need to able to interpret them and adjust your lifestyle accordingly. The test’s results provide data in units of ng/mL in the U.S. (nanograms per milliliter) and in nmol/L (nanomoles per liter) in other parts of the world. What the test actually measures is the amount of calcidiol in your blood, which is a good indicator of vitamin D levels.[24]
    • According to the Endocrine Society, if your results come back lower than 20 ng/mL (50 nmol/L), you are vitamin D-deficient. A reading of 21-29 ng/mL (52.5–72.5 nmol/L) suggests you have insufficient, but not deficient amounts of vitamin D.[25]
    • If your results fall into deficient or insufficient ranges, adjust your diet, sun exposure, and supplement intake to boost your vitamin D levels.
    • Some people feel better with their vitamin D levels on the higher end of normal. Find the range that works best for you and keep your levels in check with supplementation and vitamin-D rich foods.


  • 30 minutes of sunlight per day is all that is needed to synthesize enough Vitamin D in the skin to maintain healthy levels.
  • Take greater care when exposing infants, toddlers and children to the sun. They should get sun exposure regularly but take the usual precautions for sun safety, including wearing hats and long-sleeved clothing.
  • Take advantage of the sun in the later part of the day, after you remove the sunscreen. Obviously this may be more difficult to do, as you will need to shower to remove the product; but it might be an option if you are, for example, exercising after work.
  • Take a Vitamin D3 supplement if you are in a low-sunlight region, such as the U.S. Pacific Northwest or if you work on the night shift. Doctors may recommend 4000 to 8000 IU per day, but consult your doctor for doses above 2000 IU.


  • As a fat-soluble vitamin, it is possible to overdose on vitamin D. This holds true for all fat-soluble vitamins: A,D,E and K. Maximum dosages should be less than 10,000 IU's per day of Vitamin D.
  • Complete cloud cover reduces UV energy by 50%; shade (including that produced by severe pollution) reduces it by 60%, but this does not mean that those sensitive to the sun are safe. There is such thing as a "Cloud Burn," which is a burn caused by the UV rays not filtered by clouds. UVB radiation does not penetrate glass, so exposure to sunshine indoors through a window does not produce vitamin D.
  • Vitamin D deficiency risks include:
    • Vitamin D Deficiency Syndrome (VDDS) is also known as Rickets. Rickets is a softening of bones in children potentially leading to fractures and deformity. Rickets can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea which will rapidly deprive the body of critical minerals.
    • Dental problems, muscle weakness (AKA Floppy Baby or Slinky Baby syndromes), green stick fractures, bowed legs, knock knees (AKA Windswept knees), major bone deformities in cranium, pelvis, and spine, and rejection of calcium causing Brittle Bone Disease are also major risks.
    • Mental illnesses such as depression or Alzheimer's.

Things You'll Need

  • Sunscreen if spending more than 20 minutes outdoors at any time
  • Vitamin D3 enriched foods
  • Vitamin D3 supplements

Sources and Citations

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Article Info

Categories: Dietary Supplements