How to Naturally Optimize Your Vitamin D Levels by Dr. Joseph Mercola

How to Naturally Optimize Your Vitamin D Levels by Dr. Joseph Mercola

Posted by Lori Shemek; January 23, 2014

Guest Post by Dr. Joseph Mercola: Research over the years has uncovered the importance of vitamin D. Unfortunately, a majority of the United States population is deficient in this nutrient.

The good thing is it can be very easy to raise your levels of vitamin D because of the many available options available. The most effective way to optimize your vitamin D levels is through sun exposure, while using a safe tanning bed comes as a close second. Your body is designed get your dose of vitamin D from the sun.

A number of people are deficient in vitamin D because they rely too  much on vitamin D-fortified foods. Although oral supplementation is an alternative to sun exposure and tanning beds, it is significantly inferior to sun-derived vitamin D.

The Pros and Cons of Oral Vitamin D

Like with any nutrient, vitamin D can be found in certain foods, but only in small amounts. Plant sources of vitamin D only provide vitamin D2, a less effective form of vitamin D. On the other hand, animal-based sources offer vitamin D3, the type of vitamin D that is produced in your body. Dietary sources fortified with vitamin D, such as milk and cereals, may seem like an ideal addition to your diet. However, refined or commercial products often contain synthetic vitamins and minerals that are lacking the essential micronutrients they claim to contain. They may also have other artificial ingredients that can cause imbalances in your body. Below are some of the most common dietary sources of vitamin D:

  1. Fish – Examples of fish sources that contain vitamin D3 are salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines. One of the disadvantages of eating fish, though, is that there is a large chance of contamination. Commercial seafood contains impurities like mercury and industrial waste. When eating seafood, make sure it comes from a reliable source that catches their fish in a sustainable fashion and one that guarantees their fish to have either a low amount of contaminants or none at all.
  2. Egg yolks – Even if your eggs come from pastured hens, they may still not contain the appropriate amount of vitamin D that is needed to optimize your levels. One large egg yolk only contains 41 international units (IUs) of vitamin D. Your body needs approximately 8000 IUs of vitamin D daily to raise serum levels to healthy range.
  3. Milk –  Since 1933, US dairy processors have been fortifying pasteurized milk with synthetic vitamin D. About 98 percent of the US milk supply has approximately 400 IUs of vitamin D per quart. Regardless if they use vitamin D2 or vitamin D3, milk does not contain enough vitamin D to get your levels in the optimal range by itself.

Oral supplementation is one method you can explore. But make sure you take vitamin D3, and not a vitamin D2 supplement.

However, one problem associated with a vitamin D supplement is the possibility of overdosing. It is crucial to have your levels tested using the 25(OH)D test, also called 25-hydroxyvitamin D test, to know whether your serum levels are within the optimal range, which is between 50 to 70 ng/ml.

In addition, the vitamin D in supplements is fat-soluble. This means that you need add more healthy fats to your diet to maximize the nutrient’s absorption.

Many sources state that cod liver oil is a good source of vitamin D. Nevertheless, health experts do not recommend using cod liver oil as a source of vitamin D, as it is also rich in vitamin A, which may lower the effectiveness of vitamin D.

Healthy Sun Exposure: The Best Source of Vitamin D

As mentioned before, your body is designed to produce sufficient amounts of vitamin D3 by means of sunlight exposure. Once your skin gets exposed to the sun, vitamin D3 synthesis begins.

Unlike fat-soluble vitamin D from supplements, vitamin D obtained from the sun is water-soluble. It can travel freely in the bloodstream without any additional dietary requirements. In addition to this, there is no danger of overdosing from sun exposure, as your body automatically stops producing vitamin D3 as soon as it has received an ample amount of sunlight.

How long you should spend out in the sun depends on the color of your skin. You should only stay out in the sun until your skin turns the slightest pink. For fair-skinned people, this will only be about 10-15 minutes.

As previously mentioned, using a safe tanning bed can be an alternative to getting sun exposure. This is ideal for individuals who live in regions that don’t receive regular sunlight throughout the year. Opt for tanning beds with electronic ballasts, as those that use magnetic ballasts emit electromagnetic fields (EMFs).

If these two options are not available, that is when you should consider taking an oral vitamin D3.  

About the Author
Adrienne R. is a writer for and has written several nutrition articles. She is currently working on a report about the importance of vitamin C.