By Jill Levy
Vitamin D stands out from other micronutrients because it’s one of the few vitamins that your body is able to produce all on its own. Also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” your skin is actually able to synthesize vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. However, unfortunately many adults and children are also thought to be lacking in this key nutrient, resulting in low vitamin D levels.
Not only do many people avoid spending too much time in direct sunlight these days, but vitamin D is found in very few food sources; therefore, experts tell us that it’s often necessary to take a vitamin D supplement to help meet your daily needs.
What is the best vitamin D supplement to take, and how do you know if you actually need one? Let’s take a look at what this vitamin does, how you can naturally boost your levels, and what to look for in a supplement.
Why You Need Vitamin D
Vitamin D is vital to several different aspects of health. Although it’s most well-known for its ability to strengthen the bones and boost calcium absorption, it’s also involved in supporting healthy immune function, a positive outlook and healthy weight management.
Because vitamin D is found in very few food sources — such as some dairy products, egg yolks, liver, fish and mushrooms— it can be difficult to meet your needs through your diet alone. Not only that, but many are also considered to be at a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency, including older adults, overweight individuals and those living in northern latitudes, due to poor absorption and low sunshine exposure.
Taking a vitamin D supplement is an easy and effective way to help meet your vitamin D requirement. In addition to helping to keep your level within a normal range, vitamin D supplementation has also been linked to a number of different health benefits — including support for bone health, cardiovascular function and healthy immune system function.
1. Supports Bone Health
Vitamin D plays an integral role in bone metabolism. In addition to increasing calcium absorption, vitamin D is also involved in the metabolism of phosphorus, another key mineral that supports bone health.
For this reason, taking a vitamin D and calcium supplement (in addition to a bone-healthy diet and lifestyle, including regular weight-bearing exercise) is often recommended for those at risk for bone loss-related issues that are associated with normal aging, including postmenopausal women.
2. Supports Healthy Immune System Function
If you want to help keep your immune system in tip-top shape,, you may want to consider adding a high-quality vitamin D supplement to your routine. Vitamin D is important for the function of immune cells and for supporting a generally healthy immune system.
3. Can Help Prevent a Shortfall
Taking a vitamin D supplement is one of the easiest and most effective ways to help maintain optimal vitamin D levels. Unfortunately, vitamin D shortfalls or even deficiencies are thought to be incredibly common, especially among older adults, those with darker skin and those with limited sun exposure.
4. Can Support Healthy Cardiovascular Function and a Healthy Body Weight
Experts believe that vitamin D levels tend to be lower in individuals who should be focusing on their cardiovascular health as well as those who are carrying around too much body weight.
In addition to an overall healthy diet and lifestyle, taking a calcium and vitamin D supplement can potentially help to support not only cardiovascular function, but a healthy body weight.
5. Supports A Positive Outlook
Ever notice that spending more time outdoors in the sun tends to lift your spirits? Vitamin D can have a powerful impact on your overall outlook; in fact it acts like a potent hormone in many ways because it is actually a hormone.
Therefore, keeping your levels within the normal range can be a smart way to support healthy energy levels and a positive mindset.
Types of Vitamin D Supplements
With all the vitamin D supplements on the market, it can feel overwhelming trying to select one that’s right for you. So what is the best vitamin D supplement to take?
Vitamin D2 and D3 are the two most common forms of vitamin D, found in both food sources and supplements. Besides the fact that vitamin D3 is found primarily in animal-derived foods and vitamin D2 is found in fortified foods and mushrooms, these two types of vitamin D are also metabolized differently in the body.
There’s reason to believe that vitamin D3 is generally more effective at increasing vitamin D levels in the body compared to vitamin D2, since it’s the more “active” and bioavailable form. Therefore, ideally you’ll want to look for a vitamin D supplement that contains vitamin D3, also known as cholecalciferol.
Ancient Nutrition’s Vitamin D supplement contains 5,000 IU of organic, probiotic-fermented vitamin D3 per serving. Additionally, it features multi-kingdom ingredients inspired by TCM (Traditional Chinese Method), such as bone broth and liver powder, along with 95 mcg of vitamin K.
These are combined with vitamin D to further support immune health, bone health and cardiovascular function. Our formula is made from real food sources and is made without fillers or additives, so it’s suitable for people following diets such as the paleo or keto diet.
Keep in mind that vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, so if your supplement doesn’t contain an oil, you should take your vitamin D with a meal that contains a source of fat to optimize absorption. A few slices of avocado, a handful of nuts or a square of dark chocolate can all help boost absorption.
Dosage and Uses
How much vitamin D should you take each day? The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin D varies based on age, but you should always consult your healthcare practitioner before beginning any dietary or supplement regimen.
The current guidelines for vitamin D needs are as follows:
- 400 international units (IU): infants 0–12 months
- 600 IU: children and adults 1–70 years, including women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
- 800 IU: adults over 70 years
- Oftentimes, the vitamin D supplement dose can exceed the RDA, and many recommend using a vitamin D supplement with 5,000 IU or more to ensure adequate blood levels. However, while taking a vitamin D supplement dose below 10,000 IU per day is unlikely to yield any symptoms of toxicity, taking high doses may negatively impact health over time, so it’s best to work with a doctor if supplementing at high doses.
Note that, although breast milk and formula both provide a small amount of vitamin D, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the use of a vitamin D supplement for infants who are breastfed or consuming less than one liter of formula per day. Administering a vitamin D supplement for babies is believed to support healthy growth and development.
Is it better to take vitamin D at night or in the morning? And can you take vitamin D on an empty stomach? Although there’s limited research on whether taking vitamin D at night or in the morning is more effective, taking it with a meal (especially one that contains some fat) is key to promoting proper absorption.
Who Should Take Vitamin D?
Vitamin D deficiency is estimated to be one of the most common nutritional deficiencies around the globe.
Older adults, vegans/vegetarians and those who get limited sun exposure, have darker skin or are overweight are all considered to be at a higher risk for deficiency. People who live in northern latitudes may also be at an increased risk since they tend not to spend lots of time outside. Older people make less vitamin D than younger people do when exposed to sunlight, plus some older people avoid being out in the sun altogether.
If you suspect that you may have a vitamin D deficiency, it’s best to talk to your doctor and get your blood levels tested to determine if supplementation is right for you. Since vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, it’s wise to get your levels checked regularly to make sure you’re not getting too much.
Based on your current level, your doctor can also help determine whether you need daily tablets or high-dose supplementation to help correct a deficiency as well as whether any other course of action is necessary.
Although there are many benefits associated with vitamin D, there are some vitamin D supplement side effects to consider as well.
For starters, taking very high doses over long periods of time can cause vitamin D levels to increase too much, which can result in some side effects. For this reason, it’s important to stick to the recommended dosage and use supplements only as directed by your healthcare professional
- Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that our body can make when our skin is exposed to the sun; however, it’s not abundant in most people’s diets. As a result, many people are prone to having low levels.
- This vitamin is essential for proper absorption and metabolism of calcium, phosphorus, and other nutrients. It helps to support bone health, healthy immune system function and cardiovascular function. It may also benefit your outlook and support a healthy body weight (in conjunction with a healthy diet and lifestyle, including regular exercise).
- Vitamin D acts like a potent hormone in the body. It comes in two forms: vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 — with D3 being the preferred form since it’s thought to be more bioavailable. Ancient Nutrients Vitamin D provides vitamin D3, in combination with vitamin K and botanicals, adaptogens and mushrooms inspired by traditional herbalism in order to support a healthy you.
Jill Levy has been with the Dr. Axe and Ancient Nutrition team for five years. She completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology from Fairfield University, followed by a certification as a Holistic Health Coach from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Jill takes a “non-diet” approach to health and really enjoys teaching others about mindful eating, intuitive eating and the benefits of eating real foods.