How much vitamin D do I need?

Vitamin D written in the sand

Vitamin D has been in the news a lot lately. While much of the research is preliminary and does not show causal relationships, Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with a number of health problems. Sun exposure is the best way to get Vitamin D, but that carries risks of sun burns and skin cancer. Since Summer is here, let’s talk about just how much sun exposure is necessary for proper Vitamin D levels.

First off, the body makes vitamin D when skin is directly exposed to the sun outdoors. It can also be found in some foods. Vitamin D plays an important role in building strong bones by helping the body absorb calcium from food and supplements. Vitamin D is found in cells throughout the body and is vital for many other health functions, as well. It participates in the nerve and muscle function, as well as in the function of the immune system and in the reduction of inflammation.

So how much sun exposure is enough? During the warmest months, 5 to 30 minutes of exposure between 10 AM and 3 PM several times a week to the face, arms, legs, or back may be enough to produce sufficient vitamin D. You don’t have to spend hours by the pool for this. It is also very important to have your natural body oils present, so don’t shower right before you sunbathe. You also cannot have on any sunscreen. However, excessive exposure to the sun increases the risk of skin cancer. When out in the sun for more time than your Vitamin D soak-up, wear protective clothing and apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 8 or more. People who avoid the sun, who cover their bodies with sunscreen or clothing, or who live in the northern half of the United States during the winter months should include good sources of vitamin D in their diets or take a supplement. Vitamin D in American diets is found mostly in fortified foods (check your labels) but fatty fish such as salmon and tuna, as well as fish liver oils, are among the best sources.

If you are considering Vitamin D supplementation, it is important to consult with our expert doctors and have your blood levels checked. Supplementation is not without risks and is the only cause of Vitamin D toxicity. When amounts of vitamin D in the blood become too high, it can lead to toxicity—nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, constipation, weakness and weight loss. In addition, by raising blood levels of calcium, too much vitamin D can cause confusion, disorientation and problems with heart rhythm. Excess vitamin D can also damage the kidneys. Like most dietary supplements, vitamin D may interact or interfere with other medicines or supplements.

Enjoy the beautiful Summer and get your Vitamin D basking done safely!

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