7 reasons why you may not be getting enough vitamin D

You already know vitamin D is important for healthy bones. And that a deficiency of this critical vitamin can contribute to cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, digestive disorders, depression, chronic pain…and more.

You also probably know even though your body can make its own vitamin D from the sun, deficiency is still rampant. Depending on which report you read, between 40 and 75 percent of Americans don’t get enough of this vital nutrient.

Of course, that big swing in percentages is just par for the course when it comes to vitamin D research. The medical literature is replete with confusion and misdirection about proper D dosages. Which makes it difficult for you—and your doctor—to know if you have a clinical deficiency.

Behind the confusing “D-bate” over D

I reported a couple of years ago about a major study published in the British Medical Journal that found that most people need vitamin D supplementation for a healthy mind and body. But that study was also accompanied by an “expert” editorial urging doctors not to recommend vitamin D supplementation for their patients.

If that weren’t confounding enough, a quasi-government panel recently reviewed thousands of studies showing the health benefits of vitamin D. They also looked at plenty of documentation about D deficiencies in the U.S. population. But they recommended no actual changes in Americans’ vitamin D nutritional practices.

Add to that the fact that most of the good dietary sources of vitamin D are foods that the government at one time or another has mistakenly told people to avoid. Egg yolks, cheese, and organ meats such as liver top the list. Even good-for-you oily fish like salmon may have only one-tenth the natural levels of vitamin D if farm raised (as are virtually all Atlantic salmon now) instead of wild-caught. (Look for Pacific or Alaska salmon.)

These faulty and conflicting government dietary and health recommendations can pose a dilemma for people who are simply trying to follow a healthy lifestyle.

In fact, the whole mess reminds me of the title of the prize-winning novel Confederacy of Dunces. But in this case, we seem to be beset by a “Conspiracy of D-unces” when it comes to vitamin D.  Why else would big pharma and the hospital-based healthcare system conspire to keep people unhealthy by steering them away from safe, affordable, natural approaches like vitamin D supplementation?

To help you navigate all of this idiocy, I’ve assembled a checklist of the warning signs you’re not getting enough vitamin D. If even one of these items applies to you, it’s a good idea to increase your vitamin D3 supplementation to my recommended dosage of 10,000 IU a day.

Your “D-ficiency” warning checklist  

  • You’re a vegan or vegetarian. If you avoid meat or dairy, you likely aren’t getting enough vitamin D from diet alone.
  • You work indoors all day. Some researchers say you only need 10 minutes of sun per day to allow your skin to make healthy levels of vitamin D. You could accomplish this by going outside on your lunch break—although, as you’ll see in the next step, you’ll probably be overdressed.
  • You’re too modest when going outdoors. You need to expose about 25 percent of your skin—without sunscreen—to make enough vitamin D. And even then, that won’t work if…
  • You live north of Atlanta between November and March. The sun is not strong enough in these locations in the winter to allow your skin to make any vitamin D. Even in the summer at these latitudes, you’re making less D than people who live more to the south.
  • You are a pregnant or a nursing mother. You may not be getting enough D for both you and your baby’s health.
  • You have a body mass index over 30. Vitamin D is fat soluble. So the more body fat you have, the more D is stored in your fat tissue, rather than circulating in your blood to get to the organs and cells where it is needed, including your brain (see the article on page 1of this issue for more on vitamin D’s role in the brain).
  • You avoid commercially prepared beverages and foods. While this is a healthy practice, it also means you’re not getting the vitamin D fortification typically found in processed foods like cereals or breads.
  • You’re older than 72. Your skin’s ability to make vitamin D declines after this age.

Simple steps you can take to get more D

If you have any of these warning signs, ask your doctor to test your blood levels of vitamin D.

You may run into pushback because most doctors don’t know much about nutrition. And those who do may still be biased against the use of dietary supplements “in principle” (versus based on the science).

But because vitamin D now has so much publicity, more and more doctors will make an exception to test blood levels and prescribe D supplements. Of course, they may not prescribe enough, based on the woefully inadequate RDAs for vitamin D.

I’ve studied the science (unlike the government, apparently), and the latest research shows that virtually everyone needs to supplement with 10,000 IU of vitamin D3 a day in order to ensure they have adequate levels of this vital nutrient in their bloodstream at all times. I recommend getting your D in an easy-to-use liquid form that can be added to any beverage.

Please don’t wait any longer. If you haven’t already, now is the time to get started with vitamin D supplementation.