How to Increase Your Vitamin D Levels

Janis

By Janis | Updated January 8, 2024

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for maintaining optimal health. Commonly known as the “sunshine vitamin,” it plays a vital role in various bodily functions, such as supporting immune health, bone growth, and cell division. 

Despite its importance, many people don’t receive sufficient amounts due to limited sun exposure or diet restrictions. Increasing your vitamin D intake is easier than you might think, as you can do this by making certain lifestyle changes or taking supplements. 

Make sure to consult your doctor before making significant changes to your diet, and read on for some effective tips on boosting your vitamin D levels.

Vitamin D and Its Types

Vitamin D is a crucial nutrient that comes in multiple forms, including D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol).

Vitamin D2

Vitamin D2, also known as ergocalciferol, is one of the two main forms of vitamin D essential for human health.

It is primarily derived from plant sources and fortified foods, playing a crucial role in calcium absorption and bone health.

Vitamin D3

Vitamin D3, known as cholecalciferol, is the other primary form of vitamin D vital for our well-being. It’s predominantly sourced from animal products and synthesized in our skin when exposed to sunlight, aiding in calcium regulation and immune function.

Why Is Vitamin D Important?

Vitamin D is more than just a byproduct of sun exposure. This powerhouse nutrient plays a pivotal role in numerous bodily functions, making its optimal levels a cornerstone of overall health. Here are the benefits of Vitamin D:

Healthy Bones

Vitamin D plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy bones. It helps your body absorb calcium, which is essential for proper bone development. 

Without sufficient Vitamin D, our bodies struggle to assimilate calcium from dietary sources. This deficiency subsequently manifests as weakened bone structures, making them prone to brittleness and fractures.

In adults, a prolonged lack of Vitamin D can precipitate conditions like osteoporosis, where the bones become porous and fragile, heightening the risk of breaks and injuries.

Strong Immune System

Vitamin D is more than just a bone-enhancing nutrient; it’s a key player in fortifying the immune system. 

This essential vitamin aids in warding off infections and diseases by modulating the immune response.

Scientific studies have indicated its protective role against formidable conditions such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and debilitating autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Prevention of Long-Term Diseases

Vitamin D may also have a role in preventing chronic diseases, such as certain types of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. However, more research is needed to fully understand these relationships.

How to Increase Vitamin D Levels

Typically, a daily dose of 400-800 IU (10-20 mcg) is recommended for the general population to maintain healthy vitamin D levels. 

A maximum daily dose of 1,000-4,000 IU (25-100mcg) is considered safe for those being treated for vitamin D deficiency prescribed over a period of time. Here’s how to achieve this:

Spend Time Under the Sun

The skin produces vitamin D when exposed to sunlight.

UVB rays from the sun activate a form of cholesterol in our skin, converting it to vitamin D3. 

While overexposure can lead to skin issues, moderate sun exposure of between 5 to 30 minutes, two to three times a week, especially between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., can boost vitamin D levels.

It’s a natural, cost-free method. However, factors like skin type, location, season, and time of day can affect the amount of UVB you receive.

Consume Fatty Fish and Seafood

Fatty fish and seafood are natural, rich sources of vitamin D. Salmon, mackerel, sardines, and herring, for instance, contain high amounts. A mere 100g (3.5oz) serving of the mentioned fish foods contains around 210-1000 IU of vitamin D.

Regular consumption can considerably elevate one’s vitamin D intake. Besides, these fish are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which offer numerous other health benefits.

Oysters and shrimp, while having lower amounts, also contribute to increasing vitamin D levels.

Eat More Mushrooms

Mushrooms are one of the few plant sources that contain vitamin D and offer variety in your dishes. When exposed to sunlight or ultraviolet light, they synthesize vitamin D2, a variant different from the D3 found in animals. 

However, not all mushrooms produce the same amount; wild maitake mushrooms and UV-exposed portobello mushrooms are among the richest. Including these in your diet can be a great vegetarian or vegan option for boosting vitamin D.

Include Eggs in Your Meals

Egg yolks are another excellent source of vitamin D. Chickens that roam outside in the sunlight produce more vitamin D, which then gets deposited into their yolks.

Consequently, free-range or pasture-raised eggs typically contain higher vitamin D levels compared to conventionally raised ones. Thus, incorporating eggs, especially from chickens raised outdoors, can enhance your dietary intake of vitamin D.

Choose Enriched Foods

Many commercial foods are fortified with vitamin D to ensure the population receives adequate amounts. These include milk, orange juice, cereals, and certain plant-based milks like almond and soy milk.

These foods are especially important for those who have limited sun exposure or dietary sources of vitamin D. Regular consumption can help maintain and elevate vitamin D levels.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Vitamin D is fat-soluble. Excessive body fat can trap the vitamin, reducing its availability to the body. Maintaining a healthy weight ensures optimal absorption and utilization of vitamin D.

Those who are overweight or obese may need higher vitamin D intakes to achieve the same blood levels as those of average weight. Hence, keeping a balanced weight can enhance the effectiveness of all vitamin D sources.

Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine

Excessive alcohol and caffeine can interfere with the liver’s ability to activate vitamin D, making it less effective. The liver plays a crucial role in converting ingested vitamin D to its active form.

Overconsumption of alcohol or caffeine can reduce the liver’s efficiency, thus hindering optimal vitamin D activation. Moderation in consumption ensures that vitamin D metabolism remains uncompromised.

Try a UV Lamp

In regions with limited sunlight, especially during winter, UV lamps can be a solution. UVB lamps emit a UVB spectrum, helping the skin produce vitamin D. They’re particularly useful for those with limited outdoor time or living in higher latitudes.

However, care should be taken to follow guidelines and recommendations to avoid overexposure, as excessive UVB can be harmful.

Consider Vitamin D Supplements

Vitamin D supplements serve as a direct and concentrated source of this vital nutrient, making them an effective way to enhance and maintain adequate levels in the body.

The primary reason they’re effective is that they bypass the need for sunlight or specific dietary sources, providing a direct dose of either vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) or D3 (cholecalciferol).

Of the two types, D3 is chemically identical to the form of vitamin D produced by the body when exposed to sunlight. Hence, it’s often considered more potent and efficient in raising blood levels of the vitamin.

By understanding and incorporating these methods, one can ensure optimal vitamin D status, promoting overall health and well-being.

When to Seek Help?

Vitamin D deficiency can manifest with various symptoms, including fatigue, muscle weakness, and bone pain. 

You may also experience mood changes, such as depression or irritability. Additionally, compromised immune function, frequent infections, and slower wound healing can be indicative of inadequate vitamin D levels. 

Skin issues like psoriasis and hair loss may also be associated with vitamin D deficiency. 

Recognizing these symptoms is crucial, as addressing a deficiency early can prevent more severe health complications. If you suspect you have a vitamin D deficiency, consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and guidance.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the top foods high in vitamin D?

Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and tuna are some examples of great Vitamin D sources.

Other options include egg yolks and beef liver, as well as fortified foods, such as milk, orange juice, and cereals.

What are the symptoms of vitamin D3 deficiency?

Symptoms of vitamin D3 deficiency can include fatigue, depression, muscle pain, bone pain, and frequent infections.

If you experience these symptoms, consult your healthcare provider.

Which vegetables are good sources of vitamin D?

Unfortunately, most vegetables are not rich in vitamin D.

However, some mushrooms like maitake, shiitake, and chanterelles contain small amounts of vitamin D when exposed to sunlight or UV light.

How can I increase both vitamin D and B12 levels?

To increase vitamin D and B12 levels simultaneously, consume more fish, eggs, and dairy products, which are good sources of both vitamins.

Alternatively, take supplements specifically designed to provide both of these nutrients.

What are the signs of low vitamin D in females?

Signs of low vitamin D in females are similar to those in males and may include fatigue, muscle pain, bone pain, depression, and frequent infections.

Some research suggests a link between low vitamin D and hormonal issues in women, so it’s important to consult your doctor if you suspect a deficiency.

How can vitamin D and calcium levels be boosted together?

Eat foods rich in these nutrients, such as dairy products, fortified foods, and leafy green vegetables.

Regular sunlight exposure and exercise can also help maintain healthy levels of both vitamin D and calcium. Consult your healthcare provider for personalized guidance.