Did you know that between 75 and 90% of Americans are vitamin D deficient? And rates soar higher at this time of year, due to lack of sunlight and less time spent outside in much of the US.
That’s not just problematic. It’s downright scary.
Here’s why. Science has long held that there is a link between vitamin D deficiency and seasonal colds, flu, and upper respiratory infections. In fact, some doctors will tell you that the #1 cause of those infections is actually D3 deficiency.
But now, the warnings are more dire. You may have heard there is a link between vitamin D deficiency and Covid-19.
Although research is far from conclusive on the topic, there is good reason to believe that vitamin D helps prevent Covid infection, lessens its severity, and leads to better outcomes and survival rates.
According to some research and medical authorities, higher levels of vitamin D are associated with lower risk of Covid infection, as well as lower risk of severe disease outcomes. And there is reason to believe that the link is causal, not just correlative, meaning that vitamin D is the reason for improved outcomes.
That’s enough to tell me what I really need to know.
Too much vitamin D, to the point where it reaches toxicity, is very uncommon, and impossible through diet and sun exposure alone. So it’s better err on the side of increasing vitamin D levels, particularly until we have conclusive evidence about the link between Covid and vitamin D.
Based on what we know about other cold and flu viruses, we do not want to find ourselves as part of that 75 to 90% of American adults who are deficient.
Those aren’t the only consequences either – simply the most urgent ones. Vitamin D deficiency is also associated with:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Weak or brittle bones
- Autoimmune diseases
- Rick of falling in older adults
- Increased risk of infection
- Multiple sclerosis
- Certain types of cancer, including colon, prostate, and breast
You don’t want anything to do with that list if you can avoid it!
How do you know if you’re vitamin D deficient?
There is a blood test that can be performed to diagnose a vitamin D deficiency, but the tricky thing about it is that most people who have low levels of vitamin D experience no signs or symptoms. That may be one reason deficiency is so common.
Further, symptoms adults do experience are similar to many other deficiencies, including that of magnesium: fatigue, muscle cramps or weakness, and changes in mood. So the best course of action is to assume you need more vitamin D.
How to Prevent Vitamin D Deficiency
There are 3 ways to boost your vitamin D levels, and I recommend you aim for a combination of all 3. As we will discuss, it’s difficult to get enough vitamin D from food sources alone, especially if you’re a vegetarian. And while some sun exposure is good for you, too much increases your risk of skin cancer.
So aiming for a bit of sun, some D-rich foods in your diet, and a D3 supplement is your best bet.
Source #1. Sunlight
Unique among all vitamins, vitamin D is the only one that you can get just from stepping outside into the sunlight. Your body produces vitamin D when it’s exposed to ultraviolet rays.
It’s a good idea to aim for at least 15 minutes of sun exposure at least 3 days per week. Ideally, you’ll spend that time engaged in physically activity rather than sunbathing.
If you live near us in New York, or anywhere that doesn’t get year-around sun, it can be tough to get enough UV-B exposure throughout the winter. Amazingly, people with fairer skin tones actually store up vitamin D during the summer to keep levels consistent throughout the year.
The darker your skin tone, the more sun exposure you need to get sufficient amounts of vitamin D.
Source #2. Diet
Unlike most vitamins, few foods contain vitamin D. It would be difficult to get a sufficient amount from food alone, especially if you eat a mostly plant-based diet.
If you are a vegetarian or vegan, make sure your nut milk is fortified with vitamin D and I recommend you use a supplement (keep reading) in consultation with your health care provider, as always.
Good food sources of vitamin D3 include:
- Wild-caught salmon
- Almond or coconut milk fortified with vitamin D
- Coconut milk yogurt fortified with vitamin D (choose low sugar)
- Egg yolk – if you are going to eat eggs, which are acidic, do not skip the yolk!
Source #3. Supplements
Vitamin D3 is available as a supplement in both tablet and liquid form. And it comes at the recommendation of not just me, but also Dr. Anthony Fauci, who takes D3 supplements himself.
I highly recommend you go with the liquid form, as it is higher quality typically and more bioavailable. I also recommend choosing one with extra virgin olive oil.
One note just for vegans, D3 is typically sourced from animals. D2 supplements are vegan, but they are less bio-available than D3, so make the best choice for you and your values and health.
And don’t forget – this is not just important for you. Make sure the whole family is supplementing with vitamin D, especially elderly relatives and kids because they may not be eating many of the foods that are high in vitamin D. Best to keep their immunity strong right now!
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