It’s the beginning of December, the minutes of daylight are getting shorter every day and our seasonal depression is getting stronger.
How much Vitamin D?
More than I thought.
Since writing about Vitamin D, sunshine and your brain this summer, I’ve been reading more about Vitamin D deficiency and what current research is finding. It’s scary. And it’s fixable: Get more sunshine and supplement with more Vitamin D.
Stored sunshine or light deprivation?
Our bodies store the sunshine vitamin. After an idyllic summer of lounging on the beach, playing in the sun or working outside in sunlight gardens, we head into the dark seasons with an optimal reserve of Vitamin D. Less time outdoors and less sunshine depletes our reserve until we’re able to get outside again the following spring and summer.
Wait – not the way you spent your summer? If, like most of us, you spent your summer working in an office, factory or home – behind glass windows, wearing clothing, using sunblock or exposed to any air pollution – you are likely light deprived. Because most of us live most of our lives indoors, most of us suffer from chronic light deprivation. Our Vitamin D deficiencies are evidence.
That means that after a sunshine-poor summer we’re going into the fall and winter needing to not only replenish (therapeutic dose) our body’s reserve of this vital vitamin, but also get enough Vitamin D for daily functioning (maintenance dose). And, as the days remain gray through January and February we may need to boost our Vitamin D level as well.
Forget the standard dosage
Here’s what I’ve learned: Forget the standard recommended dosage of 400 IU/day. A healthy adult needs 5,000 IU/day to maintain a healthy, optimal Vitamin D level. Here’s what the Vitamin D Council says:
How much vitamin D you need varies with age, body weight, percent of body fat, latitude, skin coloration, season of the year, use of sunblock, individual variation in sun exposure, and—probably—how ill you are. As a general rule, old people need more than young people, big people need more that little people, heavier people need more than skinny people, northern people need more than southern people, dark-skinned people need more than fair-skinned people, winter people need more than summer people, sunblock lovers need more than sunblock haters, sun-phobes need more than sun worshipers, and ill people may need more than well people.
Determine your D level
Over the age of 1, 1,000 IU vitamin D3 per every 25 pounds of body weight per day. Well adults and adolescents should take 5,000 IU vitamin D3 per day. Around 2–3 months later have a 25-hydroxyvitamin D blood test.
Here’s another helpful chart in calculating how much Vitamin D you should supplement. It takes into account your body mass and the amount of sun you receive and recommends a lower dosage than the Vitamin D Council. This site,Vitamin D3 – Cholecalciferol, created by a health-conscious gentleman in South Africa, is a compilation of current Vitamin D research and recommendations.
Our natural D production
If these amounts freak you out, consider this: After 20-30 minutes of sun exposure (without sunblock), our bodies produce 10,000 IU of Vitamin D. That natural production level, 10,000 IU, is considered by the Vitamin D Council to be the upper limit for safe daily Vitamin D supplementation, which is still far, far below what is considered to be a toxic level. Actual Vitamin D toxicity is considered rare, and the Vitamin D Council says hypersensitivity is more likely.
Don’t guess – test
There’s really no need to guess. Have a blood test. I like what the Vitamin D Council recommends:
Start supplementing with the vitamin D before you have the blood test. Then adjust your dose so your 25(OH)D level is between 50–80 ng/ml (125–200 nmol/L), summer and winter. But remember, these are conservative dosage recommendations. Most people who avoid the sun—and virtually all dark-skinned people—will have to increase their dose once they find their blood level is still low, even after two months of the above dosage, especially in the winter.
If, for whatever reason, you don’t want to have your Vitamin D level tested by your doctor, the Vitamin D Council offers an at-home version of the 25(OH) D blood test, (non-affiliate link) the correct test for Vitamin D. With the at-home test you can check your level before you begin supplementing, during the winter and again in spring.
I haven’t had my blood tested yet. But given my age, lack of sun exposure, latitude and body mass, I started taking 5200 IU a couple weeks ago – 200 IU with my multi-vitamin plus an additional 5000IU. I should be a good test subject because I’ve never taken supplemental D.
I’m wondering if I should increase it because I didn’t get outside as much as I would have liked this summer. I will say that I’m sleeping better and I haven’t yet encountered that steep downward slide that usually accompanies the gray days – I am using my light therapy lamp religiously every morning.
In my next article I’ll discuss why light therapy and Vitamin D is the one-two punch to knock out seasonal depression.
Are you taking Vitamin D to ward off seasonal depression? How has it worked for you? Tell us in the comments, and if you like this article and have friends and family that suffer from the winter blues, please hit the Facebook Like button.