On occasion we have participants who experience a lower than expected vitamin D level. In this blog we will explore possible causes of a low or slow to rise vitamin D response.
1. UVB exposure
If you’re relying more heavily on sun exposure (or indoor tanning) for vitamin D, not exposing enough skin, high sunscreen use, or lack of mid-day (10 am – 2 pm) exposure will limit vitamin D production. Environmental factors such as smog and cloud cover or residing in a higher latitude will also reduce exposure to UVB radiation. Additionally, the amount of melanin in the skin influences vitamin D production. Someone with more melanin (darker skin) might need 30 minutes in the sun to achieve the same production of vitamin D that someone with less melanin (lighter skin) will achieve in 10 minutes. While some people can achieve very high levels (~70 ng/ml) of vitamin D through sun exposure alone, others cannot achieve these levels without supplemental vitamin D.
2. Dietary intake of vitamin D
Certain foods that have naturally occurring vitamin D (e.g. fish, meat, and eggs) or are fortified with vitamin D (e.g. milk and other dairy products, some orange juice and cereals) can impact vitamin D levels. Reduced consumption of these foods many lower vitamin D levels. Additionally, some foods contain vitamin D2 (not D3) such as mushrooms and some fortified foods (e.g. rice milk and soy milk) and while our body can use this form, it isn’t as effective as vitamin D3. Further, the amount of vitamin D available in food is rather small compared to what most people need to achieve a blood level of at least 40 ng/ml (e.g. salmon has ~450 IU/serving and fortified milk has ~120 IU/cup).
3. Vitamin D co-factors and competitors
The intake of other nutrients has been shown to impact vitamin D levels. For example, a lack of key vitamin D co-factors such as magnesium, vitamin K, boron, and zinc can reduce vitamin D adsorption and production. On the other hand, a high intake of certain vitamins that compete with vitamin D, such as Vitamin A in the form of retinol or retinyl palmitate (not beta-carotene), can cause a reduction in vitamin D levels. This form of vitamin A is found in food from animal sources (especially liver) and some supplements. Also, some drugs including statins, prednisone and weight-loss drugs can block vitamin D.
4. Time of supplement intake
Since vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, taking it with a meal that contains fat can increase adsorption. Also, adding a probiotic supplement can help with digestion in general and improve absorption of vitamin D.
5. Demographic characteristics
With increased age comes a reduced ability to absorb vitamin D though the skin and a reduction in the kidney’s ability to convert vitamin D to its active form. Also, smokers and those with a high BMI tend to have lower levels.
6. Medical conditions
A recent illness or injury may result in a lower vitamin D level. Also, digestive conditions such as irritable bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, leaky gut, or celiac disease can limit the absorption of vitamin D in the gut. Those with diseases of the liver (e.g. fatty liver) or pancreas, who have had their gallbladder removed, or who have had bariatric surgery bypassing the small intestine are more likely to have trouble absorbing or metabolizing vitamin D. For these individuals, an increased dosage or other vitamin D metabolites may be needed (please consult with your physician if this is the case).
If you have been consistently taking the same supplemental dose of vitamin D and experience a lower than expected vitamin D level, it’s possible that a change in diet, behavior, health, or the environment over the prior few months could have reduced your levels. Or, if you are having difficulty increasing your levels, try increasing your dose, taking it with your largest meal, and optimizing vitamin D co-factors to improve your levels.
To help you track your supplement use and nutrient levels, GrassrootsHealth has created an online tracking system called myData-myAnswers. For each specific supplement, you can track what days you take it, what time of the day, if it was with a meal, and many other details. This will help you know your true supplemental intake and what patterns of use work for you to reach and maintain optimum nutrient levels. Check it out today!
What Does it Take YOU to Get Your D to 40 ng/ml (100 nmol/L)?Did you know your health could be greatly affected by making sure you have a vitamin D level of at least 40 ng/ml (100 nmol/L)? Help us help you.
STEP 1 - Do you know what your vitamin D level is? If not, be sure to test today to find out.
STEP 2 – Determine your target level. Are you at your target level? Experts recommend a level of at least 40-60 ng/ml (100-150 nmol/L).
STEP 3 – Need to boost your level? Use the D*calculator to see how much vitamin D it may take to reach your target. Opt for the Loading Dose for a quicker boost.
STEP 4 – Optimize how your body absorbs and utilizes vitamin D with co-nutrients and these simple steps.
STEP 5 – Re-Test! This is an important step to make sure you have reached your target level, and to ensure you are not taking too much! Re-testing after 3-4 months is recommended.
STEP 6 – Adjust, Repeat…
Give your immune system the nutrients it needs to support a healthy you and protect yourself from unnecessary diseases, especially COVID-19.
The first Randomized Controlled Trial on vitamin D and COVID-19 has shown a 96% lower risk of ICU admission for those receiving vitamin D (as 25(OH)D to quickly boost vitamin D blood levels) along with the standard treatment, compared to those receiving standard treatment alone.
These results support many previous observational studies showing a relationship between vitamin D levels and intake and COVID-19 severity.
GrassrootsHealth Nutrient Research Institute has launched the new Immune Boost project with the use of our myData-myAnswers nutrient health system that nearly 15,000 people are already using for their health. Specific markers that influence immune health are suggested for testing as part of this project including:
- Vitamin D
- Omega-3 Index
- Essential elements magnesium, selenium, and zinc
Our goal is to demonstrate how one can use the Nutrient Research Model established by Dr. Robert Heaney to show the effect of vitamin D serum levels of at least 40 ng/ml (100 nmol/L) on risk reduction for all ethnicities in the population. Status and intake of other nutrients will also be analyzed for any type of relationship to immune status and symptom severity. Join the project today!
Please let us know if you're interested in helping sponsor this project.
Through GrassrootsHealth Nutrient Research Institute, you can also test your essential elements magnesium, copper, zinc and selenium, toxins such as lead, mercury and cadmium, as well as your omega-3 levels, inflammation levels and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) level. Find out your levels today! Log on to the test selection page (click the link below) to get your tests and see for yourself if your levels can be improved.
Make sure you track your results before and after, about every 6 months!
How can I track my nutrient intake and levels over time?
To help you track your supplement use and nutrient levels, GrassrootsHealth has created the Personal Health Nutrient Decision System called
For each specific supplement, you can track what days you take it, how much, and many other details. This will help you know your true supplemental intake and what patterns of use work for you to reach and maintain optimum nutrient levels. Check it out today!