Vitamin D is a nutrient necessary for proper body function. Unlike many other nutrients, it acts as a hormone (1). Proper levels are shown to aid in preventing anxiety, depression, autoimmune disorders, preeclampsia, eclampsia, migraines, polycystic ovarian syndrome, type II diabetes and cancer (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 ). It is needed for proper bone formation in the pre-born, infants and children (8). Vitamin D acts with vitamin A to maintain eye/vision health (9). It also protects the bone health of people of all ages (10). These reasons make it very important to know how to raise your vitamin D levels if you are currently low.
I have plenty of anecdotal stories about vitamin D in my own life. After the birth of my first child, I began to feel really strange and had bizarre thoughts and felt totally, beyond belief exhausted even with sleep. Cleaning up my diet alone did not fully help. I began to spend more time outdoors during times of full sun and these issues disappeared along with getting more omega 3-rich foods in my diet. In fact, I felt relief on the first day! Unfortunately, after awhile, I did not make responsible sun exposure a priority and I noticed my eyes getting weaker with the pregnancy of my second child. At that point we moved to sunny Florida and my eyes healed. In fact, I passed the eye test for my driver’s license without the need for glasses for the first time in my life.
My husband had a very light reading glasses prescription and along with things like consuming real pastured butter, pastured egg yolks and organ meats in our diet for the true vitamin A, as well as sun exposure, he had his eyes heal to the point of having 20/15 vision!
When our family seems to be getting too many head colds despite a good diet…I know we need more vitamin D (11)! We eat in such a way to preserve our gut health (our microbiome), but just eating healthy will not preserve our guts’ favorable bacterial balance without proper vitamin D levels (12). This may be a reason that many people on “gut healing” diets do not get the results they desire.
I prefer to use the sun as a way to maintain our levels, because supplemental vitamin D has to be done VERY carefully with the appropriate amounts of other nutrients, like vitamin K2, vitamin A and magnesium, otherwise it can calcify other things besides the bones and cause health problems. I have not seen convincing literature that has demonstrated in what quantities or ratios these other co-factors are needed, therefore I am wary to use vitamin D supplements internally at this time.
How to Raise Your D Levels
Our bodies require intricate balances to perform their functions. The primary source for vitamin D is through sun exposure. However, I know people that could not raise their vitamin D levels despite adequate sun exposure. Some foods contain vitamin D, but they are certainly not a primary source. There is dispute about whether people have illness because of low vitamin D levels or if people have low vitamin D levels because of illness. It is one of those, “What came first, the chicken or the egg,” disputes.
There is some literature that supports that illness can come from low vitamin D levels. It also points to what is needed to raise levels adequately. One of them is having the correct fats in the diet the majority of the time. Eating too many omega 6 fats does not help vitamin D levels and can also cause rapid burning of the skin with sun exposure (13). A great book that can get you on track with truly healthy fats that support your efforts can be found here.
The next necessity is getting enough magnesium (14). Unfortunately, the soil is depleted from decades of poor farming practices and our food is somewhat magnesium deficient. Simply eating magnesium-rich chocolate is not enough, unfortunately. Not all kinds of magnesium are equal. Some kinds spend very little time in the body and some are harmful. Taking magnesium internally can cause an upset stomach. The good news is that magnesium can be easily absorbed in the skin without risk of overdose. Magnesium lotion can be purchased here or you can make magnesium oil with these instructions here.
How To Get Enough Sun Safely
Sun exposure that creates vitamin D in our bodies very much depends on the season and location. During the winter months in the US, any place higher than Atlanta is not going to have sunlight that produces vitamin D. Even in sunny places like Florida, Texas or California, it depends on how low the sun is. The best times to get vitamin D during the winter months in the lower states is at solar noon. During the warm seasons, vitamin D is available nearly all day. One of my favorite tools to track the best “D” times is with a phone app called DMinder (here).
When beginning sunbathe or spend more time in the sun, one must begin with little exposure and work up to more exposure. As soon as the skin turns a very light pink, it is time to either cover up, go back inside, choose a safe sunscreen (like this one here), a combination of SPF containing oils like coconut oil or sit in the shade.
Do Not Sabatage Your Efforts
Sunlight reacts with oils on the skin. In an effort to not sabatage your efforts, try to not shower immediately. When showering after sun exposure, use soap only in areas the really need it like arm pits, perhaps the face and areas that more than likely have not seen the sun anyway (15).