Vitamin D ~ Friend or Foe?

We have now returned home from our trip up north to prepare for our next adventure. While I practice learning key phrases in a different language (international trip perhaps?) I have decided to tackle a topic near and dear to my heart, that of vitamin/mineral supplementation, in particular vitamin D.


I have decided to write on this topic as I am one of those freaks who, instead of reading news articles ad nauseam, I pore through health and nutrition literature, topics for which I am most passionate.  And with all the documentation out there, it can be mind-boggling. What I hope to do here is to open up a dialogue, and quite honestly, learn from your comments. So, here goes…

Disclaimer:  I have no medical credentials to substantiate anything in this post; I’m just a passionate consumer.  This is based on what I have read over many years and what resonates with me, which is the approach I take with most things in life.

Several years ago I read a book written by Dr. Sarfraz Zaidi, Power of Vitamin D which for me was an aha moment.  Since then I have read many articles on the subject.  As I had lived in sunny Arizona for many years, I was shocked to read that this Southern California doctor discovered, after testing, that almost 90% of this patients were vitamin D deficient.  Soon after I had my doctor test my level and found that I too was deficient.  This started me on a course of vitamin D supplementation and a new approach to sun exposure.


What I have learned in my readings is that there is evidence to support a relationship between vitamin D deficiency and “bone pain, osteoporosis, immune disorders, heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, diabetes, and cancer”.  There are now over 800 references in the medical literature to support vitamin D’s effectiveness against cancer and many others that show vitamin D’s ability to fight infections and chronic inflammation.

If you buy into any of this literature, right now you may be wondering why your medical doctor has not told you about the risks of vitamin D deficiency.  It may be because he/she may not know, as this is not covered in the medical schools’ curricula, which Dr. Zaidi says is often tailored to drug companies’ standards.  It is not a drug so big pharma is not going to get behind it.  In fact, vitamin D is not really a vitamin, but a steroid hormone instead.


Source: Vitamin D Council
Source: Vitamin D Council

I read an article a couple of years ago on Dr. Joseph Mercola’s website, where he states that “vitamin D deficiency is a pandemic in the United States, with 50% of the general population at risk”.  Blood testing is the only way to be sure if you are vitamin D deficient.

If you prefer not to incur the cost of an office visit to have your doctor order a vitamin D blood test for you, there are several options for ordering in-home kits.  Here are just a few of the outlets available:

  1. Grassroots Health
  2. Vitamin D Council
  3. Direct Labs
  4. Health Labs

The best source of vitamin D is sun exposure, as your skin creates it as a response to UV radiation.  But if you can’t use the sun for your source, which may be dependent upon where you live or how you process vitamin D, then an oral supplement may be your next best bet.

Safe Sunlight Exposure

If you want to get your vitamin D from the sun, here are a few factors I have read for practicing safe sunlight exposure:

  1. Time – the best time to expose yourself to the sun for processing vitamin D is between 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.
  2. Skin pigmentation – fair-skinned people can max out their needed vitamin D production in as little as 10-20 minutes in the sun.  Those with darker skin will need more sun than this.
  3. Sensitive body parts – sunblock and/or hats should be used for the delicate skin of faces and necks.  But, unlike what we have been told for years due to fear of skin cancer, a little UV radiation, by way of sun exposure, is most likely very good for us.
Source: Grassroots Health
Source: Grassroots Health

If you do opt for vitamin D supplements, which are inexpensive, studies show that taking this with vitamin K2 is very beneficial, as K2 helps move calcium into the areas of your body where it is needed, such as bones and teeth, and helps remove calcium from areas where we don’t want it, namely arteries and soft tissues.

What are optimal levels of vitamin D?

Source: Dr. Mercola website
Source: Dr. Mercola website

 7 Signs You May Be Vitamin D Deficient

  1. You have darker skin. ~ Those with darker skin may need as much as 10 times more sun exposure to produce the same amount of vitamin D as a fair-skinned person.
  2. You feel “blue”. ~ Serotonin, the mood elevator hormone, rises with increased exposure to the sun.
  3. You are 50+. ~ As we age our skin doesn’t make as much vitamin D in response to sun exposure.
  4. You are overweight. ~ Vitamin D is fat soluble so it collects in fat cells.  If you are overweight you are likely to need more vitamin D than a slimmer person.
  5. Your bones ache. ~ Many who see their doctor for body aches and pains, accompanied by fatigue, may be diagnosed with fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome.  For some, studies have found that when tested for vitamin D deficiency and treated with larger doses of vitamin D, their symptoms have resolved.
  6. Head sweating. ~ This is one of the classic signs of vitamin D deficiency.
  7. You have gut problems. ~ If your body lacks the ability to absorb fat properly, you may have a lower absorption of vitamin D as well.  This may be true for conditions such as Crohn’s, celiac, and inflammatory bowel diseases.

Smartphone apps can track just about anything so I was not surprised that there is an app for tracking the UV radiation you’re getting in your area and how many units of vitamin D you are making.  If you are interested, check out DMinder.

There are hundreds of articles on the subject of vitamin D, some in favor of sun exposure and supplementation and some concerned about toxicity.  I would suggest googling vitamin D articles if you have an interest, and I would love to hear your comments, although please refrain from making this a political issue.

51 thoughts on “Vitamin D ~ Friend or Foe?

  • As a person studying nutrition, it’s always refreshing to see articles like this, in which the author is well informed on the topic instead of spewing nonsense. Vitamin D deficiency is definitely a huge issue in this country, and it’s one of the few cases in which dietitians may recommend supplementation. The reality is that most of the US just isn’t at the right latitude to get enough sun to make enough vitamin D, and there are very few good food sources of it. Plus, there’s still a debate about how much we need to consume…it’s looking like the actual number might be more than the current recommendation. Definitely a hot topic right now, and this was a good write up!

  • Great writeup, LuAnn. I’m also in favor of self-education. We don’t want to leave this up to conventional medicine (which often lags far behind current research) or pharmaceutical companies, who have their own agenda. As Diana said, most of the US isn’t at the right latitude for optimal sun exposure—and the emphasis on avoiding the sun and wearing high SPF sunscreen creates even more of a problem. We try to get some unprotected sun exposure every day and then cover up with protective clothing and an SPF 15 mineral sunscreen. We also supplement with 1000 IU of vitamin D3 and vitamin K2 daily. And we should probably get our vitamin D levels tested. 🙂

  • Great article, LuAnn.
    I live in sunny Australia, yet a couple of years ago learned, via a blood test, my Vit D was 46. Not life threatening; however, because of my indoor lifestyle (mostly dancing as a hobby) I was not getting sufficient sun exposure. Since then I have Vit D supplements to ensure good health. I also try to get Vit D naturally from sun exposure. Naturally the time appropriate for adequate intake varies depending upon skin type and geography! Certainly in the summer 10 to 15 minutes during the times you’ve mentioned are adequate for me. During the colder months, a little more time is needed.
    I have always been against the use of sunscreens in the way they have been advertised. Yes, it is absolutely vital that we take care of our skin; sensible sun exposure is the key. But to scare the population into avoidance of this very natural healthy behaviour is now coming home to roost, with many now realising the necessity of this important vitamin.
    As a by the by, LuAnn, I have also learned that Chicken/Poultry is a good source of K2, as are other meats… I don’t think we can go past a healthy lifestyle, which includes a little sunshine mixed with good old fashioned nutritious food and a little fun activity for exercise.

    • Thanks so much for your comment Carolyn. I wholeheartedly agree with you – sound sun exposure, exercise, and good old-fashioned nutrition is vital to our health.

    • My pleasure Pam. I was really surprised the first time I had my levels tested, as I had been living in AZ for many years, all the while slathering sunscreen on myself. Now I am more judicious with sunscreen, allowing myself more opportunity to get my vitamin D from the sun. I started taking a vitamin D supplement and within a short time my levels were where they needed to be.

  • Interesting and informative, I don’t know half as much about this aspect as I do other things, in fact I am ignorant on it, so it is good to redress the balance and take note of the signs to look out for as well.

  • I have been taking vitamin D for about 5 years, probably because of your influence, but I have osteoarthritis and I sweat profusely, so perhaps I should have my vitamin D level checked. I never even thought of that, so thank you for the information. I have an appointment with my doctor in about 2 weeks, so I will include this. Again, thanks.

    • I too sweat quite a bit Joan, but I don’t attribute it to vitamin D deficiency as my levels are fine right now. It doesn’t hurt to have your level tested though, just to be certain you fall into the proper range.

  • Thank you for this info. I have an autoimmune disease and tested low on Vitamin D, so on the advice of my doctor, I began supplementing with 1000 IU twice a day of Vit D3 about 6 years ago. I live in the Northeast in summer and SW Florida in the winter. I try to spend at least 20 minutes a day outside without sunscreen. When I am outdoors for longer, I usually wear a hat and use SPF 15, or if I’m going to the beach, I use SPF 30. I have not been tested again but I am curious to see if all this has boosted my D level.

    • It sounds like you are doing everything to bring your levels up Marcia. I would be interested to hear if your approach has been working for you. Best to you!

  • I take 50,000 units once a month and 2,000 units of D3 a day. I am a firm believer in Vit. D. Thanks for the great article.

    • My pleasure Marsha. I was approached by a friend recently who had dangerously low levels of vitamin D so I thought it might be the time to write this post.

  • So this sun exposure would be without sunscreen? I’ll have to check my bottle of D supplements to see where I fall. It’s 5000 units of D something. My last lab showed I needed more D and my doc recommended a supplement.

    • Checked my bottle of D…..I’m taking 5000 IU’s of D3 daily and my lab showed my level of D at 25, with optimal at least 30. Thanks for the heads-up on this…..

    • I still use sunscreen Shirley on my face, ears, neck, and chest, but I do get more exposure on my limbs during the hours of 10 am and 2 pm without sunscreen. Obviously we still need to be cognizant of not overdoing it, which I have to remind myself when I get out in the yard and start working. I am guessing that your D is probably D3, which would be good.

    • I just know for myself that after initial testing in the low range several years ago, the changes I made to sun exposure and taking a vitamin D supplement turned it around for me.

  • Wow, thank you for your research LuAnn. I was diagnosed too with a tad of Vit D deficiency. I don’t like supplements so I just stay out most of the time and get my vitamins from the sun.

  • Thanks for the write on this subject!! I have been taking 50,000 units a month with an added supplement of 2,000 D! Did not know about the K2 tho so will add that as well!
    I was feeling pretty bad, bones in lots of pain, felt like someone was sitting on my chest and couldn’t hardly breath, heart palpitations. Went to arthritis and heart doctors, they put me on some strong Meds, did not get any better just got worse. My regular doctor did blood work and found my levels were down below 10!! Very scarey!!

  • I love reading this post, because I am also one of those “freaks” who pores through health and nutrition literature all the time! I am always looking for natural solutions and medicines. This Vitamin D information all nicely researched for me, by you, was terrific. There is a lot of interesting stuff here and a good reminder that the sun, in moderation, is yes, good for us. I did not know about the connection with osteoporosis and many of the other insights you covered. So thank you.

    I had breast cancer ten years ago, after which I had a life changing event which was meeting Dr. Gabriel Cousens, author of “Conscious Eating” and a “Rainbow Diet” – have you heard of him, or his books? He is one of the leading live food experts. I stopped eating dairy, reduced meat and fish intake to minimal, stopped sugar and reduced caffeine. At the same time, increased fruit and vegetables (in their raw state as much as possible) and have had amazing results and impact on my health.

    Terrific post, thank you!


    • Thanks so much for your reply. I have heard of Gabriel Cousens and his book is on my list to read. I just may bump it up to the top of the pile now. I eat very little dairy, little meat (and only grass-fed when I do), no sugar, and no caffeine. Glad to hear this way of eating has given you amazing results. Here’s to ongoing great health!

  • Thank you for this article LuAnn. It’s just what I needed. Vitamin D has been coming into my consciousness from more than one source over the past few weeks. I heard that Canada is too far north for us to be able to get enough from the sun. I haven’t had my levels tested, but I have no symptoms of deficiency, and I recently upped my intake from 1 or 2 thou per day to 4 thou per day. I think I’m covered.

    • This is a topic that has interested me since I read the “Power of Vitamin D”. I have read the same about Canada, so probably wise to increase your daily intake.

  • Knowledge is definitely power. It’s a bit daunting to read through medical information, but it’s always good to be aware. I think I’m fairly good with everything else, except for the darker skin. 🙂 I don’t think I would have a problem here in Japan as it is scorching hot here during Summer. I just need to get out there. 😉 Thanks for the share, Lu.
    BTW, don’t just practice Italian language. Practice hand gestures and strong tones too. Ahihihi 😀

  • You slammed this one out of the ball park! Great response!

    This has been on the screen since you posted, but each time online, the page refused to open.. tonight it did!

    I’ve always thought that our sunshine is there for a reason, and we should not hide from it! We have survived as a species much longer than sunscreens have been around! I think that an intelligent diet also plays a strong role in staying heathy, which also covers anti-cancer…

    Recently I listened to a very interesting talk about dandelion root and its very simple yet effective anti cancer properties in scientific studies.

  • Would you be open to writing a blog post on K2? I’ve found surprisingly little on the topic and wondered if perhaps it was something you had also gathered knowledge about on your travels with vitamin D research?
    Also thank you for speaking up about this, I’ve yet to meet anyone in my real life who has ever mentioned this topic at all so it’s great to see people raising awareness.

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