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North of Atlanta there are basically no UVB rays from the sun from October through April, which means your body can’t make vitamin D from the sun. Folks north of these latitudes should be eating lots of organ meats and fish liver oils – or if they can’t go there – take a vitamin D3 supplement to manage their vitamin D3 levels each winter.
At the end of the winter the vitamin D3 levels will be the lowest of the low all year long, making this a great time to have your vitamin D3 tested. Many of you have been supplementing all winter, and now is the time to see if you have been taking the correct amount.
As summer approaches, the sun rises in the sky earlier, and the sun’s UVB rays that make vitamin D3 on the skin will be making a comeback. If you wait until June to get your vitamin D3 tested, you will have a test that combines the benefits of the June sun with your winter supplementation. The key is to know for sure if your winter dosages of vitamin D3 were enough, so the test should be done before the sun gets too high in the sky – sometime in March, April, or May.
Based on the spring test results, you can then adjust your dosages for the upcoming summer and you will have a better sense of what your winter dose next year should be.
According to the Vitamin D Council, and many experts in this field, we should be maintaining a vitamin D3 level between 50-80ng/mL all year long. To accomplish this, the average adult needs about 4,000-5,000 IU/day in the winter and 1,000-3,000 IU/day in the summer. The summer dose of course depends on how much summer sun you get.
Interestingly, when the levels of vitamin D3 fall below 50ng/mL, the vitamin D3 acts just like a vitamin and protects the bones from bone softening concerns. When vitamin D3 levels rise over 50ng/mL but not over 80-90mg/mL, the vitamin D3 begins to function as a seco-steroid hormone which is considered one of the most beneficial hormones in the body. Optimal levels of vitamin D3 are responsible for innumerable health benefits in the body. We are just like any living creature: if we are taken out of the sun, we begin to wither.
Our problem is that we have not yet adapted to handling a long winter without eating organ meats or the sun’s UVB radiation, and we have not figured out how to genetically adapt to a life indoors. Until then, we need to supplement!
Remember, the UVB rays even in the summer are only strong during the mid-day hours. Morning and evening sun rays, while delightful, carry very little UVB or vitamin D3-making rays. So, to get adequate vitamin D3 in the summer, we need about 10-15 minutes of direct mid-day sun 3-4 days a week, without sun protection (sunscreen). Sunscreen blocks the UVB vitamin D-making rays.
Here is the catch: If you take a shower or jump in a pool within an hour of getting your rays – you can wash off the pre-vitamin D3 that sets up on your skin. The UVB rays on the skin react with the natural oils on the skin to make pre-vitamin D3, and then begin to absorb into the blood stream – where it becomes active vitamin D3 in the liver and kidneys.
Bottom Line: Make a point to get your blood levels checked sometime this spring!