April 20, 2024
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how long does it take for vitamin d supplements to work

Vitamin D can have a positive impact on your mood, bone health, and overall wellness. Getting enough vitamin D can help prevent a variety of illnesses.

Your body makes vitamin D when your bare skin is exposed to sunlight. Dark-colored skin, clouds, smog, and age can reduce the amount of vitamin D you make.

Boosting Your Vitamin D Levels

Vitamin D is known for promoting bone health, but this nutrient also plays an important role in reducing inflammation and supporting immune function. Many people who are deficient in this vitamin will begin to see improvements in their symptoms after starting a supplement regimen. However, it can take several weeks or even months for supplements to start working. This is especially true if someone has a severe vitamin D deficiency.

It’s recommended that people who are deficient in vitamin D get enough of this nutrient through sunlight, food, or supplements. It’s possible to overdose on vitamin D, though, so if you are thinking about boosting your levels through diet or supplements it’s recommended that you talk with a healthcare provider first.

Food sources of vitamin D include fatty fish (such as salmon and trout), egg yolks, and beef liver. However, many people don’t get enough of these foods to reach optimal vitamin D levels. A healthy, well-balanced diet is the best way to get sufficient vitamin D.

Over-the-counter vitamin D supplements typically come in a strength of 1000-2000 international units (IU) per day and should be taken regularly to improve vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is produced in the skin with exposure to sunlight, but it’s important to note that darker-skinned people need more UVB rays than lighter-skinned individuals to produce the same amount of vitamin D.

Other factors that can affect vitamin D production or absorption include gastrointestinal disorders like Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and inflammatory bowel disease; being overweight (people with a body mass index over 30 are at higher risk for vitamin D deficiency); and certain medications, including some anticonvulsants, antacids, and cholesterol drugs.

The only definitive way to know if vitamin D dietary supplements are working is to have your blood levels tested, says Meredith Warner, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and founder of Well Theory. Typically, providers measure the concentration of 25-hydroxyvitamin D—or 25(OH)D—a major form of vitamin D that’s used to make “active” vitamin D in your body.

Getting Enough Sunlight

The sun’s rays are the body’s main source of vitamin D. The vitamin helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus, which help build strong bones.

Getting enough vitamin D requires regular exposure to sunlight. People with dark skin may require longer exposure to the sun because the melanin that gives them their color inhibits the absorption of UVB rays needed for vitamin D production (14).

Older adults have reduced ability to produce vitamin D in the skin and often consume insufficient amounts from diet (15). The number of dietary sources of vitamin D is limited (16).

For those who cannot get enough from a healthy diet, the only way to get adequate levels of vitamin D is by exposing the skin to sunlight. Experts recommend exposing about a third of the body to sunlight without sunscreen for 10-30 minutes three times per week (17). Exposure for extended periods of time can increase the risk of skin cancer, so avoiding prolonged sun exposure is recommended (18).

The time of day matters when it comes to making vitamin D. The best time is between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m, when the sun’s rays are most effective in stimulating the production of vitamin D (19). However, the amount of time required to make sufficient amounts of vitamin D is less than you might expect.

In addition, there are several other factors that influence how long you need to spend in the sun to produce adequate levels of vitamin D. These include how much sunscreen you use, your skin color and your location. People who live farther away from the equator need to spend more time in the sun because more UVB rays are absorbed by the ozone layer (20). People living north of the 37-degree line, which cuts through locations such as Boston, Denver and St. Louis, can’t make any vitamin D from the sun in the winter (21).

You can also take supplements that contain vitamin D, but this isn’t as effective as absorbing it naturally from the sun. In fact, some researchers believe taking vitamin D supplements can lead to an overdose. This is especially a concern for those with chronic illnesses, such as kidney or liver diseases or gastrointestinal disorders, which can limit the body’s ability to absorb and process vitamin D.

Taking Vitamin D Supplements

Vitamin D is a nutrient responsible for maintaining bone health, reducing inflammation and supporting immune health. It also plays an important role in blood sugar regulation. It is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it is stored in the body’s fat cells until needed. Vitamin D comes in two forms: vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). It is made naturally in the skin, but also can be obtained through food and supplements.

Most people can make all the vitamin D they need through sunlight and a healthy diet, but some may require vitamin D supplements to reach optimal levels. Depending on the reason for low vitamin D levels, it may take anywhere from four weeks to four months of consistent supplementation to notice a difference in blood vitamin D levels, says nutrition communications consultant Jamie McIntyre, RDN.

The only way to know if you are getting enough vitamin D is to get your blood levels tested. A typical test measures 25-hydroxyvitamin D, or 25(OH)D. A level of 30 ng/mL or less indicates deficiency. Symptoms of deficiency include fatigue, muscle weakness and weak bones.

Once absorbed through the skin, or in a pill form, vitamin D is converted by the liver and kidneys to its active form called calcitriol. This form is used in the body to regulate calcium and phosphorus, the building blocks of strong bones. The body also uses vitamin D to control the immune system and promote cell growth.

Research suggests that vitamin D deficiency is associated with a variety of health problems, including a higher risk for heart disease, cancer and diabetes, as well as some infections and autoimmune disorders. The lack of this nutrient can also lead to low bone density and osteoporosis, and can cause symptoms like irritability, mood changes and depression.

It is recommended to talk with your doctor or a pharmacist before taking any new vitamin or mineral supplements, even those available over the counter. They can offer suggestions, provide information about interactions with other medications and recommend a safe dosage level for you. Typically, over-the-counter doses of vitamin D are safe and do not exceed 10,000 IU per day. However, excess vitamin D intake can lead to hypercalcemia, which is a condition where there is an excessively high level of calcium in the blood.

Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency

The symptoms of vitamin D deficiency vary widely and depend on the individual. In general, people with low levels of the nutrient experience weakness and fatigue; depression and anxiety; and difficulty sleeping. They may also have bone pain, achy joints and weak muscles. They can also develop osteoporosis, a condition where the bones become brittle and break easily. If left untreated, vitamin D deficiency can lead to rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.

The most common cause of vitamin D deficiency is a lack of sunlight exposure. People who work inside, use sunscreen or live in areas with limited sunshine are at increased risk of developing the condition, as are pregnant women and people with certain health problems that limit fat absorption. This includes people with celiac disease, Crohn’s disease and gastrointestinal surgeries that damage the digestive tract.

Low levels of the nutrient are also linked to age. As people get older, they make less of the vitamin in their skin. Some studies suggest that this can lead to a deficiency later in life, especially among those with darker skin tones.

Researchers are still learning about the effects of low vitamin D. For example, a 2022 study published in the journal Depression and Anxiety found that people with lower levels of vitamin D are more likely to experience depression.

Other factors that can lead to vitamin D deficiency include a diet lacking in foods with the nutrient, having diseases or conditions that limit fat absorption and taking medications such as corticosteroids, which are used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, high blood pressure and other illnesses. People with low vitamin D levels are also more likely to have a higher BMI, which is linked to an increased risk of heart disease.

Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency usually improve within a few months of starting treatment. However, it can take up to a year for those with severe deficiency to see improvements. It is important to talk with your healthcare provider about how much vitamin D you need to maintain healthy levels and whether supplements are right for you. Too much of the nutrient can be dangerous, leading to high blood calcium levels, nausea, vomiting, confusion, drowsiness, loss of appetite and kidney stones.

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