The People's Perspective on Medicine

How Will You Get Adequate Vitamin D?

Do you need to take supplements to get adequate vitamin D? People who live in northern regions may need supplements during the winter.

You may have heard that vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin. That is because skin exposed to sunlight makes this crucial hormone. However, when nights are long and days are short and cold, we can’t get adequate vitamin D this way. A few foods contain modest amounts of vitamin D, but many people rely on supplements.

Will Supplements Provide Adequate Vitamin D?

Q. I live in Seattle. How could I get an adequate amount of vitamin D during our overcast and foggy nine-month long winters without taking a supplement? I know the recent research on vitamin D showed it doesn’t help for heart disease, but doesn’t it protect against bone loss? My doctor recommended a vitamin D supplement when I was diagnosed with osteopenia several years ago. Am I pouring my money down a rat hole?

Discouraging Results from the VITAL Trial:

A. Many readers were upset to learn about the results of the VITAL clinical trial (New England Journal of Medicine, Nov. 10, 2018). It demonstrated that people taking 2000 IU of vitamin D3 were no less likely than those on placebo to develop cancer or suffer cardiovascular complications. This study did not address bone health, although some  other studies have also been discouraging about the benefits of vitamin D supplements for bone.

We think that adequate vitamin D is essential for good health, however. People who live in northern regions such as Seattle, Milwaukee or Boston may find it difficult to get enough vitamin D through sun exposure.

Learn How to Get Adequate Vitamin D:

To learn more about the complex role vitamin D plays in the body and how much is needed, you may wish to read Dr. Tieraona Low Dog’s book, Fortify Your Life: Your Guide to Vitamins, Minerals, and More. It is available in libraries or in a special paperback edition from You may also wish to listen to Dr. Low Dog discuss the pros and cons of supplements in Show 1124: Should You Be Taking Vitamin Supplements?

We also offer our Guide to Vitamin D Deficiency for additional information.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
Vitamin D Deficiency

Download 8 pages on symptoms of low vitamin D and ways to overcome deficiency, for children and adults. Information on avoiding vitamin D overdose and which supplements are best, all in 8 pages.

Vitamin D Deficiency
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How is it possible to talk about Vitamin D and at the same time not to take into account the intake of vitamin K[2] and magnesium??

Ten years ago, my internist discovered that my Vit D level was undetectible. He told me to take 2000 IU daily. Still too low. He put me on 5,000 IU, then 10,000 IU daily
(prepared by a local compounding pharmacy) and finally brought it up to 45 ng/ml. I have taken 2000 IU daily since then and the last lab showed 30 (OK range is 30-100 ng/ml). I appreciate the Graedons for staying on this! Supplementation is barely doing it for me, and I live in the #1 U.S. city with the lowest average sunshine amount (population 50K+)

Growing up, I was given a teaspoon of Cod Liver Oil during winter months – seems to also be working now to keep my Vitamin D at healthy levels. Of course, we also need vitamin K along with an adequate calcium intake to promote bone and vascular health.

I have proven many times that Vitamin D shortens cold sores. My son also gets cold sores, and at first he did not believe me. I gave him some, and now he is a believer. Living in the Chicago area we don’t get that much sun exposure. I now take 2000 three times a week. Wish I would have known this 50 years ago.
On another note: I just experienced the perfect storm with a PhotoToxic plant, 9 weeks + to recover. My doctor who is retiring this month had never heard of this plant and its issues in his entire career. I have pictures of what happened to me. So if you’re interested in doing an article, contact me. I want to get the word out so it won’t happen to anyone else.

I am 72 and have been taking Vitamin D-3 along with Vitamin K-2 for almost 20 years. I take 35,000 IU’s per week and get blood tests every 6 months.

My blood test for D-3 is consistently at or slightly under 100. My doctor tells me this is a good range for my age group.

To determine adequate Vit. D intake one must have blood levels tested for it. Otherwise you cannot determine if the product you are taking is of good quality. Any study that does not take vitamin D blood levels must be discarded as it was not a good study.

I agree on the testing of D levels. I was taking 5,000 mcg D3 ever day for a long time. Hair started was falling out. Doctor tested. I was too high. Backed off to 5,000 mcg every other day. Hair came back. I had no idea that you could take too much D.

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