Repairing Low Vitamin D

by Ryan Wade

Supplementation Strategies

As established in  Vitamin D, Testosterone, and SHBG, there is great benefit in maintaining healthy—and appropriate—high levels of vitamin D, including bone health, endocrine health, immune health, and others.

Raising Low Vitamin D Levels

While the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends that adults receive a conservative 600 IU of vitamin D daily (and 800 IU if 70+ years of age), and the more progressive Endocrine Society recommends 1500 - 2000 IU daily (and that up to 10,000 IU is safe), what most people are interested in is how to raise low levels of vitamin D.

The following strategies are based on those provided by the Endocrine Society. Those with low levels of Vitamin D should work with their healthcare provider in both establishing their serum levels of vitamin D and in establishing a protocol for supplementation, as many factors can negatively influence absorption. Additionally, it is important to note that certain conditions can lead to a predisposition to vitamin D toxicity, including granulomatous conditions, some genetic disorders, and rare enzymatic polymorphisms involved in the metabolism of vitamin D.

Raising Serum Vitamin D

The following strategies are available from the  Endocrine Society Practice Guidelines for raising low vitamin D levels:

Age Treatment (D2 or D3) Length of Time Maintenance 
0 - 1 2000 IU/day or 50,000 IU/week 6 weeks 400 - 1000 IU
1 -18 2000 IU/day or 50,000 IU/week 6 weeks 600 - 1000 IU
18 + 6000 IU/day or 50,000 IU/week 8 weeks 1500 - 2000 IU

Some people and some medical conditions make it more difficult to raise vitamin d levels, this includes people with malabsorption issue, those that take glucocorticoids, anti-seizure medications, some AIDS medications, or other medications which impair vitamin D absorption. For this subset of the population, The Endocrine Society provides the following recommendation:

Treatment (D2 or D3) Length of Time Maintenance
At least 6000–10,000 IU/day 6 weeks At least 3000–6000 IU/day

Diet, Foods, and Vitamin D

To learn more about the richest food source of vitamin D, please see our article on Vitamin D, Testosterone, and SHBG.

Sun Exposure and Vitamin D

Without a doubt, exposure to the sun (without protection) is the richest source of vitamin D in both children and adults. Without sun exposure, it is difficult-to-impossible to gain enough vitamin D through diet without supplementation.

Further compounding the difficulty of synthesizing adequate vitamin D is that with unprotected sun exposure comes an increased risk for melanoma and other types of skin cancer. As such, it may be necessary to avoid direct, mid-day sun. Additionally, for those living above 33 degrees latitude (in the Northern Hemisphere), even prolonged sun exposure in the winter months does not provide adequate vitamin D synthesis. Making supplementation even more important.