Tuesday, 20 October 2009

How I Got My Vitamin D into the Sweet Spot

Back in May, I posted about my vitamin D deficiency, having sent away for a test via the Grassroots Health organisation.

I discovered I was seriously deficient at 29 ng/ml. The healthy range recommended by the organisation is 40 - 60 ng/ml.

Six months later, I managed to persuade my haematology specialist to include serum vitamin D levels in the battery of tests he performs every 6 months or so.

The results came back this week and I wanted to share the improved result and what steps I took to get there. For an explanation on why I have these tests done at all, read here (hint: I don't think there's anything wrong with me.)

The advice of Grassroots Health was to supplement with 1000 ui of vitamin D for every 10 ng/ml of deficiency.
The Plan
With the British Summer just starting, I wanted to combine supplementation with some serious (but careful) sun worshipping. I had been reading that sun exposure without burning was perfectly safe and was looking forward to replacing my lily-white appearance borne of years of sun-phobia with a healthy tan.... not to mention replacing the evil sun tan cream with appropriately-timed donning of lightweight sleeves, scarves and hats.
The Result
The result of my latest test came back at 53 ng/ml - an increase of 24. This is nicely in the upper regions of their stated sweet spot, which is good news.

The specialist's letter informed me that this is in the 'normal' range of 10-60. To be fair, this in no way implies this is the healthy range - but I can't help thinking that a level of 20 would not have sounded alarm bells.

So what did I do in the 6 months between tests?
What I Did
I took 3000 ui of vitamin D3 on every day I did not sunbathe.

Over the summer in the UK and for one week on holiday in France I estimate I had 15 days of sunbathing in strong sun. I always avoided burning. On these days I did not supplement.

As my tan increased, the time I could spend in the sun increased - but a tan diminishes the manufacture of vitamin D by the skin, so I assume that by getting as much sun as I could safely get on any given day, I was getting as much vitamin D as my body could produce.

On sunbathing days, I always avoided washing all but the important parts with soap next time I showered (see this Dr Mercola Video for why).
Advice May Underestimate the Dose
I believe that for me, a little more than 1000 iu is required to increase the serum levels by 10 ng/ml - I consistently took 3000 iu on non sunbathing days and would expect the sunbathing days to have far exceeded that dose... yet my blood levels were increased by only 24 (not 30 as Grassroots' advice would suggest.)
Winter Plan
Over the summer I got a lot of incidental sun on the non-sunbathing days, simply by walking outside. This winter, any sun I get outside will be very weak and produce little or no vitamin D. On that basis, I plan to increase my daily dose to 4000 iu to compensate and hopefully maintaining my current level.
Stronger Immune System?
This year has seen me treat my health with less respect than the previous 3 years put together - for example, this and this :-(

...yet I have still not been ill. Previous years have taught me to know when I am pushing it too far. By those standards, by now I should have had a cold.
Two things have changed this year. First, the vitamin D. Second, I have been doing even fewer, even shorter, but still highly intense workout sessions. My failure to get ill could be due to one of these factors, the other, or both. Or neither. Such are the vagaries of anecdotal reporting.

I will get re-tested in 6 months and report back.

See Also:
My Yellow Skin Mystery
My Wheat Experiment
My Wheat Experiment Blood Test Update
My Vitamin D Defficiency


Hiit Mama said...

Thanks for this information. I have recently been very interested in Vitamin D's immune boosting powers. I am pregnant, work out pretty intensely and am surrounded by a sick three year old and sick husband. Thankfully I've not come down with their illnesses. I take many supplements, but added 1000 IU of D about six months ago. I've not been sick since.

Methuselah said...

Hiit Mama - what's your diet like? I used to take loads of supplements but when I started eating Paleo I reaslised most of them probably weren't necessary given the nutrient density of my diet.

Health Test Dummy said...

• Vitamin D & Cancer Symposium: http://www.grassrootshealth.net/media/download/vieth_sip_vitd_cancer_symp_2009.pdf
• Fights Breast Cancer: http://www.naturalnews.com/027230_cancer_Vitamin_D_brst.html
• Increased immunity: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/51913.php

Paleo Dan said...

If 29 is seriously deficient, what would you call 8.3 ng/mL? Yup, that's where I was back in January of this year. I had gotten sick the previous November and fought chest congestion and more from then until I went to the doctor in January. At that time, the doc put me on 50,000 IUs twice weekly for 4 or 8 weeks, can't recall which. The worst part is, the November illness was a recurring thing... every year in November, I would get sick... usually a chest cold, etc. I was tired of the annual illnesses.

When I went back for follow up tests in May, I was at 35.3 ng/mL... a vast improvement. I did not supplement, nor eat very well in the months following that test.

I went in for another follow up at the end of September. At the time of the test, I had just started supplementing with 10,000 IU of D3 some 4 days before the blood draw. My level for that test was 24.4.

Since then I've been supplementing daily at 4,000 IUs rain or shine. At the 4k dosage, even if I get natural rays, I should be safe... i.e., no overdosing, etc. It's too early to tell, but I'm hoping that the D3 supplements will help my immune system get past what seems to be my annual illness cycle.

I have another followup scheduled in a couple weeks to check things out. Hopefully that will show a nice increase of my vitamin levels.

Methuselah said...

Dan - yikes, 8.3 is toe-curlingly low. Thank for sharing your experiences. Fingers crossed that next month proves illness free. Are you now on a better diet too? With a name like Paleo Dan, I think I know the answer to that ;-)

Paleo Dan said...

Definitely on a much better diet. I had restarted Paleo diet on August 18th, so I had been eating clean for 6 weeks when my last blood test was taken. At the time of my next test, it will have been about 11 weeks of clean eating and 6 weeks of vitamin D replacement/supplementation. I expect to see much better numbers all around... at least from a paleo, non-traditional perspective. :)

Methuselah said...

Dan - let us know how you get on.

Grok said...

Not sure what you weight, but you'd probably do well on 6,000iu a day. Especially going into winter now.

Hop over to my site and click on the Vitamin D post or tag. The links there have a bunch of info about dosing.

I regularly take 5,000iu, plus I get some from my cod liver oil. If I know I'm going to be around a bunch of sickies, I'll pop another 5k.

It's been working well... well, except when I hung out with my super sick brother and then did Kill to Eat. I wasn't taking anything. Got sick and super-dosed my way out :)

Methuselah said...

Thanks Grok - will take a look.

GiGi said...

My vitamin D level is 95 ng/ml... is that too much?

I take almost 10,000 IU a day! Feel great!

Methuselah said...

GiGi - technically, yes, it's outside the 'healthy' range, but I would hesitate to start sounding the sirens because no one seems to be entirely sure what is a genuinely healthy range or where the supposed effects of toxicity actually kick in. My advice would be to do a little reading (there are some articles at my delicious account under the 'vitamin d' tag that might help get you started, here).


I too took took the Grassroots test and came up Vitamin D deprived at 31ng even though I eat Paleo and live in a fairly sunny climate - Atlanta, Georgia. Of course I began supplementation at 5000 iu per day starting in November 2009. Certainly I will post an update in a few months when it is time to get my levels checked again.

Methuselah said...

Kayumochi - I look forward to hearing how you get on.


I'd like to add Methuselah that I have a malignant but indolent cancer that I have seemingly been able to stop the progression of through a Paleo diet. In May I saw the oncologist and he told me that my counts had dropped 11,000. That is huge. Then he said, "See you in a year." I couldn't have been happier. Of course, there is no mention of diet or Vitamin D, or meditation or ... from this oncologist, but I accept that. Healing is my job, not his.

Methuselah said...

That's great new Kuyumochi - it may also be the low-carb nature of the diet that has been of benefit. I have read a few articles recently talking about the treatment of cancer with ketogenic diets....


Any links you can provide regarding cancer and ketogenic diet would be greatly appreciated.

Methuselah said...

Kayumochi - here are a couple from Chris at Conditioning Research. Hope they are of use.


Thanks for the links! We should all keep in mind that while we are told that 1000 iu of Vitamin D is required to raise levels by 10 ng, all of us absorb food differently. Example: one person may eat a piece of pie with 1000 calories yet only absorb 500 of those calories and the rest simply passes through the body. Another person may eat the same piece of pie and his body absorb all 1000 calories. Vitamin D is no different. I may take a 5000 iu capsule yet my body may only absorb 4000 iu.

Methuselah said...

KAYUMOCHI - is there any research to suggest that people have significantly differing calorie digestion? I must admit whilst it makes intuitive sense that there should be some vaiation, it had never occurred to me there would be significant variation...


Your readers may appreciate this video on Vitamin D



I did see something regarding the variability of absorption but don't know if I can find it again.

Methuselah said...

Thanks Kayumochi - excellent video.

Anonymous said...

29 ng/ml is not seriously but just slightly deficient.

Methuselah said...

Fair point. Can we agree on 'significantly'?

Henry North London 2.0 said...

95ng/ml is optimal If it goes to over 100 you might have side effects

But at 95ng/ml you will never get cancer

Mine was 83ng/ml and I had been supplementing for 3 months solid with 20-50thousand iu a day prior to that

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