Getting More Vitamin D In Your Day

Vitamin D is More Than a Bone Builder

Smiling woman hiking through trees
Hero Images/Getty Images

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin whose major role is to aid in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus from the intestine and build and maintain bone mass. Beyond its function in calcium metabolism, it also has a role in reducing inflammation, preventing malignant cell growth, moderating immune function, and leveling mood.

Why Work so Hard at Getting D?

Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with many diseases and health conditions including cancer, obesity, cardiovascular disease, depression, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, diabetes and high blood pressure. The research is sometimes confusing about exactly why vitamin D is depleted in these conditions. It is possible that having low levels of this vitamin actually causes disease and breakdown of body processes. It is also possible that the underlying causes of these conditions cause the deficiency at the same time. What we do know is that people who have many of these conditions have very low levels of vitamin D, and researchers are now trying to find out whether supplementing with vitamin D will prevent and/or treat these conditions.

Are All “Ds” Created Equal?

There are several chemical compounds classified as vitamin D, and until recently it was thought that they were not equally bioavailable (capable of being put to effective use in the body).

Are You Likely to Be D-Deficient?

There is a fair chance that you are not getting enough vitamin D. Depending on which study you read, as many as half to two-thirds of adults are deficient in vitamin D. If you work indoors, always use sunblock, live in a northern latitude, are over 50, and/or don’t take a daily supplement, you may well be low in this important vitamin.

How Much Vitamin D Do You Need?

How much vitamin D you need is tricky. The recommended daily allowance is 200 IU per day until the age of 50, and 400 IU daily once you are over 50. But many experts think that is far too low. The recommendation was originally intended to prevent rickets in children, long before the role of vitamin D in so many other conditions had been explored.

The upper level of safe dosage is usually stated to be 2000 IU per day. This is also a controversial number, with some experts saying it is lower and some saying it is safe at much higher doses.

So how do you decide how much you need?

The most conservative approach is to take a supplement of 400IU per day and get out in the full sun at least 3 times a week for fifteen minutes at a time. This combination would be safe for almost all menopausal women. But for some, especially those who are never in the sun or have been vitamin D deficient for a long time, this would not be enough. If you think you may be vitamin D deficient, talk with your healthcare provider about what dosages would be good for you. He or she may recommend larger doses for a short period of time, then smaller maintenance doses after that.

How to Get More Vitamin D

There are several ways to boost your daily vitamin D:

  • Sunshine
    • Sunshine is the most natural way to get vitamin D. The vitamin D you get this way is easily used by your body, it is free, and you can combine it with exercise for a great bone building combo. For white women who live where there is strong sunlight, about 15 to 20 minutes three times a week will usually produce enough vitamin D to keep you from being deficient. For some people, sunshine is difficult to come by. If you wear clothing that covers all of your skin, if you live in a northern or rainy climate, or if you are dark-skinned, you may have trouble getting enough sunshine to make adequate levels of vitamin D.
  • Food
    • There are several food sources for vitamin D. Fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel are sources of this vitamin, as are egg yolks, cheese and beef liver. Vitamin D-fortified milk and other foods are also good sources.

Vitamin D and Drug Interactions

There are a number of medications that can interact with vitamin D. Check with your medical provider before you begin taking vitamin D supplements if you are taking any medications, but in particular:

  • thiazide diuretics, such as Diuril (chlorothiazide) and Enduron (methyclothiazide), which could cause dangerously high calcium levels
  • calcium-channel blockers, such as Cardizem (diltiazem) and Norvasc (amlodipine)
  • anti-seizure medications, such as phenytoin, primidone, phenobarbital and valproic acid
  • corticosteroids, such as prednisone
  • Xenical (orlistat)
  • Cholesterol-lowering medications that interfere with fat metabolism such as cholestyramine

Vitamin D can be your good friend in menopause. Finding healthy ways to get enough may help you stay strong and prevent many age-related health problems.

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee to Review Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin D and Calcium; Ross AC, Taylor CL, Yaktine AL, et al., editors. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2011. 3, Overview of Vitamin D. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK56061/

  2. Nair R, Maseeh A. Vitamin D: The "sunshine" vitaminJ Pharmacol Pharmacother. 2012;3(2):118–126. doi:10.4103/0976-500X.95506

  3. Sizar O, Givler A. Vitamin D Deficiency. [Updated 2019 Sep 30]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532266/

  4. Holick MF, Chen TC. Vitamin D deficiency: a worldwide problem with health consequences. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008;87(4):1080S-6S.

  5. Wacker M, Holick MF. Sunlight and Vitamin D: A global perspective for healthDermatoendocrinol. 2013;5(1):51–108. doi:10.4161/derm.24494

  6. Kennel KA, Drake MT, Hurley DL. Vitamin D deficiency in adults: when to test and how to treatMayo Clin Proc. 2010;85(8):752–758. doi:10.4065/mcp.2010.0138

  7. Sadat-Ali M, Al-Anii FM, Al-Turki HA, AlBadran AA, AlShammari SM. Maintenance Dose of Vitamin D: How Much Is Enough?J Bone Metab. 2018;25(3):161–164. doi:10.11005/jbm.2018.25.3.161

  8. Holick MF. Vitamin D: a d-lightful solution for healthJ Investig Med. 2011;59(6):872–880. doi:10.2310/JIM.0b013e318214ea2d

  9. Baggerly CA, Cuomo RE, French CB, et al. Sunlight and Vitamin D: Necessary for Public HealthJ Am Coll Nutr. 2015;34(4):359–365. doi:10.1080/07315724.2015.1039866

  10. Khan QJ, Fabian CJ. How I treat vitamin d deficiencyJ Oncol Pract. 2010;6(2):97–101. doi:10.1200/JOP.091087

  11. Jungert A, Spinneker A, Nagel A, Neuhäuser-Berthold M. Dietary intake and main food sources of vitamin D as a function of age, sex, vitamin D status, body composition, and income in an elderly German cohortFood Nutr Res. 2014;58:10.3402/fnr.v58.23632. Published 2014 Sep 17. doi:10.3402/fnr.v58.23632

  12. Robien K, Oppeneer SJ, Kelly JA, Hamilton-Reeves JM. Drug-vitamin D interactions: a systematic review of the literatureNutr Clin Pract. 2013;28(2):194–208. doi:10.1177/0884533612467824

  13. Lerchbaum E. Vitamin D and menopause--a narrative review. Maturitas. 2014;79(1):3-7.

Additional Reading

  • Boston University. (2008, January 7). Vitamin D2 Is As Effective As Vitamin D3 In Maintaining Concentrations Of 25-hydroxyvitamin D, Study SuggestsScienceDaily. Retrieved November 1, 2019 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080102122306.htm

  • Supplements
    You can find vitamin D supplements in two forms: vitamin D2, and vitamin D3, as discussed earlier. There are still some unknowns about whether one type is superior to the other in preventing deficiency. If you have the choice of buying either, D3 is probably the better choice since there is longstanding evidence that it is more easily absorbed by the body.
  • Bischoff-Ferrari, HA, Giovannucci, E, Willett, WC, Dietrich, T, Dawson-Hughes, B, Estimation of optimal serum concentrations of 25-hydroxyvitamin D for multiple health outcomes, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 84, No. 1, 18-28, July 2006. Retrieved 12 May, 2008.
  • National Institutes of health, Office of Dietary Supplements, Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin D. Retrieved 12 May 2008.