Unless you get a minimum of 20 minutes full exposure (with all surfaces of your skin exposed – face, arms, legs) to the sun every day, during other seasons, then you need to supplement with Vitamin D in the spring/summer/fall as well.
As Adrian Gombart PhD, Oregon State University, Dept. of Biochemistry & Biophysics writes:
“Vitamin D prevents the “adaptive” immune response from over-reacting and reduces inflammation, and appears to suppress the immune response. However, the function of the new genetic element this research explored allows vitamin D to boost the innate immune response by turning on an antimicrobial protein. The overall effect may help to prevent the immune system from overreacting.”
Why You Need To Take Extra Magnesium With Vitamin D
Now, if you’ve been taking plenty of Vitamin D, but yet not experiencing the benefits, or perhaps even feeling worse, it may be because your magnesium deficiency is masking all the benefits of the Vitamin D!
Vitamin D requires magnesium in order to be converted to its active form. Therefore, the more Vitamin D you take, the more magnesium you need. Compounding this requirement is the fact that over 40 percent of Americans are deficient in magnesium. So it is possible you have begun Vitamin D supplementation with a magnesium deficiency already in place.
If you are not getting adequate magnesium, then you may get additional, or worsening symptoms when you supplement with Vitamin D (since it also uses up magnesium). You may become constipated, get muscle cramps, heart problems, etc. (there’s a list of about 110 ailments that are caused by magnesium deficiency).
You can see which brands of magnesium I recommend here. And be sure and read my blog post specifically on Magnesium for all the details on the different forms, absorption rates, and figuring out which one is best for you.
My good friend, Dr. Carolyn Dean MD ND spends a lot of time educating people about why it’s so necessary to get enough magnesium, especially when you are supplementing with calcium or vitamin D:
“Everyone thinks there’s a Vitamin D deficiency epidemic but I’m not convinced. The big question is, why all of a sudden are we so deficient. What could Vitamin D be responding to and what do the low levels indicate?
Here’s one possible answer. Vitamin D is really a hormone with a feedback loop to calcium. When the body has enough calcium less Vitamin D is required and the levels drop.
We are a calcified country, so the effect of high calcium may be lower levels of Vitamin D. And without understanding the complex chemistry involved, most people think we just need to take more.
But MORE Vitamin D pulls in more calcium and bumps out magnesium, making people more magnesium deficient.
Taking high dose Vitamin D (anything above 2,000 IU) will also use up your magnesium because this mineral is required to change the supplemental/storage form of Vitamin D into active Vitamin D.
Not everyone is going to suffer from too much Vitamin D and enough people seem to benefit from it (at least in the short term) that it’s not going to ring any alarm bells for many years. After all, it took about 3 decades for us to realize that high dose calcium supplementation was causing heart disease and soft tissue calcification when not properly balanced with magnesium.
Do your research before taking high dose Vitamin D. Google the benefits AND the dangers before you make a decision. If you do a Vitamin D blood test, remember a mid range level is better than a high level.”
Adding Cod Liver Oil
Cod Liver Oil contains the elongated omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA. EPA is the precursor of important prostaglandins – localized tissue hormones that help the body deal with inflammation; and DHA is extremely important for the development and function of the brain and nervous system. Cod liver oil is also a good source of vitamin K – which is important in maintaining blood and bone health.
Since cod liver oil naturally contains vitamin D, it is my belief that it is best to take vitamin D together with cod liver oil to improve absorption and utilization in the body – and of course, both must be in the proper form, with healthy extraction and filtration methods used.
Here’s the brand of natural-source vitamin D3 I recommend, in an oil base (vitamin D needs to be taken with oil to be absorbed and the natural D3 form – also known as cholecalciferol – is the only one you want to use for maximum effectiveness).
And here’s the cod liver oil I recommend – from pristine waters off Norway, all contaminants filtered out using natural filtration (no heat or chemicals), and with measures in place to prevent overfishing. These gelcaps are a delicious lemon flavor, so the kids and I just put them in our mouth along with the vitamin D gelcaps, chew it all together (it actually tastes nice!) and then spit out the empty gel casings – except for my youngest, who thinks they’re like gummy bears and just swallows them. We take them first thing in the morning, with breakfast, and then we’re good for the day.
There are varying recommendations for how much vitamin D you should take and some suggest getting your vitamin D levels tested using the 25 (OH)D test – since dosage varies according to weight, age and skin color – the darker your skin, the more vitamin D you need, children need less than adults, overweight people need more, and people in disease states (especially IBD) need more.
To give you a rough guideline, here’s what my family takes:
Medium-Brown Skin Adult Female (me): 4,000-6,000 IU vitamin D per day and 2 capsules cod liver oil
White Adult Male: 4,000 IU vitamin D per day and 2 capsules cod liver oil
My kids (1/4 Indian, 3/4 white, aged 3 – 6): 2,000 IU per day, and 1 capsule cod liver oil
For my friends (mostly white females) with no serious health issues, I usually suggest they take at least 3,000 IU per day for maintenance.
For people with IBD/IBS with white skin I would recommend 4,000 – 6,000 IU vitamin D per day and 4-6 capsules cod liver oil.
And please note that we live in the Pacific Northwest – a very rainy climate with very little sun during the winter. If you are in a warmer place and can get out with your skin exposed to the sun for even 20 minutes per day, you will need less vitamin D in supplement form, since you can get it from the sun.
If you want to find out exactly how much vitamin D you need, this article by David Rostollan BSc is very clear and simple, yet addresses every point you need to consider.
Click here to see my complete Winter Immune System Protocol.
Original post November 2009. Most recently updated December 2019.