The pandemic has caused many people to look for ways to strengthen their immunity. And one of the common ways found on the Internet is to increase vitamin D levels. But in this instance, too much of a good thing can be dangerous.

Why is vitamin D important?

Besides boosting immunity, our bodies need this essential vitamin to build new bone, prevent muscle spasms and cramps, regulate thyroid function. It also allows healthy neuromuscular function and supports cardiovascular health.

How do we get vitamin D?

You can get this bone-building booster from foods containing high levels of Vitamin D, like almonds, eggs, and salmon. The body needs fat to absorb the vitamin efficiently. And because the body stores it in fat cells, this vitamin can accumulate without symptoms.

Fortunately, because our skin reacts with the sun’s UVB rays, our bodies can make vitamin D. It only takes 10 to 30 minutes of unprotected sun exposure a few times a week to maintain optimal levels.

This powerful reaction can create large amounts of the vitamin. According to one study at the National Institutes of Health, 24-hour exposure to the sun in a bathing suit would be equivalent to 15,000 IUs.

But even moderate sun exposure is not practical for most people.

People who live in Wisconsin have a hard time producing adequate amounts of vitamin D from the sun, especially in the winter months. They often need supplements … and that’s where the danger lies.

How much should I take?

Knowing your vitamin D level is important because low levels are associated with higher risks of autoimmune disorders, diabetes, and other health conditions.

But there’s also a danger of elevating it too high.

Diet and sun exposure rarely cause toxicity. Supplements create the greatest risk.

So, how much is enough?

According to the Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health, the Recommended Dietary Allowance of Vitamin D is 600 International Units (IU) a day for most people. Infants from birth to 12 months need about 400 IUs. Adults over the age of 70 need 800 IUs.

However, recent studies show that a blood level of 30 to 50 ng/ML  is best for optimum health.

How can I safely increase my Vitamin D levels?

The best way to increase your blood level is by working with a provider, dietician, or nutritionist. Your provider should regularly check your blood levels with a simple blood test as you continue increase your supplementation.

What are the signs and symptoms of too much Vitamin D?

The first symptoms of toxicity include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Frequent urination

But toxicity occurs silently. Few symptoms appear as levels reach abnormal levels. That’s one more reason it’s important to work with a medical provider before you increase your dose.

What are the dangers of toxicity?

Too much vitamin D causes calcium to build up in the body. And this can lead to bone pain, kidney problems, and the formation of calcium stones. Left unchecked, toxicity also may cause:

  • Abnormal thirst
  • Altered consciousness
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney failure and hearing loss

How is vitamin D toxicity treated?

Treatment of high toxic vitamin levels may include:

  • Limiting sun exposure
  • Avoid dairy foods, salmon, eggs, and other foods high in the vitamin
  • Stopping vitamin supplements.

However, hospitalization and intravenous fluids may be necessary in severe cases.

So, if you’re concerned about your vitamin D levels, talk to your primary care provider. A simple blood test can measure how much is in your bloodstream. Then, together,  you and your provider can make a plan to achieve your best health.

Next time, we’ll look at the dangers of too much magnesium, another essential nutrient for bone health.