The cheapest supplement of all time
A question I’m asked frequently is, “what supplements do you take?” This is a tricky question because supplementation should really be conducted on an individual level, meaning that just because I take Supplement X does not mean that you should as well.
However, there is one “supplement” that I feel fairly safe in telling people about: Sunlight. Why? Because sunlight induces the production of Vitamin D by your skin.
Vitamin D deficiency
I think its safe to say that we evolved outdoors with significant sun exposure. Today, many of us work jobs that force us to spend most of our time indoors and out of the sun. Additionally, many of us live in climates that are not conducive to getting large amounts of daily sun.
All of this can lead to a Vitamin D deficiency. Using a conservative analysis, it appears that about 40% of Americans are deficient:
Deficiency has a correlation with a number of diseases. There are literally too many studies to list here but you can click this link to see some primary literature on the subject:
There are several words that jump out at me on the pages in the link above:
How does this make us sick?
A number of these diseases are really just inflammation of a specific tissue or are autoimmune diseases. Vitamin D can be converted into a molecule called f 1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D(3) which has a tremendous influence on the immune system in a number of different ways.
T cells are altered in the absence of vitamin D to promote inflammation associated with autoimmunity and immune pathology:
Additionally, a number of innate cells appear to produce increased amounts of immunosuppressive cytokines and decreased levels of inflammatory cytokines upon interaction with the Vitamin-D derivative.
Several studies examined the effects of Vitamin D supplementation on diseases. The dosages given vary from 500 IU to greater than 50,000 IU per week. I think it’s important to keep in mind that your body can produce upwards of 20,000 IU within 30 minutes… which is upwards of 50 times more than the government recommends you obtain. Regardless, the results of supplementation are rather astounding with improvements seen from conditions ranging from asthma, to autoimmune disease and infection.
“I live in Alaska, how should I get my Vitamin D”
In an ideal world, people would get their Vitamin D from the sun as the body naturally turns off production once its made “enough.” However, this obviously isn’t always possible. In this scenario, you could consider supplementing with pills. I’ve used a number of brands and seen benefits from all of them.
I weigh 175 lbs and take 5,000 IU/day in the winter, much less in the summer. When I first started supplementing, I took 10,000 IU/day for the first month.
Can you take too much vitamin D? Sure but it isn’t terribly easy to do so. Also, don’t be out in the sun until you burn, as this is obviously counterproductive.
Check this link out for a little story about toxicity concerns:
I’d recommend taking a smaller dose first and slowly ramping up the dosage if you’re worried at all.
IMPORTANT: If you have any sort of parathyroid disease, you should consult your doctor before taking vitamin D. Also, if low doses of supplementary vitamin D give you head aches, this apparently can be a sign of parathyroid disease and you should consult your doctor.