Natural Methods to Boost Vitamin D

by Laurie Roth-Donnell, Master Herbalist and Holistic Health Practioner

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“Three out of four Americans suffer from low levels of vitamin D. African-Americans and Hispanics show particularly high risk—nearly all suffering with suboptimal levels.”—according to Dr. Adit Ginde, an assistant professor of surgery at the University of Colorado, Denver School Of Medicine. Vitamin D deficiency can also be caused by inadequate exposure to sunlight, combined with poor diet and malabsorbed supplements.

Why Do We Need Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is critical for strong bones by assisting in the absorption of calcium from food. In older adults, a daily dose of D and calcium helps to prevent fractures and brittle bones. Children need D to build strong bones and prevent rickets, a cause of bowed legs, knock knees, and weak bones. By simply supplementing this vitamin to milk in the 1930s, the disorder was nearly eliminated. According to the Mayo Clinic, research has indicated that vitamin D may protect against high blood pressure, osteoporosis, cancer and some autoimmune diseases.

How to Identify Your Current Level of Vitamin D:

The most accurate way to measure how much vitamin D is in your body is the 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood test. A level of 20 nanograms/milliliter to 50 ng/mL is considered adequate for healthy people. A level less than 12 ng/mL indicates vitamin D deficiency. Ask your primary care physician to assist you with this test or search online for home tests.

How Does the Sun Give Us Vitamin D?

When the sun shines on bare skin, the body produces its own vitamin D. For many it’s not enough; fair-skinned people may absorb enough sunlight in 5–10 minutes a few times a week, Natural Methods - Family-resizebut if it is a cloudy day or the low light of winter, incorporated with heavy use of sun block, production of vitamin D is compromised. It has also been noted that older people and those of darker skin tones have lower production levels, and experts say it’s better to rely on food and supplements. Some assorted fish, such as salmon, swordfish, or mackerel, provide a healthy amount of vitamin D in one serving. Other fatty fish such as tuna and sardines have some D, but in much lower amounts. Small amounts are also found in egg yolk, beef liver, and fortified foods like cereal and milk. All are great unless you suffer from fat malabsorption syndrome.


Individuals with fat malabsorption syndrome cannot efficiently absorb vitamin D from the diet. According to a study published by the National Institutes of Health, an alternative method to raise vitamin D levels, especially during the winter months when vitamin D cannot be made, is to expose the skin to UVB by a device that allows the body to produce vitamin D3 cutaneously.

Vitamin D Light Therapy

Light therapy involves getting out in the sun every day or spending time each day under special light therapy bulbs. These bulbs are very bright, with 5000 lux (a measure of light levels) or more. Check online for more details on these lights from manufacturers around the world.

Best Time to Schedule Light Therapy

Light has benefits any time of the day. However, light therapy obtained in the morning is believed to have slightly more benefit.

Effects of Too Much Light

Overexposure to sunlight and UV rays may cause skin cancer, cataracts or macular degeneration. Too much artificial bright light may trigger mania in people with bipolar disorders, or anxious feelings in healthy people.

When I relocated from Southern California to the state of Washington, I began feeling an ache in my bones. My primary care physician ran a full screen blood workup on me that indicated a vitamin D deficiency. I began a daily regime, which included an oral supplement and a 30-minute Full Spectrum Light Therapy session daily. I am pleased to report that my vitamin D level has returned within the normal range.

If you want to learn more about your vitamin D level, please consult your primary care physician and may the sun always shine on your face!