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How Much Vitamin D Do You Really Need?

Vitamin D plays an integral role in optimal health. It’s involved in the biology of all the cells and tissues in your body, including your immune cells. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with musculoskeletal pain, frequent or intense colds and flu, depression, impaired cognition, headaches, fatigue and more — and an estimated 40 percent of Americans are deficient. So what’s the “right” amount of vitamin D? How much do you need to keep your body healthy and avoid a deficiency?

Researchers and medical experts have long been debating the answer to that question. If you ask the American Medical Association, 20 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) is sufficient. If you ask researchers who conducted a recent study on trends in use of high-dose vitamin D supplements, they’ll tell you that you may actually be getting too much of the important nutrient. They claim that many Americans are taking dangerously high doses of vitamin D and warn that 4,000 IUs per day is the recommended max, and that anything above this can lead to calcifications and other health problems.

Maintaining a proper vitamin D level is an important part of keeping your body healthy, as is maintaining a proper level of other nutrients, like calcium, magnesium and vitamin K2 — lack of balance between these nutrients is what causes symptoms of vitamin D toxicity. So what is an ideal vitamin D level? And is it possible to take too much?

To prevent chronic disease and optimize your health, an ideal level is between 40 and 60 ng/ml. Excessive vitamin D can cause over absorption of calcium, which in turn may result in calcium deposits in your heart and kidneys. This is why it’s important to maintain a proper amount. Considering the rate of deficiency, it’s highly unlikely that you’re getting too much. To optimize your vitamin D levels:

Safely expose enough of your skin to the sun for long enough periods to increase your vitamin D levels

If you cannot get adequate sun exposure, use an oral vitamin D3 supplement

Eat foods that contain vitamin D, including wild-caught Alaskan sockeye salmon, sardines, eggs and shiitake mushrooms