There’s no question about it — the sunshine vitamin is essential to health and wellbeing. It’s integral for healthy bones,¹ mood regulation,² gut health³ and so much more. And you may have read recently about the connection between healthy vitamin D levels and milder COVID-19 symptoms. So almost everybody can benefit from a vitamin D supplement, but when, how and how much to take is a bit more complicated.
How do I know how much vitamin D I should take?
Medical experts agree that getting enough from food and sun exposure alone is difficult, and vitamin D insufficiency or deficiency is common.⁴ Most of us need a daily supplement to maintain optimal vitamin D levels between 30 and 100 nanograms of vitamin D per milliliter of blood (ng/mL).
When you’re shopping for a supplement, there are two forms of vitamin D to choose from, D2 and D3:
- Vitamin D2 is plant-derived and is preferred by those following a vegan diet.
- Vitamin D3 is typically derived from fish or sheep lanolin.
While both forms will help boost your body’s stores, D3 is twice as effective.⁵
The National Institutes of Health recommend 600 international units (IU) daily for most adults,⁶ but research suggests that won’t stave off vitamin D deficiency.⁷ Recommendations from vitamin D experts range from 5,000 to 10,000 IU daily, or even higher.⁸ It’s unlikely you’ll overdo it on the sunshine vitamin, but there is a small risk of toxicity called hypervitaminosis D if you do take too much.
Is it possible to take too much vitamin D?
Vitamin D toxicity happens with extremely high doses. It’s a rare but potentially serious condition that can cause nausea, vomiting, frequent urination and weakness. To determine your best dose, talk to your healthcare professional about getting your vitamin D levels tested to find your baseline.
Is there a benefit to taking vitamin D at night?
There’s been some buzz suggesting a link between supplementing with vitamin D before bedtime and the ability to drift off to dreamland. Some studies have shown that vitamin D is connected to the production of melatonin, which regulates circadian rhythm and drives sleep. There is also research linking vitamin D deficiency to some sleep disorders. But, while being vitamin D deficient may contribute to poor sleep, there’s no direct link between taking a vitamin D supplement at night and better sleep quality.
Should I take vitamin D at the same time as other vitamins?
There are plenty of multivitamins, including prenatal vitamins, that include vitamin D alongside others like vitamin C, so you don’t have to overthink whether these can be taken together. Fat-soluble vitamins like A, E and K should also be consumed with a meal, so taking them together makes sense.
There’s also research to support taking a magnesium supplement with your vitamin D since these micronutrients work in tandem.
Some supplements, though, like probiotics and water-soluble vitamins perform better on an empty stomach; these you may wish to take separately, and before meals.
What about vitamin D from food sources?
Vitamin D is a component of many healthy foods, including oily fish and egg yolks, but most adults should still take a supplemental dose.
Are there any drug interactions with vitamin D?
Some nutrients, like the minerals iron and calcium, should never be taken together because they compete for receptor sites and interfere with each other’s absorption. Fortunately, there are no known interactions between vitamin D and other commonly used vitamins, minerals or nutritional supplements. It’s also safe to take vitamin D with most prescription medications unless your pharmacist or healthcare professional advises otherwise.
Is there a bad time to take vitamin D?
Since vitamin D is fat soluble, it’s best not to take it on an empty stomach. For maximum absorption, take it with a substantial meal, and preferably one that includes fat-containing foods like nuts, seeds, and eggs. (Or avocado toast at breakfast, for example!)
What if I forget to take my vitamin D?
There’s no need to double up the next dose if you miss your supplement. Just take it as soon as you remember or wait until the next day to get back into your routine.
What’s the best way to remember to take my daily dose of vitamin D?
Consistency is key! Taking supplements at a specific time every day helps with compliance, so for best results, consider your vitamin D supplement an integral part of your health and wellness regimen –– like drinking water, brushing your teeth or having your morning coffee. You could even put your supplement next to the coffee mugs to jog your memory in the mornings.
The best time of day to take vitamin D is at a regular fat-containing meal, and it’s okay to take with other vitamins and medications unless your healthcare professional says not to. It’s not a big deal if you miss a dose, but taking your vitamin D regularly is a good habit that can contribute to better bone health, sleep and mood.