“Do I need more vitamin D?” With the evidence for the benefits of vitamin D for women’s health growing—and really, vitamin D is essential for everyone—this question is common. And while vitamin D for PMS or PMDD treatment isn’t important clinically, we still believe that vitamin D testing is one of the most simple and important things you can do for your health.
There’s some confusion about what vitamin D tests are best, and what the tests mean, so read on to find out what you need to know before you get tested for Vitamin D.
1. The correct test for vitamin D is 25-hydroxy-vitamin D, sometimes referred to as 25-OH Vitamin D. There is another test for 1,25 hydroxy vitamin D, and even though this is the active form that your body actually uses, this latter test is useless for most purposes, and unnecessary.
2. Vitamin D deficiency is indicated by a test result of less than 20 mg/dL. If your vitamin D test is 19 mg/dL or under, the best way to quickly get your vitamin D into the correct range is to take 5000 IU of vitamin D supplement every day for two or three months, at which point you should get retested to make sure your levels are going up. It’s also possible to get higher doses of Vitamin D that are meant to be taken just once per week.
3. If your vitamin D test level is between 20 and 34 mg/dL, you are in the suboptimal range. While this is not ideal, most of the studies that show problems from low vitamin D find it at the deficiency level mentioned above, rather than the suboptimal range. Still, if you have suboptimal vitamin D you should take 2000 IU per day of vitamin D supplement.
4. If your test result is between 35 and 75 mg/dL, we would still recommend you take 2000 IU vitamin D per day, because at this dosage you will almost certainly never get excessive vitamin D. However, if your result is above 50 mg/dL, you can pass on taking vitamin D supplements during the summer months, assuming you spend some time outside. A vitamin D level above 75 mg/dL is rare, but anyone with this amount of vitamin D in their bloodstream doesn’t need to take additional vitamin. It’s impossible to get excessive vitamin D from time spent in the sun.
5. If you are dark-skinned, it is harder for you to make vitamin D from spending time in the sun. So dark-skinned people (African-Americans, Asians, South Asians, and others) need to be more vigilant about getting tested, about taking vitamin D supplements, and about spending adequate time outdoors.
6. You can’t make vitamin D from sunshine if your skin is covered by clothing or if you are wearing sunscreen. Although this is another excellent reason to take vitamin D supplements, you can still make vitamin D and protect yourself from sun damage, while being outdoors in the shade. Or, we recommend you go outside, in the sun, in shirtsleeves without sunscreen for 15-20 minutes before covering up.
7. Lastly, only take vitamin D3 supplements, or cholecalciferol. Vitamin D2, ergocalciferol, is not as well absorbed, and isn’t the natural form your body uses. Vitamin D2 is up to 33% less efficient as a source of vitamin D compared to D3.
We recommend vitamin D for PMS and PMDD if you’ve already taken care of the basics of diet, lifestyle, and nutritional and herbal supplementation. But we recommend you make sure you have adequate vitamin D in your body for its overall benefits.