by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP
To test or not to test – recommendations for people who choose to get vitamin D testing – and some guidance for those who don’t
- How do I know if I need testing?
- What if I decide not to get tested?
- What specific test should I request from my healthcare provider?
- Do I need to schedule my vitamin D test at a certain time, or together with other tests?
- What levels are optimal when I get my vitamin D tested?
- How much does a vitamin D test cost?
- Is testing worth it? What do I get in return for my investment?
- How do I know how much vitamin D to take to get replete?
- Should I be worried about vitamin D toxicity? How can I prevent vitamin D toxicity?
- What are the symptoms of vitamin D toxicity? Can someone be just hypersensitive to vitamin D?
- What about retesting? Do I need it?
- How can I maintain my vitamin D levels once I get them up to where I want to be?
How do I know if I need testing?
Today we know the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency is widespread, and for this reason feel testing is easily justifiable for all people. Everyone stands to benefit from knowing what their levels are and, if not optimal, supplementing their vitamin D3 intake. But we also recognize that for whatever reason, not everyone will choose to get tested.
Still, at the very minimum, people who have or are at higher risk of the following health concerns should seriously consider getting their vitamin D levels tested:
- Family history or personal history of cancer
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Autoimmune conditions (such as lupus, ankylosing spondylitis, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis)
- PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)
- Diabetes mellitus (both types 1 and 2)
In addition, anyone who experiences symptoms of:
- Musculoskeletal pain, including joint pain and low back pain
- Muscle weakness
- Poor balance
- Systemic inflammation
What if I decide not to get tested?
As we explain at some length in our full article on vitamin D, “Is Vitamin D Deficiency Casting A Cloud Over Your Health?,” there is a wealth of health benefits to be enjoyed when we are vitamin D replete. One way to get there knowingly is through periodic testing and vitamin D supplementation. But if you choose not to get tested, all the benefits of the sunshine vitamin are still available to you. You have two options:
Natural vitamin D production. The freest, most natural way is nature’s own: through limited exposure of your skin to the sun. Without sunblock, your skin can manufacture on average 10,000–15,000 IU vitamin D in a single “pinking” exposure. But this route has its limitations, too. Most obviously, if your skin is very, very light, or if you are at risk of or have a history of melanoma, or if you’re fearful of sun exposure for any reason, this is not a workable option for you. (Note that sunblock with an SPF of 15 or higher will block 100% of vitamin D production.) In addition, sun exposure doesn’t work equally well for everyone. It’s a given that the darker your skin, the more melanin pigment it contains, and the more prolonged sunshine exposure you will need to produce adequate vitamin D.