Studies have shown that vitamin D can reduce the risk of osteoporosis, heart disease, and cancer. “But how soon will I feel better after taking vitamin D?” You ask. The answer depends on your medical condition and current level of vitamin D.
On a general scale, it takes a few weeks to some months of consistent vitamin D supplementation for the effects to kick in.
This article examines what vitamin D is, its functions, how to know if you’re vitamin D deficient, and how long it’ll take to recover from a vitamin D deficiency. Let’s get started.
Table of Contents
What Is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient that plays a critical role in the overall health and well-being of the human body.
It is unique among vitamins because the body can synthesize it when the skin is exposed to sunlight, specifically ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. In addition to sunlight, we can obtain vitamin D through certain foods and supplements.
There are two main forms of vitamin D: ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) and cholecalciferol (vitamin D3).
Vitamin D2 comes from plant sources such as mushrooms. Meanwhile, we find vitamin D3 in animal sources like fatty fish, egg yolks, and fortified dairy products. The body can use both forms, but absorbs vitamin D3 more easily.
If you want to learn more about vitamin D, please read this article explaining the difference between vitamin D and vitamin D3.
Functions of Vitamin D
Promotes healthy bones
The primary function of vitamin D in relation to bone health is to facilitate calcium absorption in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Calcium is an essential mineral required for the formation, maintenance, and repair of bone tissue.
Adequate calcium levels in the bloodstream are critical for optimal bone mineralization and skeletal development throughout life.
So how does vitamin D enhance the absorption of calcium in the small intestine? It stimulates the expression of calcium-binding proteins and transporters, increasing the efficiency of calcium uptake into the bloodstream.
In addition, vitamin D assists in maintaining proper levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood. The vitamin achieves this by regulating the activity of parathyroid hormone (PTH). PTH is a key hormone involved in bone remodeling and calcium homeostasis.
When serum calcium levels are low, the body releases PTH to promote calcium release from bone tissue and increase calcium reabsorption in the kidneys.
Furthermore, vitamin D assists with bone remodeling. This is the continuous process through which old bone tissue is replaced with new bone. It is critical for maintaining bone strength, density, and structural integrity.
Vitamin D influences bone remodeling by promoting the differentiation and activity of osteoblasts, the cells responsible for bone formation.
The vitamin also modulates the function of osteoclasts, the cells responsible for bone resorption.
By regulating the balance between bone formation and resorption, vitamin D preserves bone mass and prevents age-related bone loss.
Supports the immune system
Upon exposure to sunlight, the skin synthesizes vitamin D3. Then, D3 is converted to its active form, calcitriol, in the liver and kidneys.
This active form of vitamin D affects various physiological processes, including immune function.
Vitamin D has been shown to modulate both innate and adaptive immune responses in several ways, as outlined below.
Regulation of antimicrobial peptides
Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are small proteins produced by immune cells that possess potent antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties.
Vitamin D has been shown to stimulate the production of AMPs, like cathelicidin and defensins, by various immune cells.
These AMPs can directly destroy invading pathogens, contributing to the innate immune response.
Modulation of immune cell function
Vitamin D binds to the vitamin D receptor (VDR). The latter is present on the surface of many immune cell types, including T cells, B cells, and macrophages.
Upon binding to VDR, vitamin D can influence the differentiation, proliferation, and activation of these immune cells.
For example, vitamin D has been shown to promote the differentiation of monocytes into macrophages, which are crucial for the phagocytosis and destruction of pathogens.
Regulation of adaptive immunity
Vitamin D maintains the delicate balance between the various components of the adaptive immune system.
It has been shown to suppress the activity of pro-inflammatory T helper 1 (Th1) cells. Moreso, it promotes the activity of anti-inflammatory T helper 2 (Th2) cells and regulatory T cells (Tregs).
This modulation of T cell function helps prevent excessive inflammation and tissue damage. It is particularly important in the context of autoimmune diseases, where the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s tissues.
To better understand the answer to the question, “How soon will I feel better after taking vitamin D?”
What Is Vitamin D Deficiency?
Vitamin D deficiency (VDD) is a prevalent and significant public health concern that affects a large proportion of the global population. According to Cleveland Clinic, up to 1 billion people are vitamin D deficient. Meanwhile, 50% of humans don’t have enough vitamin D.
This condition occurs when an individual’s serum concentration of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D), the primary circulating form of vitamin D, falls below the threshold necessary for maintaining optimal physiological functions.
25(OH)D is measured in nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). If you’re not vitamin D deficient, you’ll have 50 to 70 ng/mL of 25(OH)D in your body.
Less than 30 ng/mL of 25(OH)D is a sign of severe vitamin D deficiency. A 25(OH)D level between 30 and 50 ng/mL indicates minor vitamin D deficiency. Anything above 80 ng/mL means you have too much vitamin D.
Factors Contributing to Vitamin D Deficiency
Limited sun exposure: Individuals who live at higher latitudes, have occupations that limit sun exposure, or practice strict sun protection measures are at an increased risk of vitamin D deficiency due to reduced cutaneous synthesis of the nutrient.
Skin pigmentation: Melanin, the pigment responsible for skin color, absorbs UVB radiation, thereby reducing the efficiency of vitamin D synthesis in the skin.
Consequently, individuals with darker skin tones are at a higher risk of developing vitamin D deficiency.
Age: The capacity of the skin to synthesize vitamin D declines with age, making older adults more susceptible to deficiency.
Malabsorption: Certain gastrointestinal conditions, such as celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, or gastric bypass surgery, can impair the absorption of dietary vitamin D, leading to deficiency.
Dietary factors: Individuals who follow a strict vegetarian or vegan diet, or those with limited access to fortified foods, may be at risk of vitamin D deficiency due to inadequate dietary intake.
When Will Vitamin D Will Start Working For Me?
How long does it take for vitamin D to start working, and what factors influence its effectiveness?
Baseline vitamin D levels
If you have a severe deficiency, it might take longer to notice the effects of supplementation, whereas someone with adequate levels may notice the benefits sooner.
It’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional to determine your baseline levels and the appropriate dosage.
Type of vitamin D supplement
There are two main forms of vitamin D supplements available: vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol).
Vitamin D3 is considered more effective and easily absorbed, so opting for a D3 supplement may lead to quicker benefits.
Absorption and bioavailability
Factors such as age, gut health, and genetic variations can influence how efficiently your body absorbs and utilizes vitamin D. Consuming the supplement with a fat-containing meal can improve absorption and expedite the effects.
Your body naturally produces vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunlight. Therefore, the amount and frequency of sun exposure can impact how quickly you notice the benefits of vitamin D.
However, please balance sun exposure with the risks of excessive ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
Diet and lifestyle
A healthy diet rich in vitamin D sources like fatty fish, egg yolks, and fortified foods can boost the effectiveness of supplementation.
Additionally, regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight can improve your body’s ability to absorb and utilize vitamin D.
Specific health conditions
If you have a specific health condition that affects vitamin D metabolism, it may take longer for you to experience the benefits of supplementation.
How Soon Will I Feel Better After Taking Vitamin D?
How soon will I feel better after taking vitamin D?
Your system’s response to increased vitamin D intake depends on some factors, including the ones explained above.
Studies on this subject fix the timeline for recovery from vitamin D deficiency between a few days to 12 weeks to many months.
For example, the American Society of Oncology Journal reports that administering 50 000 IU of vitamin D weekly for 12 weeks can correct vitamin D deficiency.
On the other hand, the National Library of Medicine published an article in 2014 disclosing that consistent vitamin D supplementation can improve VDD symptoms in five weeks.
Higher doses of vitamin D may result in faster results. But it’s crucial to follow your healthcare professional’s recommendations to avoid the risks of toxicity associated with excessive vitamin D intake.