January and February are traditionally rough months for the good people of Seattle. It’s back to work after the holiday season, the rain and gloom can be relentless, and even though the days are getting longer, they are still quite dark.

This past December was one of the darkest on record in Seattle, and many people are feeling the effects of the lack of light. I always start to get more questions about the sunshine vitamin, or vitamin D, around this time. A very common question that arises is, “Should I take vitamin D?

The short answer: it depends. Not very satisfying, right? Good naturopathic medicine is based around the “it depends” answer, because the care is individualized to fit every patient’s particular needs.

So, my answer to that seemingly simple question depends upon a lot of things, and I won’t go into detail on them all. Just a few! I usually ask my patients this question to get things started:

1) Have your vitamin D levels been checked recently?

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin (along with A, E, and K), which means that your body can store any extra that you consume. Other vitamins, like vitamin C and B vitamins, are water soluble; your body uses what it needs at the time and excretes the rest. Because the body can store vitamin D, it is possible to have levels that are too high, especially if you’ve been supplementing at higher doses for a long term.

Getting a lab test to check your levels before you start supplementing is always a good idea. When you know your baseline level, you and your naturopath will be able to track your progress with a certain dosage and form of vitamin D. Individuals metabolize and store vitamin D at different rates. Sometimes levels of vitamin D don’t increase. There are several reasons why your level may not increase, not all of which pertain directly to the supplement, so it’s best to check with your naturopath and get his or her professional opinion.

Vitamin D is very easy to procure and supplement yourself, but it is best to work with a naturopath who can help you to reach an optimal vitamin D level and troubleshoot any roadblocks to achieving these levels that you may run into yourself.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of the series next week where I talk more specifically about dosage levels.