How Eating Organic and Sweating can Increase your Vitamin D Levels

We all know that vitamin D is essential for health, but did you know that you can get plenty of sun exposure, as well as supplement with vitamin D, and still be deficient? The common thinking around nutrients is that the more we ingest, the more we have in our bodies. But with Vitamin D, that’s just not the case. There’s far more to the story than just trying to get enough, whether from food, the sun, or supplements.

A Recap on the Benefits of Vitamin D

Let’s first recount what Vitamin D actually does. Most of you probably know that it’s essential for bone health. As a hormone-like substance, vitamin D travels from one tissue to another and changes gene expression. In the case of bone, vitamin D travels to the intestines and causes the genes in intestinal cells to produce more of a calcium binding protein called calbindin. This protein literally binds calcium and pulls it into the body. People with adequate vitamin D levels will absorb 30-80% of dietary calcium (80% for pregnant and lactating women), while people that are deficient in vitamin D will absorb around 10-15% of their dietary calcium. Beyond the effects on bone, adequate vitamin D levels have been associated with reducing autoimmune diseases, balancing microbes in the gut, reducing cardiovascular disease risk, decreasing cancer risk, treating musculoskeletal pain, reducing the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease, and much more.

It is of utmost importance to maintain proper vitamin D levels while pregnant. Unfortunately many pregnant women are deficient in vitamin D, and thus their offspring are most likely deficient in utero and at birth. Breast milk is often a poor source for vitamin D so building up stores prior to and during pregnancy is critical.

Eating pesticide-laden foods and being exposed to BPA can degrade Vitamin D in your body!

How Can Eating Organic Raise My Vitamin D Levels?

Research has found that even people living in Hawaii, getting 30+ hours of sun exposure a week, are deficient in vitamin D. How can this be?

Well, we all have this receptor that sits on our DNA called the Pregnane X receptor (or PXR). It gets activated by chemical exposure—both prescription medications and xenobiotics (chemicals coming from outside the body)—and when it is activated certain genes called cytochrome-P450 genes get turned on, which inactivate both the storage form and active hormone form of vitamin D. In essence, these chemicals rob your body of vitamin D.

One study found that 106 different pesticides activated the human PXR receptor. This implies that when people are exposed to pesticides they can become vitamin D deficient. In fact, a 2012 study showed that people with higher levels of pesticides in their bodies had lower vitamin D levels. Research shows us that there is a 31% increased rate of exposure to pesticides from consuming conventional produce. So what do you do? Buy ORGANIC to reduce your pesticide exposure, which will then in turn spare your vitamin D from being degraded in the body.

Beyond pesticides, the plasticizing agent, BPA, is also a potent activator of PXR. BPA is found on receipts, the lining of cans (soup, tuna, salmon, juice, tomatoes, etc.), plastic water bottles, plastic food storage containers, polycarbonate bottles, as well as in composite fillings for teeth! Research from the American Heart Association has found that BPA activates PXR so strongly that exposure to it increases cardiovascular disease risk.

It's easier than you think to avoid BPA's, and to get rid of them if you've been exposed!

Buy more fresh organic produce while steering away from packaged foods. Don’t store leftovers in plastic or reheat anything in plastic. Don't use plastic baby bottles, sippy cups, or plastic dishes for your babies and children (use bamboo dishes, glass baby bottles, small ceramic cups, and stainless steel for them instead). Use glass containers or stainless steel for storing food—both leftovers and dry pantry goods. Use a glass or stainless steel water bottle for drinking water. And Sweat! BPA is excreted in sweat so get into the sauna a few times a week, exercise, dance, take a hot bath—whatever you can do to really sweat!

Wrapping It All Up

We usually recommend Vitamin D supplementation from October through April if you are living above the 35th parallel. In the US that’s an imaginary line through Bakersfield, CA, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and Raleigh, North Carolina. Go to to get your vitamin D levels tested to determine how much supplementation you may need.

In short, purchase organic foods, use glass or stainless steel to store your food, and sweat at least 3 times a week to maintain optimal vitamin D levels and optimal health!

Stay up to date with the current science and recipes that can help make your family healthy.


Thanks for this info. Seriously. I see hypo Vit D even though I prescribe fat soluble's together and enough IU that it "should" increase a D. Glad to have another reason to rec'd organics to my patients.

Hey Tracy! Nice to hear from you my friend! I'm glad you enjoyed this post and I hope it helps your clients in the long run. I think we would all be healthier and happier if we could lower our exposure to many of these chemicals! My very best to you Tracy!

Thank you Debbie! Your words mean the world to us. Blessings to you and your family as well!

Hello, I just finished listening to your episode of UGW and I wanted to thank you for the information- I truly learned so much. I recently got my blood tested and my vitamin D came back extremely low (<13 ng/ml), I tried taking two different forms of Vitamin D but I have reacted negatively to both. I experience stomach bloating and have to use the bathroom about 15 minutes after I take it. I was conscious about taking it with fats to make sure it was being absorbed but that didn't help. I currently eat a mostly organic, Non- GMO, vegetarian diet. I am nervous about my low levels and I'm not sure what else I can do to make sure I get Vitamin D. Any suggestions?

Hey Lisa Marie! Thanks so much for bringing this up! There are two things I would want to examine here to get you feeling better and your vitamin D up. 1. Are you taking a vitamin D that is free of lactose and soy oil. 2. Are you having a difficult time digesting fats. Let's start with number 1. LACTOSE- Most vitamin D supplements are loaded with lactose. Vitamin D is a highly concentrated substance. You could fit your weeks supply on the head of a pin. So...the manufacturers will often use a filler in the supplement to take up space and make it look like you are buying a bigger supplement. And guess what one of the cheapest and easiest fillers is on the market? Lactose! Yes. The very same thing that causes so many people gas, nausea, and bloating after you eat it! I have seen products that contain upwards of 98.75% lactose in them. If I were to guess what was going on here, I would say you are getting a supplement with lactose. I like to use the Thorne Vit D/K2 drops. They have no lactose and include the essential vitamin K2 that you need when taking higher doses of vitamin D. You will see those on my site tomorrow or Tuesday at the latest. SOY- Many of the liquid vitamin D supplements have soy in them. You will see this as soy oil or soy lecithin. If you have a reaction to soy, this may be an issue for you. Number 2. FAT DIGESTION PROBLEMS Because of the timing of your symptoms, I am less likely to believe that this is the cause but it may be a contributor. If you are always taking your vitamin D with a fat, the fat may be the culprit. Some people do not digest fats well at all. You may be able to determine this if you have stools that; float, are lighter in color (tint of orange or grey, light brown), are foul smell, or are urgent. If this is the case, you may want to add in a digestive supplement that assist in breaking down fats. You may see this as an enzyme supplement with high lipase and contains ox bile or bile salts. IMPORTANT!!!- If you have not identified foods that may be irritating your upper intestinal tract by doing an elimination diet, you may be fighting an uphill battle. Some of my most severe cases of vitamin D deficiency and calcium deficiency have been from clients that turned out to have terrible reactions to gluten and dairy. Thanks so much for your comment Lisa Marie! Keep me posted on how this works out for you. I will be sending my best wishes in the mean time! Tom

Hi Tom, thanks for your quick reply! I was taking a Vegan liquid D3 that only listed these other ingredients: Medium chain triglycerides (from coconut oil), natural apple flavor, vitamin D3 (from lichen), d-alpha tocopherol acetate (a natural antioxidant). There was no note of soy. I tried taking it with and without fats and had the same reaction every time. My stool was what you described when I was taking the Vitamin D but is not normally like that. I just per-ordered your book and will definitely do the elimination diet and keep you posted. I can't wait to read it! I appreciate your help. best, Lisa Marie

First, thank you so much for all of your articles. My husband's low on vitamin D and this is great information for him. For the past year and a half our family has been gradually transforming our diet using the Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook, and we're looking forward to your next book. We typically use glass or stainless steel for storing most of our refrigerated food, but I have a really hard time with frozen foods that aren't liquid like fruits and veggies. Jars are inexpensive but other containers are more costly, aren't transparent, and/or simply don't fit in our little freezer. I've heard that you can store food in plastic if it's wrapped in something else first like parchment paper or wax paper. I know it might not be ideal, but it sounds like it might be the best solution for us. What would you suggest? Thank you!

Hi Joy, You know this is something I've been working on finding a good solution for too. I've used parchment-lined plastic containers for the most part but am transitioning to large stainless containers. The only issue is that the round shape does not do well for nicely packing in a lot of produce in your freezer. I would keep up with what you are doing now and hopefully we can all figure out something safer and cost-effective soon! This is what I'm gradually switching over to (I'd like to find square or rectangle-shaped containers though that were this large):

Wow! Had no idea we have the receptors that can degrade vitamin D. Thanks!

Hello, I had my mercury fillings removed 3 years ago and they replaced them with composite containing BPA. What is an alternative to these type of fillings and how much of a concern are they? Thanks

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