The Sunshine Vitamin that’s Good Year Round!

Vitamin DKnown to some as the ‘sunshine vitamin’, Vitamin D has become very popular. Even though our body’s produce vitamin D in response to sunlight, hence the nickname, if you have milk allergies, adhere to a strict vegetarian diet, or stay out of the sun completely you run the risk of a vitamin D deficiency. We can get Vitamin D naturally from a few foods, such as fish, beef liver, egg yolks, fortified dairy, certain grains and cod liver oil, but there are certain medical conditions such as Crohns, Celiac disease and Cystic fibrosis which can affect your intestinal wall’s ability to process Vitamin D directly from your food, so supplementation is necessary. But even without those specific health issues, supplementing with Vitamin D daily is becoming increasing popular for overall health. It is being touted as an immune enhancer, and thus great during cold and flu season.

Taking Vitamin D with your calcium is essential for strong bones because it helps the body use that calcium from the diet. Traditionally, Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with rickets, a disease in which the bone tissue doesn’t properly mineralize, leading to soft bones and skeletal deformities. Luckily, rickets is not as common a disease in the US. Some symptoms, however, of a Vitamin D deficiency would be bone pain and muscle weakness. Thus I always recommend supplementing with Vitamin D if there is a history of broken bones or hairline fractures for all you athletes out there. Low blood levels of Vitamin D have also been associated with cancer, severe asthma in children, increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cognitive impairment in older adults. And I know in my clinic I have seen a difference giving people with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) higher amounts of Vitamin D during the fall and winter months.

Some research has even suggested that Vitamin D could play a role in hypertension, multiple scelerosis, type 1 and type 2 diabetes and glucose intolerance. Making this inexpensive vitamin all the more attractive.

A common question asked is how people become Vitamin D deficient. Well, fortunately, over time we have all become aware that direct exposure to the suns rays can be harmful. So as we limit our time in the sun, we limit the amount of Vitamin D the body makes when the skin is exposed to sunlight. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Also as we age our kidneys, which convert the Vitamin D to its active form, are less able to do so, thus increasing a risk for a deficiency. Then as mentioned above, if you have certain medical conditions like Crohns, Cystic Fibrosis or Celiac Disease, there is an increased inability to absorb the Vitamin D directly from the foods you eat. Remember we are not so much what we eat, as we are what we absorb.

There are tests to check for Vitamin D Deficiency. The most accurate way to measure how much Vitamin D is in your body is the 25-hydroxy vitamin D test. In the kidney, 25-hydroxy Vitamin D changes into an active form of the vitamin. The active form of the vitamin can be measured through the blood. This active form of Vitamin D helps control phosphate and calcium levels in the body. The normal range is 30.0 to 74.0 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). A level lower than 30.0 usually indicates a Vitamin D deficiency .

How much Vitamin D should someone take? Now this is where it gets sticky because there is no consensus on levels of Vitamin D required for optimal health. There is a lack of any evidence to support a RDA for Vitamin D. Even talking with fellow colleagues I admire and refer to I can find Vitamin D recommendations that go from the basic 2,000 i.u a day all the way to 50,000 i.u. And none of them are actually incorrect. It depends on what you are working on, what their tests showed if you have those results, and of course as always patient needs and compliance. I even carry a chewable Vitamin D that tastes great because I have clients that don’t want to take any more pills. And kids like it too. 🙂 Just check with your licensed practitioner for any supplement recommendations and dosage requirements.

For me, Vitamin D, has become one of my favorite vitamins to recommend. It has the things my clients really like….it works, it’s cheap, and it has research to back it up. A dose of sunshine in a bottle, what could be better that that?

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