Vitamin D comes from two very different sources: food and sunlight. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin which means it cannot be absorbed into our bodies without a fat carrier. So much for the low fat diet theory of optimal health.
The body makes Vitamin D from cholesterol in the skin upon exposure to UV rays from the sun. You must have cholesterol to convert sunshine to Vitamin D. Folks with low cholesterol have a hard time. That’s one of the many reasons why Statins, cholesterol lowering drugs, are so dangerous.
Vitamin D is found naturally in such foods as mackerel, salmon, sardines, beef liver, grass-fed butter, and ghee.
About 41 to 57% of the US population doesn’t get enough Vitamin D.(3) Low fat diets, our trend toward staying indoors, the use of lots of SPF sunscreen, pesticides and stress are all factors in our deficiency.
Why Do We Need Vitamin D?
- Vitamin D enables the body to absorb and use calcium and phosphorous and for the bones and teeth.(3)
- Vitamin D receptors are found in both neurons and glial cells, brain cells that support neurons by providing nutrition and insulation.(3)
- Vitamin D influences the growth and regulation of every cell in the body. So, yeah, it’s kinda important.
- Scientists believe that Vitamin D is actually a hormone, a secosteroid. It regulates the adrenal and the thyroid glands.
- Low levels of D are linked to psoriasis, muscle pain, high blood pressure, some forms of cancer, fibromyalgia, autoimmune disease and certainly, rickets.(3)
- Ample amounts of D are necessary for optimal mental health, avoidance of depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder.(3)
- Vitamin D plus calcium can stop the pain of osteoporosis, PMS and bone cancer since the pain of these conditions is caused by a calcium and vitamin D deficiency(1).
- Vitamin D is one of the most potent antioxidants in the body.
Testing Vitamin D levels is Important
Our need for Vitamin D is much higher than we thought with recommended ranges from 400 IU to 2000 IU per day and even up to 10,000 IU for therapeutic doses.
Raising levels to the optimal zone can result in a sunny mood, increased energy and bone health and decreased feelings of stress. However excessive levels of Vitamin D can be toxic. Therefore, do not supplement without testing your levels first.(1)
The best tests for Vitamin D are the 25 OH and 1,25 tests.
The 25 OH (25-hydroxyvitamin D) test should reveal ideally levels between 50 and 80 ng/mL. For a long time, levels between 20 and 30 ng/mL were accepted as normal. We know now that this is too low. People with autoimmune diseases typically require a higher level in the range of 80 to 100 ng/mL.(4)
Don’t be surprised if your level is severely low–this is common and there can be reasons for low Vitamin D beyond the lack of sunlight including the effects of pesticides on our liver’s ability to produce Vitamin D. Vitamin D is also burned up quickly by the adrenal glands in times of stress.
Almost no one gets adequate levels of sunshine even in sunny locations. SPF sunscreen lotions stop natural Vitamin D production and may make you more susceptible to various skin cancers. (4). A good hat and a good tan are the best protection against unwanted UV protection. Use a quality sunscreen for prolonged exposure to the sun.
The 1,25 test (1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3) is used for the receptor-activating metabolite called 1,25 and its levels should be within normal ranges. You should be aware that this is a more expensive test.(2)
Supplementation needs to be monitored by blood testing every few months until levels are no longer below 50 on the 25 OH test.
Sources of Vitamin D
Vitamin D comes in different forms. D2, ergocalciferol, is made by plants and D3, cholecalciferol, is made by the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight.
D2 does not appear to have all of the same functions as the cholesterol-based D3. For this reason, animal based forms of Vitamin D, which can be converted into fully active D3, may be the most desirable form. Most food products that have been ‘fortified’ with Vitamin D use the D2 form.(5)
Biochemical individuality plays a large role in Vitamin D status. Everyone is different. Environmental factors such as sun exposure and nutrition as well as genetic factors influence how much Vitamin D our bodies can make.
Vitamin D and A are synergistic–the two should always be balanced in the diet. Individual needs vary considerably. For every Vitamin D receptor on a cell, there are two Vitamin A receptors. If you take too much D without A, you are more likely to develop symptoms of vitamin A deficiency or an actual immunosuppressive effect.(4) Cod liver oil contains both Vitamin A and D along with some Omega-3 essential fatty acids.
As well, Vitamin K2 is important to balance with D3. You can think of Vitamin D as the gatekeeper for calcium and K2 as the traffic cop directing where calcium is to go in the body. K2 prevents calcium from going places you don’t want it like bone spurs, organs, joint spaces and arteries. You need both D3 and K2.
Note that Vitamin K1 is found in leafy green vegetables, goes straight to your liver and is responsible for coagulation or blood clotting. Vitamin K2 goes straight to vessel walls, tissues and bones. Currently there is no direct way to measure Vitamin K levels.
Vitamins A, D, E and K are all fat-soluble vitamins and thus can be stored in the body, whereas water-soluble vitamins like the B vitamins cannot be stored. This also means that the risk of storing too much of the fat-soluble vitamins exists.
A good word of advice from Dr. Mercola,
“You simply can’t take isolated supplements “willy-nilly” and expect to optimize very complicated physiological processes.”
Certainly for deficiencies, isolated supplementation is recommended. But the best way to get all the appropriate vitamins, minerals and nutrients your body needs is through healthy food.
Supplementing Vitamin D
Taking all of that into consideration, the best sources of Vitamin D in order of preference are:
- Sunshine— about 20-30 minutes per day with skin exposed without sunscreen.
- Cod liver oil which is rich in Vitamin A and D (quality matters). I prefer Rosita’s Cod Liver Oil, a liquid or Green Pasture’s Blue Ice Fermented Cod Liver Oil, capsules.
- Emulsified Vitamin D3 (the liquid form which improves the water solubility). I prefer Biotics Research or Apex Energetics formulations which must be obtained through a healthcare practitioner. Contact me for more information.
- Vitamin D3 supplements (from 400 IU to 1000 IU, test your levels before beginning).
People with gallbladder issues or who have had their gallbladders removed may find it difficult to supplement Vitamin D because of the requirement for fat to absorb it.
It can take time to shore up your levels of Vitamin D with supplementation. Be patient, grasshopper!
Here’s your simple change for the day: Test your level to assess if you are getting enough Vitamin D.
(1) The Mood Cure, Julia Ross, MA
(2) A Mind of Your Own, Dr. Kelly Brogan
(3) Breakthrough Depression Solution, Dr. James M. Greenblatt
(4) Primal Body, Primal Mind, Nora T. Gedgaudas, CNS, CNT
(5) Staying Healthy with Nutrition, Dr. Elson M. Haas
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Joli Tripp and Simple Changes Healthy Results are not medical doctors nor licensed medical professionals. No comment or recommendation should be construed as being a medical diagnosis. If you suffer from a medical or pathological condition, you should consult an appropriate healthcare provider.
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