Updated from the original post on: September 30, 2014
Why has vitamin D deficiency been on the news and on the internet lately, and why should you care? To begin with, according to a study recently published in the journal Nature, “a vitamin D deficiency significantly increases the likelihood of serious illness after infection with SARS Cov-2 (COVID-19). The intensity of the inflammatory response is also higher in COVID-19 patients with vitamin D deficiency. All of this leads to an increase in morbidity and mortality in COVID-19 patients with vitamin D deficiency. “(1) (2) No Bueno!
And that's just the latest tip of the iceberg when it comes to vitamin D deficiency. In addition to rickets, vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to a variety of diseases, ranging from increased intestinal permeability (a.k.a. Leaky Gut), osteopenia and osteoporosis to autoimmune diseases, Parkinson's and cancer. As you can see, vitamin D is a VERY important nutrient.
So, could you be vitamin D deficient? How can you find out? And how can you safely supplement when you have a deficiency? Let's find out …
What is Vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiency was first discovered as a cause of rickets in 1920. At that time, "vitamin D" was originally considered a vitamin. According to recent research by Dr. As cited in the cereal brain, "Vitamin D is actually a critically important fat-soluble antioxidant that acts like a steroid or hormone in the brain." Vitamin because it interacts with all of our other hormones and is actually not a "vitamin" at all.
Why is vitamin D so important?
As mentioned above, vitamin D makes a significant contribution to our immune system and bone health. You may know that healthy vitamin D levels prevent rickets and help build strong, healthy bones. But you might be surprised that vitamin D helps too (5):
- Boost your immune system and fight colds, flu and COVID-19
- Improve bowel permeability and lead to healthier digestion overall
- Fight cancer cells and tumors
- Promotes a healthy libido
- Protects the brain from dementia
- Helps prevent heart disease, depression, osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis, and possibly even autism and other diseases
What are optimally healthy vitamin D levels?
It has long been known that vitamin D is produced in the skin when it is exposed to sunlight. And, according to Harvard Health, there is growing evidence to suggest that many people in the northern hemisphere may be vitamin D deficient. “Except in the summer months, the skin produces little or no vitamin D from the sun at latitudes above 37 ° N (north of San Francisco, CA) or below 37 ° S (south of Aukland, NZ). People who live in these areas are at a relatively higher risk of vitamin D deficiency. "(3) And that's if you don't wear sunscreen. If you are a sunscreen fan, all bets on natural vitamin D are void.
The current AMA reference range “normal” means that 20 nanograms / milliliter (ng / ml) to 50 ng / ml are considered “appropriate for healthy people”. However, we must take into account that the “normal” range is defined as the “average of a population”. And if the majority of the population is vitamin D deficient, do you really want your levels to be "normal"? Probably not!
In addition, "normal" is not the same as "optimally healthy". Functional medicine therefore takes optimal health into account and therefore regards a reference range of 40-60 ng / ml vitamin D as optimally healthy. Functional medicine reference ranges are typically narrower (ie, higher lows and lower highs) and are based on recent clinical research studies.
Conditions Related to Different Vitamin D Levels
- Increased risk of toxic symptoms:> 100 ng / ml (e.g. hypercalcemia), especially if they do not match an adequate intake of vitamin K2 and magnesium (see below).
- Increased risk of autoimmune diseases: 80-100 ng / ml
- Cancer growth slowdown in patients with various types of cancer: 70-80 ng / ml
- 50% reduction in breast cancer, reduced risk for all solid cancers: 50 ng / ml
- Optimal values: 40–60 ng / ml (varies depending on the person)
- 300% higher risk of multiple sclerosis: <40 ng / ml
- Elevated hypertension: <36 ng / ml
- 200% higher risk of heart attack: <34 ng / ml
- Suboptimal Poor: <30 ng / ml (increased inflammation, calcium loss from bones, osteoporosis, poor wound healing, increased muscle, joint and back pain, higher risk of depression, increased risk of allergies, diabetes, migraines and schizophrenia) and increased autoimmune diseases such as lupus, scleroderma, thyroiditis)
- 75% higher risk of colon cancer: <20 ng / ml
- Rickets risk: <15 ng / ml
- Remarkably poor: <12 ng / ml
Can You Get Vitamin D From Your Diet?
Vitamin D is found in large quantities in fortified cereals. It is also added to dairy products and some other processed / packaged foods. However, it's important to note that fortified foods use the cheaper version of this nutrient, vitamin D2, instead of the more bioavailable form of D3 that the body actually needs. And unfortunately, both D2 and D3 pick up the same receptors in the body. The more D2 you ingest, the less D3 your body can absorb. This can lead to vitamin D deficiency if you eat a lot of fortified, processed foods or dairy products that contain vitamin D2.
You can also get a bit of vitamin D3 in some whole foods. With the exception of egg yolks and fish, many people these days don't eat many foods that are high in vitamin D3. Foods that are naturally high in vitamin D3 include:
- Oily fish like herring, wild-caught salmon, halibut, mackerel and sardine
- Cod liver oil (also contains real vitamin A, so this is a great way to get both, see below)
- egg yolk
- Beer liver
Hence, getting enough vitamin D from food alone is generally difficult as it is usually the wrong type (D2). Also, prescription vitamin D is usually D2, not D3. If your doctor is prescribing you vitamin D in a prescription form, be sure to ask for D3.
Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D?
The USDA guidelines for adults recommend 600 IU per day. But these guidelines are old and much scientific research has been done since then. Therefore, today many doctors and scientists believe that the recommendation is too low. In fact, the government is currently trying to increase that number to 1,000 IU per day with a high-end limit of 4,000 IU per day. And according to Chris Kresser, "the vast majority of studies have shown that there is no risk of taking up to 8,000 IU of vitamin D per day." (6)
If you live in North America or Europe, there is a good chance you are vitamin D deficient. The propensity to use sunscreens over the past 50 years has significantly reduced the amount of vitamin D that people produce through their skin from direct sunlight. Aside from sunscreens, as mentioned above, most of the northern hemisphere and part of the southern hemisphere do not receive enough sunlight for the skin to produce much vitamin D at all for most of the year. Many people in the US, Canada, Europe, southern parts of South America, Australia, and New Zealand never get enough sunlight to keep their skin producing enough vitamin D to stay healthy in the summer!
And after the age of 50, your body begins to produce less vitamin D, even with optimal exposure to the sun. The darker your skin is, or the more skin you cover with clothing or sunscreen, the less vitamin D your body can naturally produce from exposure to the sun.
According to a study by the Mayo Clinic (7), the prevalence of patients with vitamin D deficiency is highest in the elderly, overweight patients, residents of nursing homes and hospital patients. The prevalence of vitamin D deficiency was 35% higher in obese people regardless of latitude and age. “People with a body mass index (BMI) over 30 typically have a vitamin D deficiency. If you don't know your BMI, you can use this BMI calculator to calculate it.
How Much Vitamin D Do You Really Need?
That's a good question. And the answer is, "It depends." Bioindividuality – every BODY is different. Even two people who live in the same house, eat the same diet, and are exposed to the same amount of sunshine may have very different needs. It is therefore a good idea to have your doctor checked for 25-hydroxyvitamin D or 25 (OH) D for vitamin D deficiency in a blood laboratory before starting supplementation. Because vitamin D is considered a “pre-hormone” and interacts with ALL other hormones, you don't want to supplement it when you don't need it.
When I had my vitamin D levels tested about 10 years ago, I was shocked to find out that I was extremely deficient. But in retrospect, it actually made sense to be vegan at the time and live in the Pacific Northwest where we didn't get a lot of sun. My naturopath prescribed 10,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day. I recently retested my vitamin D levels and have even lived in Mexico for five years. If I take 10,000 IU 3-4 IU a week, my levels are still on the lower end of normal. Maybe I'm not taking it well. Bio-individuality!
Unfortunately, some doctors who haven't had a lot of nutritional training may refuse this amount. A friend recently had her doctor tell her that if she took 10,000 IU she would go into a coma. That is not true! If you do your own research on pubmed.gov, you will find that getting too much vitamin D is very difficult if you live in the northern hemisphere.
Do yourself and your body a favor and get your vitamin D levels tested today. Then take your vitamin D supplements when you are deficient.
Other important considerations when supplementing with vitamin D.
If you choose to supplement with vitamin D3, it is also important to use vitamin A, vitamin K, and magnesium, all of which work synergistically with each other. The body likes to be in homeostasis (equilibrium). So, just supplementing with D can skew the levels of the other nutrients your body needs. Vitamin D and vitamin A also take on the same receptors. Because of this, it is especially important to supplement with vitamin A when you supplement with vitamin D.
And it's important to note that vitamins D, A, and K are all fat-soluble vitamins and must be taken with healthy fats to absorb them. Healthy fats include olive oil, olives, avocados, avocado oil, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, and wild-caught fish. If you've removed your gallbladder or have clogged bile ducts, gallstones, or an underactive thyroid, you may not be able to digest fats well. This means that even if you are taking fat-soluble supplements, you may not be able to digest and absorb them without the assistance of some digestive enzymes or ox bile. You may also need to consider sublingual forms of vitamin D or higher doses.
Since vitamin D is a pre-hormone, it is very important to titrate (ramp up) slowly when you start taking supplements. This allows the body (and its vitamin D receptors) to gradually adapt over time. If you need more information or assistance with your vitamins, minerals or other dietary supplements, please make an appointment for a coaching session. I would be glad to help you.
Please leave a comment to let us know about your vitamin D experience. Have you been tested? Have you been diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency? Did Diet Supplements Help Increase Your Vitamin D Levels?