What is Vitamin D?
- Although called a “vitamin”, this important element of health is actually a potent hormonethat affects over 2,000 genes and at least 36 organs of the body.
- Once linked to only bone diseases such as rickets and osteoporosis, the “sunshine vitamin” is now recognized as a major player in total overall health.
- We get most of our Vitamin D from sunshine and a smaller amount from foods such as fish, eggs, and fortified dairy products.
Why is it important?
- Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a myriad of common diseases including obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, migraines, asthma, autoimmune diseases and more.
- More recent studies have shown that Vitamin D deficiency is associated with muscle weakness and pain and as well as increased risk of falls in the elderly populations.
Why are we deficient?
- We have been trained to either stay out of the sun or cover ourselves with clothing and/or sunscreen. This fear of the sun combined with our spending more time indoors in front of electronics has contributed to a widespread deficiency of this essential hormone, even here in sunny St. Petersburg, Florida.
- Even those who spend uncovered time in the sun can be deficient because as we age, our skin is not as efficient at converting sunshine into vitamin D.
- Although government organizations report that Vitamin D deficiency is not widespread, I have found that 30% of my patients have deficient levels (less than 30) and 10% have severely low levels (less than 20).
How do you know if you are deficient?
- You can have your Vitamin D level checked with a simple, inexpensive blood test. Make sure you get the 25-OH VItamin D level (not 1,25 Vitamin D).
- Studies have shown a decrease in prevalence of colon, breast and kidney cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and fractures when Vitamin D levels increase from 30 to 55.
- Studies have shown that healthy adults who get plenty of sunshine can naturally attain Vitamin D levels up to 65 in the absence of supplements. Well-designed research studies are still needed to determine the optimal levels of Vitamin D. At this time, I recommend a level of 50-65.
- It is true that Vitamin D supplements probably wouldn’t be needed if we spent more time in the sun, approximately 15-20 minutes each day (without sunscreen and most of our skin uncovered). If you can’t get to an optimal blood level with sunshine alone, I would recommend taking a Vitamin D supplement.
- DO NOT take high doses (greater than 2,000IU) of Vitamin D without having your levels checked? Unlike water-soluble vitamins whose excessive amounts can be excreted in the urine, excessive intake of fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamin D can increase to toxic levels. Too much of a good thing is not always better.
- If you are not going to have your level checked, I recommend taking Vitamin D3 2,000 IUdaily. Make sure it is Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol = the form our body naturally produces) not Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol).