Why all the hoopla over Vitamin D?
Vitamin D plays a key role in our immune system and keeping our bodies strong and healthy. Low or deficient Vitamin D can affect the strength of our bones and our ability to absorb calcium (it’s not just about consuming calcium!) and play a role in heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, infections and immune systems, some cancers and even Multiple Sclerosis.
Studies are even suggesting the connection of low Vitamin D and hot flashes (it affects estrogen receptors) and low Vitamin D during pregnancy can result in childhood asthma. Fascinating!
Why is Vitamin D called the sunshine vitamin?
Vitamin D is unique in that it’s actually a steroid hormone your skin produces when exposed to sunlight. Fair-skinned individuals will convert sunshine better than darker-skinned; younger people will convert better than [roughly] 50 years and older.
Genes and some medications can cause a deficiency, including laxatives, steroids, cholesterol-lowering drugs and some weight loss drugs.
So sunlight is the only way to get in vitamin D?
You can obtain vitamin D in a variety of ways. These can include:
- Direct sun exposure (not through a window nor sunscreen)
- Seasons matter
- Time of day matters
- Location from equator matters
- Through windows don’t count
- Genes matter
- Only wash your pits & dips after sun exposure
- Vitamin D doesn’t naturally occur in many foods, but cod liver oil, swordfish, salmon and sardines rank among the highest vitamin D containing foods
- D2 comes from plants, D3 from animals. Most food manufacturers are using a poorly absorbed form (D2) when fortifying processed foods, which can take up the preferred absorbable form (D3) receptors.
- Nutritional Supplements
- Liquid and pill form available.
Taking vitamin D supplement but not seeing an increase? Could be genetics, but it could also signal trouble with the gut (the body needs to be able to break down, absorb and assimilate that supplement.)
- Liquid and pill form available.
How do I know if I’m deficient?
Symptoms can provide some evidence, but a Vitamin D blood test is the best way to understand your current levels. It’s recommended to test this 2x year, especially if you are or have been susceptible to low Vitamin D or have started on a new supplement routine. Reach out if you need help getting your vitamin D tested.
Basic Vitamin D deficient symptoms:
Fatigue, moodiness or mood changes, BONE LOSS, muscle cramps/weakness, bone & joint pain (especially in your back) and poor immune system are a few key Vitamin D deficient symptoms.
So Vitamin D needs other nutrients to actually work?
Why can’t I just load up on Vitamin D?
Vitamins A, D and K work in concert with each other to support the immune system. It’s also important to note that Vitamin D needs magnesium- it’s a cofactor in enzymatic metabolization, assists with the activation and helps regulate calcium. It’s been suggested that people whose magnesium intake is high are less likely to have a vitamin D insufficiency than people whose magnesium levels are low.
If you load up on Vitamin D and begin to experience new symptoms, like leg cramps or sleepless nights, it could be a sign you don’t have enough magnesium to absorb the Vitamin D.
What should my Vitamin D levels be?
Every person is unique. The lab who runs your test will offer an optimal range to be in. In general, most labs define the Vitamin D level range as 30 to 100 ng/mL. We must keep in mind these ranges include 95% of the statistical norm (meaning it includes sick individuals who have been tested as well as those who are considered well.)
From a functional medicine perspective, the range is much smaller and more defined, with an ideal around 50-60 ng/mL. But every person is unique, so working with a functional medicine coach or practioner can help define what is right for your needs.
Of course these are generalities and everyone needs to manage their sun exposure based on their own bodies and needs.
It’s important to note that you cannot get vitamin D through a window, so driving in the car or sitting by the window with the sun beaming in doesn’t count. Also keep in mind that it takes the body 48 to fully process it, so avoid showering immediately after being in the sun.
It’s always important to slowly ramp up when you begin taking any new supplement; it’s about balance and remembering that all nutrients are interconnected.