It’s not just another vitamin, but a pro-hormone central to your health
If you want to improve your health now and your chances of a long healthy life later by doing just one thing, improving or “optimizing” your vitmamin D levels is it. Many people have read about its importance, but think it’s just another vitamin in the long list of our nutritional needs. However, Vitamin D or “the sunshine vitamin” is poorly named because it’s not just a vitamin but a pro-hormone and responsable for many hormone producing reactions /processes in the body. It’s a central part of your present and future health. Below normal levels of this nutrient could be the cause of some illnesses now and encourage other more serious illnesses to develop later.
Here are some of the areas effected by Vitamin D:
Vitamin D effects:
- immune function
- bone strength
- hormonal balance
- digestive health
According to Dr. Michael Holick of the Boston University School of Medecine, the deficiency or insufficient levels of vitamin D is a world-wide problem which can set the stage for the following serious chronic diseases:
- Type 1 & Type 2 Diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Increased heart failure
- Kidney, colon & breast cancer
- Osteoporosis & osteopenia
- Multiple sclerosis
These illnesses could be reduced by 20-50% and in some cases eliminated if optimal vitamin D levels were maintained.1
That alone should alert public health authorities and motivate them to treat and prevent sub-par levels of vitmain D. This would avoid having to treat later a myriad of costly acute and chronic illnesses. Dr. William Grant of Canada estimated in a 2010 study that if Canadians raised their vitamin D to optimum levels 37,000 lives would be saved. Furthermore, the healthcare cost savings to the Canadian Government would be in the billions of dollars.2
I had heard about vitamin D’s importance 6 years ago but never thought to ask my doctor to have my levels tested. I was taking a multi-vitamin that had everything in it so I thought I was covered. One day my osteopath, whom I was consulting for a bone spur in my heel, thought to prescribe a vitamin D blood test. Luckily she did! The results of the test showed that my vitamin D levels were in the “deficiency zone” (around 20ng/l) even though I had been taking a multi-vitamin with vitamin D in it!
My doctor put me on a treatment of very high doses of vitamin D3 to be taken with food containing healthy fats. (vitamin D is a fat soluable vitamin and needs to be taken with food that contains a healthy source of fat to be absorbed). I was then retested several months later. Only a modest increase had occured in my vitamin D levels. It took two more rounds of treatment and blood tests over the course of a year to finally get my vitamin D to a healthy level (around 65 ng/l).
The short term benefits alone were well worth it: I rarely get upper respiratory infections, colds or the flu, whereas before I was ill at least once, if not twice, every winter. As for long term benefits, I have at least increased my chances of maintaining bone strength.
How does Vitamin D deficiency develop and what are the causes?
- not receiving enough sun directly on the skin (humans make 90% of their vitamin D naturally through sun exposure)
- the overuse of high SPF sunscreens.
- BPA in plastic bottles can cause vitamin D deficiency
- any exposure to toxins which effect adversely the liver because it is responsable for producing vitamin D.
Sources of Vitamin D:3
- direct sunlight on the skin (UVB exposure from natural sunlight between 10 am-2pm in summer yields 10,000-20,000IU per day)
- food has only small amounts (fresh, wild caught salmon 3.5 oz yields 400-1000IU; 8 oz of fortified milk yields 100 IU)
- a high quality supplement – take vit D3 not D2
Action Steps: Know your vitamin D levels:
- Ask your doctor for a vitamin D blood test
- If your test results show low levels of vitamin D (mine were at less than 20 ng/ml or 50 nmol/l) then your doctor will probably prescribe a treatment of vitamin D3 (do not take vitamin D2) to increase or “optimize” your levels.
- Optimal levels according to consensus among vitamin D researchers in the U.S. are around the 40-60ng/ml (100-150nmol/l) 3
- Once that treatment ends a supplement can be taken daily of vitamin D3 along with magnesium and calcium to maintain optimal levels, especially in winter when exposure to sun is low. Ask your doctor for recommendations.
Vitamin D is not just a vitamin, but a pro-hormone that is key to many areas of health. Modern lifestyles, which require many people to work indoors during the day, are not conducive to maintaining high levels of vitamin D for optimal health. An inexpensive blood test obtained through your general practicitoner will give you an excellent measure of your vitamin D levels and guide your doctor in taking the next step.
How about you? Have you heard about the importance of vitamin D and had your levels checked?
Image courtesy of Zac Durant at Unsplash
- Holick, Michael F., PhD., M.D., Boston University School of Medicine,
textbook – Physiology, Molecular Biology, and Clinical Applications
(2nd Ed 2010 Humana Press). Page 12
- “An estimate of the economic burden and premature deaths due to vitamin D deficiency in Canada.” 2010 by Dr. William Grant: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20352622
- Vitamin D : Harvard University School of Public Health: