Vitamin D is known as the ‘Sunshine Vitamin’ because our body produces Vitamin D in response to sunlight. We can also obtain vitamin D from fish liver (cod liver oil was the way grandma got it in us) and egg yolks. Although we know how to get it, about 75% of the population is Vitamin D deficient simply because our need outweighs our intake. Research defines levels lower than 30 ng/ml are associated with many health risks such as:
- Muscle and Bone weakness and pain
- Poor metabolism and Diabetes
- Skin afflictions like eczema and psoriasis
- Poor Immune Function
- Depression and Anxiety
- High Blood Pressure and Heart Disease
When we take in vitamin D, it turns into a hormone once metabolized through the liver. It assists the body in absorbing calcium from food and was originally known for its ability to prevent fracture of bones taken at doses from 400 – 1200 IU per day. Now we know that higher doses are required to attain healthy blood levels of 25 hydroxy-vitamin D3. In fact if you measure this level and it is low, it is often seen that the marker 1, 25 dihydroxyvitamin D3 is often high. This confuses doctors because the later is known as the active form of vitamin D called calcitriol. This form is very sensitive, ebbs and flows for many reasons, not just vitamin D deficiency. I often see calcitriol levels from other doctors and they are high. The patient leaves with false information. You can begin to see how unfortunate this is as the need for it is greater than potential toxicity.
Toxicity symptoms are:
- Abdominal Cramps
Since one of the roles of vitamin D is to increase calcium absorption in the intestines, the body can become ‘calcium-toxic’. When the blood has high calcium, the kidneys have to filter it out and excess calcium in the kidneys will increase the risk of a kidney stone. There are two known reports of vitamin D toxicity. Both people took over 2 million units of vitamin D a day and neither were fatal.
Although more and more people are realizing that there is a high need for vitamin D, not all over-the-counter supplements are the same. I have measured low levels on people taking high vitamin D dosages and high levels on people on low vitamin D dosages. The only way to know if you have a good product is to test your levels. Low levels are < 30 ng/ml, protective levels are around 50 and optimal levels to me are around 100 ng/ml. Nobody should miss out on having optimal vitamin D levels – our DNA depends upon it to keep us healthy.
Due to the fact that vitamin D plays such a strong role in our immune system and therefore in protecting us against cancer, scientists are trying to establish optimal levels for specific types of cancer. We are a long way from knowing this but it is exciting to know that it is worth studying. In addition, consider the multiple books written on vitamin D. These aren’t chapters in a book; the topic of Vitamin D now constitutes an entire book! In these books the many biochemical processes that vitamin D influences are discussed in great detail. If you read one of them you will feel like you just had a full on biochemistry lesson as every system is discussed from our metabolism to Multiple Sclerosis.
Get your levels tested and once you attain optimal levels, take it everyday. When cold and flu season come around don’t be afraid to double your dose when exposed. You’ll be happy you did so.