As a Director of Integrative Medicine, I have noticed a growing trend in vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D deficiency, a “silent disease” with few obvious symptoms, is a serious health threat and has been associated with an increased risk of certain cancers, especially breast and prostate cancer, cardiovascular disease, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, depression, schizophrenia, rheumatoid arthritis, and type 1 diabetes mellitus. A few often overlooked symptoms include fatigue, hair loss, peeling of nails, headache, skin rashes, bone pain, muscle aches, loss of energy, and chronic pain in general.
Over the last decade, my focus has been devoted to discovering what the body needs to function in its optimal state. This has led me to develop an interest in the role of specific nutrients. I have tested almost every patient in my practice for vitamin D deficiency and have been alarmed at the number who were significantly deficient. The outcome of vitamin D reaching optimal levels in these patients is incredible!
All the trillions of cells in our body need vitamin D
Vitamin D helps regulate growth, reproduction, immunity, cardiovascular function, mood, and the neuroendocrine system. At least 200 genes are primary targets of its active hormone form, and it indirectly regulates even more genes.
Known as the sunshine vitamin because our bodies produce vitamin D when sunlight hits our skin through a conversion process. If there are any hindrances to the conversion process, the result is a deficiency in vitamin D.
Vitamin D’s Role in Calcium Homeostasis
One of the long-recognized roles of vitamin D in the body is that in calcium homeostasis and thus bone health. Vitamin D may actually play a larger role in increasing calcium levels than calcium supplementation alone.
Magnesium and Vitamin D
Magnesium acts as a cofactor for vitamin D in several key stages. Thus, adequate magnesium may be necessary to fully optimize vitamin D levels. With vitamin D and magnesium’s separate relationship with calcium, it is important to consider a person’s status and intake of all three vitamins and how they interact. In one study on pregnant women with gestational diabetes, taking a supplement with calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, and zinc for six weeks led to a significant reduction in biomarkers for oxidative stress and inflammation.
Optimized vitamin D
When we optimize our Vitamin D intake we strengthen bones, boost brain power, can improve fertility, calm inflammation, improve metabolism, reduce cancer risk (colon, prostate, breast, and skin), improve sleep, protect the heart, enhance physical performance, reduce asthma, fight depression, reduce the risk of Multiple Sclerosis, help manage diabetes and improve arthritis.
If we can make Vitamin D from the sun why is Supplementation needed?
Our modern lifestyle limits sun exposure and lacks food sources high in vitamin D such as fatty wild fish like mackerel, herring, and cod liver oil. In addition, aging skin produces less vitamin D at 70 years-old we create only 25 percent of the vitamin D that we did at 20 years-old. Furthermore, people with dark skin produce less vitamin D. Lastly, Vitamin D levels tend to be lower in obese people (BMI of 30 or greater). Proper diet, lifestyle changes, and supplementing with vitamin D can help.
What To Do If Your Vitamin D Levels Are Low
If you think you’re lacking sufficient Vitamin D, the first action must be to have your Vitamin D levels checked by a medical provider who understands and treats low Vitamin D levels so get tested for 25 OH vitamin D. Meanwhile, you can safely get some sun and eat more vitamin D –rich foods. A few foods high in Vitamin D include Organic eggs (1: 41IU), Mushrooms (1 cup: 2IU), Mackerel (3 ounces: 400IU), Sardines (3 ounces: 400IU), Cod Liver oil (1 teaspoon: 440IU), Salmon: 3 ounces (400IU), Tuna: 3 ounces (228IU). Lastly, under the advice of a medical professional, supplement as needed by taking the right type of Vitamin D, the right amount, and having your Vitamin D levels monitored by a medical professional.
The only active form of vitamin D is vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Please ensure it has been tested by a third-party to ensure quality and safety. If you have a deficiency, you should correct it with a prescribed dose under a Doctor’s supervision and have your provider monitor your vitamin D status until you are in the optimal range. If you are taking high doses, it is important that your medical provider also check your calcium, phosphorous, and parathyroid hormone levels every 3 months. It takes up to 6 to 10 months to “fill up the tank” for vitamin D if you’re deficient.
Patients with kidney stones, kidney disease, high blood calcium levels, gastrointestinal disease, heart disease, liver disease or other diseases associated with disorders of calcium metabolism should seek medical advice before taking supplemental vitamin D.
While it may be tempting to just pop a multivitamin, the benefit of focusing your supplementation based on your unique needs provides a far superior quality of health. It is always best to talk with your medical provider before beginning supplementation.
Celebrating Your Optimal Health,
Dr. Catherine Olusolape Oseni
Pharm.D., ABAAHP, FAAMFM, FICT