The Guide to Vitamin D
Vitamin D could be one of the most important and underrated nutrients in our bodies, yet it is one of the most common deficiencies associated with multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and lupus.
Interestingly, a number of practitioners report that they identify Vitamin D deficiency in at least 95% of patients with chronic illness or autoimmune disease.
Vitamin D & Health Conditions
1. Vitamin D helps build bone by improving calcium & phosphorus levels. One study showed that increasing Vitamin D levels could reduce fractures in women by 50%.
2. Vitamin D boosts the immune system. It has been found to help fight viral illnesses like the flu. It can also better enable immune cells to destroy foreign invaders in your body.
3. Vitamin D helps fight cancer. One study showed that raising serum Vitamin D levels could help prevent up to 83% of breast cancer incidences. At the right levels, has also been shown to prevent ovarian, colon, and many other cancers.
4. Vitamin D prevents autoimmunity & chronic disease. Research shows that Vitamin D is critical for preventing multiple sclerosis and diabetes (Type I). Alzheimer’s, depression, and cardiovascular disease have been linked with Vitamin D deficiency.
5. Vitamin D deficiency are linked with antibodies in Hashimoto’s. Vitamin D-deficient people were much more likely to have TPO-Ab positive tests. According to the Vitamin D Council, “people who were severely deficient in Vitamin D had nearly twice as high the risk of a positive TPO-Ab test compared to those who were sufficient.”
One study found that 3 months of supplementing with Vitamin D3 and calcium carbonate daily resulted in a median reduction of TPO-antibodies by 46.7%!
How to Get Vitamin D
Did you know that Vitamin D isn’t actually a vitamin? It’s a hormone that acts similarly to a steroid, and we get very little of it through our food. In general, we have to get most of our Vitamin D from supplements or from sunlight exposure (Hawaiian vacation? Yes, please!).
When we’re exposed to sun, Vitamin D is created within our bodies. If you live in a place where it’s not sunny for most of the year, it’s almost a sure bet that you are deficient. In addition, low stomach acid levels further reduce the amount of Vitamin D we can extract from food. As you can see, smart supplementing with Vitamin D could be an effective strategy to improve symptoms and heal chronic illness.
Here are some food sources of vitamin D.
Cod liver oil
How to Supplement
If you choose to supplement, opt for vitamin D3 (instead of D2), as it is the active form of vitamin D that we make in our bodies. It’s also important to have ample amounts of nutrients like Vitamin A, Vitamin K2, zinc, and magnesium, which work in tandem with Vitamin D. Without enough of these cofactor nutrients in your system, Vitamin D might not be effective or could even have negative effects.
Absorption rate of vitamin D varies greatly from person to person. As an example, if two people were to supplement with 2,000 IU of Vitamin D, because there are numerous factors involved, each individual would experience a drastically different increase in blood vitamin D levels as a result. So, test - don’t guess!
With that in mind, it can be incredibly risky to start supplementing without knowing your levels. Avoid blindly supplementing, as Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient. It can be difficult or take a long time for your body to excrete excess once your levels are too high, causing symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and anxiety.
Normal Ranges for Vitamin D Are Still Too Low
Optimal levels of Vitamin D are hotly debated, though nearly all functional and integrative medicine practitioners will agree that normal ranges are far too low for optimal health; conventional labs generally indicate levels lower than 30 ng/mL are deficient. This is an extraordinarily low threshold, as people are likely to experience symptoms well before these lab ranges reflect they’re deficient.
The Vitamin D Council recommends levels between 40-80 ng/mL. If you have an autoimmune condition, you could be using up Vitamin D at a faster rate than normal, so it may be worthwhile to aim for the higher end of this range and test regularly.
When and How to Test Vitamin D Levels
When you first begin taking vitamin D, test by asking your doctor the Vitamin D test: 1, 25(OH)D. While you’re supplementing, test every 2-3 months until you reach optimal levels. From there, aim to test every 6 to 12 months after to gauge levels and make adjustments accordingly. Most doctors will be open to ordering Vitamin D labs, though you can self-order this test if you wish.
What Not to Do
Chances are, you might be Vitamin D deficient if you have an autoimmune or chronic illness — but not everyone should be supplementing with vitamin D. Above all, talk to your doctor or someone who understands how all of the body systems and nutrients are interrelated.
Vitamin D is incredibly important, but it's not a root cause on its own. Some people need more Vitamin D, and some people need less. In other cases, some people cannot tolerate Vitamin D. Find a doctor and find out if Vitamin D is right for you.