Although it’s called a vitamin, vitamin D really is a hormone. Vitamins are not produced by your body, we get them from dietary sources, whereas vitamin D is made in your body. It is your body’s only source of calcitrol (activated vitamin D), a potent steroid hormone in the body. Like all steroid hormones, vitamin D is involved in making hundreds of enzymes and proteins, which are crucial for preserving health and preventing disease. It has the ability to interact and affect more than 2,000 genes in the body. It enhances muscle strength and builds bone. It has anti-inflammatory effects and can boost the immune system. It helps the action of insulin and has anti-cancer activity.
Few people ever gave vitamin D much thought up until a few years ago. Most simply knew that vitamin D came from sunlight, dairy products were fortified with it, and not much else. Then studies began to show a link between vitamin D deficiencies and the development of many feared diseases such as cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, arthritis, depression, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. The good news however, is that vitamin D deficiencies can be remedied fairly easily, sun and supplements are the most reliable way.
There are a number of reasons people are not getting enough vitamin D to stay healthy.
-They don’t get enough sunlight. Your body is usually able to get all the vitamin D it needs if you regularly expose enough bare skin to the sun. However, many people don’t get enough sunlight because they spend a lot of time indoors or because they use sunscreen when they are outside. Our winters make exposure extremely difficult for most people to get enough vitamin D.
– They believe they can get enough vitamin D from the foods they eat alone. Food sources of vitamin D are fatty wild fish like mackerel, salmon, halibut, tuna, sardines and herring, fortified milk, orange juice and cereal, dried Shitake mushrooms, and egg yolks.
-They do not supplement with vitamin D3.
-Their body needs more vitamin D than usual, for example if you’re obese or pregnant.
Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency
- General muscle pain and weakness
- Muscle cramps
- Joint pain
- Chronic pain
- Weight gain
- High blood pressure
- Restless sleep
- Poor concentration
- Bladder problems
- Constipation or diarrhea
How do you know if you are deficient?
Ask your health care provider to test your levels specifically with the 25-hydroxy-vitamin D test, which is considered to be most accurate. Ideally, your test should show a range of 50-80 ng/ml. If your levels are below 50 ng/ml, then work with your provider to develop a customized supplementation plan. This plan should take into consideration lifestyle and biological factors. A good rule of thumb that we use by Dr. Frank Lipman is “Old people need more than young people, big people need more that little people, obese people need more than skinny people, northern people need more than southern people, dark-skinned people need more than fair skinned people, winter people need more than summer people, sun block lovers need more than sun block haters, sun-phobes need more than sun worshipers, and ill people may need more than well people”.
Be sure to follow up with another test to check your D levels after an initial 2-6 month course of supplements. When an optimal level is reached, keep supplementing with vitamin D3 every day to maintain it.
**Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. You should always speak with your physician or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal or homeopathic supplement, or adopting any treatment for a health problem.