Today, I'd like to talk about Vitamin D and how to optimize your levels of Vitamin D to improve overall health and Immunity.
Vitamin D has gotten a lot of press the last few years and when you dive into the research, it’s easy to understand why.
Vitamin D3 has a huge impact on your health and because its receptor is present in most cells and tissues in the body, it helps regulate multiple organ systems including:
- hormone system
- skeletal system (muscles, ligaments, tendons)
- gastrointestinal system
- nervous system
- skin, hair, nails
- and more…
The absolute best source of vitamin D is the sun, and while our ancestors used to spend a majority of their time outdoors, most people now spend daylight hours at desks under artificial lights.
In this article I hope to explain the vitamin D deficiency pandemic, and more importantly how to correct it!
The Health Benefits of Vitamin D
I could write an entire book on the benefits of Vitamin D. Here I will provide just a few reasons why you should optimize your levels.
Lowers Antibodies Across the Board (Autoimmune Conditions)
Autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto's, Graves', Celiac, Chron's, Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Multiple Sclerosis (MS) are all improved when vitamin D levels are optimized.
For example, a recent study found that 83% of patients with Hashimoto's (autoimmune thyroid) who were given 1200-4000 IU of Vitamin D3 for 4 months, experienced 20.8% drops in TPO antibodies
In addition, it is a well known fact that patients with any of the above mentioned autoimmune conditions are chronically low in vitamin D.
New Research from Autoimmunity Research Foundation shows that the vitamin D receptors get down regulated by pathogens (such as parasites, bacteria, viruses, and yeast) compromising the uptake of vitamin D.
These pathogens can be the primary causes of autoimmunity.
So increasing vitamin D levels (through sun exposure) and/or supplementation, is key in managing an autoimmune condition.
Builds Stronger Bones
Vitamin D is a precursor hormone for a powerful steroid hormone in your body called calcitriol.
Calcitriol is essential for bone strength and cell regeneration… which is central to slowing down the aging process!
You absolutely have to have optimal levels of Vitamin D in order to absorb minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium.
Vitamin D also suppresses parathyroid hormone which breaks bone down. This helps slow down the “softening of bones” in both children and adults.
Helps with Breast Cancer
The Academy of Endocrinology agrees that optimizing Vitamin D levels can prevent between 65-85% of Cancers!
In fact, checking for Vitamin D levels is one of the first things traditional oncologists check in the treatment of breast cancers, and its a baseline protocol for integrative breast cancer treatment.
This study has found that breast cancer patients had lower levels of vitamin D. But, you don’t have to (and should not be!) waiting for a diagnosis to fix your vitamin D levels if they are low.
This Stanford University School of Medicine study (and there are several others) have found that vitamin D3 inhibits the growth of breast cancer cells and stimulates apoptosis – which is self-killing of cancer cells.
Helps Gut Bacteria Produce Vitamins
We are still discovering the power of gut bacteria and what helps and what destroys them.
This study showed that low levels of vitamin D changed the intestinal microbiome reducing vitamin B5 (pantothenic) production in the gut.
Again, I can go on and on, with study after study on Vitamin D and its impact on various conditions.
So whether its improving sleep, reversing estrogen dominance, depression, balancing blood sugar in type 2 diabetics, reversing and preventing anemia or helping with hair loss…
…it's pretty obvious how important Vitamin D is for health.
Now let's discuss getting tested, recommended ranges and dosages of Vitamin D.
Getting Tested for Vitamin D
Even the most conservative doctors today agree to run a vitamin D test for you.
So no problems there. However, make sure your doctor knows which test to order.
The Vitamin D Council recommends the 25(OH)D test, pronounced, “Twenty-five Hydroxy D” test.
There is another type of blood test for vitamin D, which is called a 1,25(OH)D, but the 25(OH)D is more accurate.
The role of Vitamin D testing in clinical practice stems from the Institute of Medicine (IoM) report, Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D”.
Although IoM recommendations using 25-OH vitamin D are clear, the inappropriate ordering of 1,25(OH)D is quite common.
The root causes for inappropriate vitamin D ordering include:
(a) clinicians not understanding the biological role of 25-OH versus 1,25 dihydroxyvitamin D, or
(b) 1,25 dihydroxyvitamin D showing up as the “first” orderable test on electronic medical record (EMR) systems.
Optimal Ranges and Dosages of Vitamin D
If you were to go by traditional lab ranges, “healthy blood levels” of vitamin D would be between 30 and 100 ng/ml.
This means that anything below 30 ng/ml, you are not getting enough vitamin D production.
It's important to note that “healthy blood levels” are not “optimal blood levels”.
Functional medicine leaders and experts in functional diagnostic nutrition recommend ranges between 60 and 90 ng/ml, especially for people with a family or personal health history of cancers and autoimmune conditions.
If your levels are below 60 ng/ml, you should be consuming 5,000 to 10,000 UI per day.
Also note that It may take 3 to 4 months to get into a healthy range. Once your levels are optimized, you can then switch to a maintenance dose of 2,000 UI per day.
For people with Hashimoto’s Disease (and any autoimmune conditions), it’s very very important for your vitamin D levels to be in the upper ranges of 60.
Best Source of Vitamin D
Of course the best source of Vitamin D is from the Sun!
Get More Sun Light
A quick and simple comparison for you: you get 400 units of vitamin D from a glass of fortified milk (which I don't recommend) versus 20,000 units of Vitamin D from 30 min of unprotected sun exposure (or until your skin turns slightly pink).
Vitamin D is created by your skin when exposed to the sun. So Get the Hell outside!
It only takes 15 to 20 minutes of morning sun (between the hours of 8 am and 10 am).
It is also recommended not to shower for 20 to 30 minutes after sunbathing for the skin to produce vitamin D.
Another factor is clothes. If you're outside wearing a shirt and shorts or pants, you're actually blocking most of the surface area of sun exposure. So if possible… take off your shirt or put on a bathing suit!
Eat Vitamin D Rich Foods
The best foods for increasing vitamin D intake are lard, fatty fish, cod liver oil, and egg yolks. Lard has 13 IUs of Vitamin D per tablespoon, which is going to be a lot of lard!
Per 100 grams (3 ½ ounces), here's the best bang for your buck:
Cod Liver Oil: 10,000 IU
Sockeye Salmon (canned, solids, without skin and bones): 859 IU
Smoked Ciscoes: 530 IU
Egg yolk (raw, fresh): 218 IU
Lard (Pork Fat): 102 IU
Best Vitamin D Supplements
There are two types of vitamin D supplements: D2 and D3.
Vitamin D2 is produced in mushrooms when they are exposed to sunlight.
Vitamin D3 is naturally present in animal fats.
Studies show supplementing with D3 is better than D2 at raising your blood levels of the active form of vitamin D.
In addition, we now know that Vitamin K2 is important for the maximal absorption of D3. So if you're supplementing, I'd highly recommend that you use a D3+K2 formula.
Vitamin K works with vitamin D to make sure calcium gets deposited in your bones and teeth rather than places it does not belong, like in your kidneys (kidney stones) and blood vessels (plaque).
Vitamin D status plays a major role in overall health, wellness and longevity.
Optimal blood levels of Vitamin D are 60 to 90 ng/ml and anything less may increase your risk of developing chronic health conditions.
Replenishing vitamin D levels is not difficult. If you are low, allow 3 to 6 months of a higher dose of 5,000 to 10,000 UI per day of vitamin D3.
I like the D3 formulation with K2 added (most women are also deficient in these) – the one I personally use and recommend is Liquid Vitamin D3+K2