Vitamin D. What a wonderful vitamin; it’s a shame that so many people are deficient in this miraculous vitamin! Some of you might know that you are deficient because you’ve had your blood serum levels tested while others may know they are deficient because they lack sufficient vitamin D in their diet and they live at latitudes that don’t allow for optimal vitamin D production. It’s important to recognize all these factors when considering whether or not you need more of the sunshine vitamin in your life.
What does it do? Is it really miraculous?
Well, yes, I certainly think so! Vitamin D can help with calcium absorption in the gut, modulate cell growth, support immune function, and reduce inflammation! Some symptoms of deficiency could include high blood pressure, depression, SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), fragile bones, mood swings, tiredness and so much more! It’s not a surprise that many North Americans suffer from chronic fatigue – our latitudes do not necessary shape up for optimal sun exposure year round.
Anyhow, this fat-soluble sunshine vitamin is only present in a few foods (fish oil, herring, salmon, etc) but other foods are fortified with Vitamin D, and it is also available in supplement form.
Whoa, whoa whoa, back up…Serum levels? What do you mean?
When fat-soluble Vitamin D is obtained (whether directly from UV rays or through supplementation) it is not in a form that is usable by the body. In order for your body to properly use this vitamin, it undergoes two hydroxylations (chemical process that introduces a hydroxyl group, -OH) in the body. The first hydroxylation takes place in the liver: This is where vitamin D is converted to calcidiol, or 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D]. The next hydroxylation occurs in the kidney and makes calcitriol, or 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D [1,25(OH)2D] which is the physiologically active form. If you’re getting serum levels tested, the best indicator of your vitamin D status is concentration of 25(OH)D. It has a longer circulating half-life than 1,25(OH)2D.
There is certainly a lot of discussion out there on what concentration levels are associated with deficiency. Optimal levels have not been found and probably do vary depending on your stage in life. I urge you to look up the literature and familiarize yourself with the numbers. Perhaps you’re “normal” but not “optimal”…perhaps you’re “normal” but only marginally away from being considered deficient. It’s important as people who control our own health to recognize that health doesn’t fit so rigidly in little boxes labeled “normal” & “abnormal”. Our health is on a sliding scale that ranges from optimal to lethal. Normalmight fall between two numbers but we need to recognize what side of that scale we are leaning towards. I think too many people get “the green light” from the doctor and see it as an open pass to keep living on the way they’ve been going; but that is bad news. We need to take CHARGE of our health and SEE where we stand. If you’re leaning towards deficient, you need to take action, re-test and see if your life changes for the better. Small changes can make big differences.
Serum levels of calcidiol that test below 50nmol/L are generally considered inadequate for bone and health in HEALTHY individuals; levels below 30nmol/L could lead to rickets in infants and children and osteomalacia in adults. One word of caution to the wise: also be aware of the type of test you are taking to check serum levels. There is high variability in the tests available out there and it’s important to be aware of these things.
Can we pause? I’m overwhelmed.
There is a lot to take in with vitamin D; there’s many options as to how we can get it, many side effects of deficiency, testing options, etc. Do the research slowly. I recommend that you don’t be overwhelmed by negative but think of the positive that vitamin D can do for you. Look into the POSITIVE of not being deficient. If you read about a negative aspect, don’t be scared, simply turn it around to a positive i.e. “it’s not that I’ll not absorb calcium as well without vitamin D, but I’ll absorb better if my levels are optimal”. It’s easy to scare people into doing something but that’s not what we want to do. Our health should have a positive outlook – our bodies are very strong and can heal themselves – so if something is going wrong, have faith in your body’s ability to heal with support if necessary.
We’ll continue later – pinky promise!
I’m going to break down this vitamin D post, and later talk about groups that are at-risk for vitamin D deficiency, the myths about the sun and tanning beds (there are a few myths here!), and how we can use positive thinking and actions to guide us down a path of health! Stay tuned for more information!
****information in the post was gathered from various websites and general knowledge gained over the years. Two specific websites recently used were:
Great information also available @ http://www.catie.ca/en/positiveside/winter-2012/daily-dose