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VITAMIN D


Vitamin D is an amazing substance and has been the focus of much nutritional research and we are still learning even more about this vitamin!  It is important for healthy bone development, reproduction, brain development, an effective immune system - in fact, scientists keep finding receptors for vitamin D throughout the body within many different organs and cells.

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FACTS ABOUT VITAMIN D

Vitamin D is the only vitamin that the human body can actually male, it is synthesized with the help of sunlight.  The energy from the sun transforms a chemical found in your skin's natural oil into vitamin D3, which is carried to your liver and then your kidneys to be turned into active vitamin D.  Although called a vitamin, vitamin D is known as a prohormone as it is a substance made by one part of the body that causes another part to respond to it.  At least ten per cent of our genes are directly affected by vitamin D, with perhaps more to be discovered and means lower than optimal levels of vitamin D will have far-reaching health implications.

HOW DO WE GET VITAMIN D?

We can also obtain vitamin D from food.  Vitamin D from animal foods (as well as that we make ourselves) is called vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol.  Vitamin D2 or ergocalciferol comes from plants. 

Vitamin D deficiencies are also common in patients with digestive disorders that affect fat absorption and those who have liver and kidney disease, impairing the conversion of vitamin D3 into it's active form.  Adequate bile is also needed to absorb and make vitamin D.  Bile is make in the gallbladder and stored in the liver so supporting and improving the function of these two organs with herbs can help vitamin D levels.

Certain medications including cholesterol lowering drugs affect vitamin D levels so please check with your doctor. 

Food sources include:

Fish, liver, oils, butter, egg yolk, milk and sprouted seeds.

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VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY

Vitamin D deficiency may be due to contributing factors such as dark skin, breastfeeding without supplementation, lack of sunlight and poor dietary sources.

Conditions associated with Vitamin D deficiency include:

  • Rickets - this is a vitamin D deficiency disease affecting children and causes the legs to bow as the child begins to walk and bear weight on their poorly formed long bones.  Another sign of rickets is beaded ribs as the rib attachments are poorly formed.
  • Osteomalacia - (osteo = bone and malacia = soft) This is the painful condition in adults caused by a vitamin D deficiency which causes the bones to become soft and poorly formed.
  • Osteoporosis - (osteo = bone and porosis = porous or holes)  Not getting adequate vitamin D results in a loss of calcium from the bone, causing bones that are brittle and prone to fractures

Lower than optimal levels of vitamin D have also been implicated in many disease states including certain cancers, recurrent colds and flus, reproductive conditions including endometriosis and poly-cystic ovarian syndrome as well as auto-immune diseases.

WHY ARE 80% OF US VITAMIN D DEFICIENT?

Despite being able to produce vitamin D from sunlight, varying levels of vitamin D deficiency is fairly common.  It is estimated that some 80 percent of Australians do not have adequate levels of vitamin D.  We are a nation of sun-lovers, so how can this be?  There are several theories as to why this may be so...

Limited exposure to sunlight heads the list.  So many of us now work indoors and live in cities with tall buildings shading us from the sun.  We also apply sunscreen to protect our skin from the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation - it's the UVB rays our bodies need to make vitamin D, but these are also the ones that cause our skin to burn.

Where we live is another contributing factor, with people living 37 degrees above or below the equator not seeing enough sun in the winter months to make adequate vitamin D.  Combine this with sun avoidance and sunscreen use during summer and there's not much vitamin D being synthesized at all.

As I mentioned, we make vitamin D when sunlight interacts with a chemical found within the naturally occurring oils of our skin.  If we wash off this oil twice a day in the shower using soaps and body washes, then we can't make vitamin D.

Another contributing factor to vitamin D deficiency is a low-fat diet.  Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, so if you remove the fat from food, you remove all the fat-soluble vitamins too.  Many low-fat foods are fortified with vitamin D to rectify this - but it has been suggested that the synthetic form used is not as well absorbed.  Including small amounts of organic butter, full cream dairy products and organic eggs in your diet is a great way to get some more vitamin D into your diet.  If you're vegetarian, sprouted seeds contain vitamin D2.

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HOW DO I CHECK MY VITAMIN D LEVELS?

You can find out what your vitamin D levels are via a simple blood test through your GP.  The level ranges between 50 - 300.  I would like to see you at least 175.

Supplements can contribute to toxicity so you need to be careful if you are supplementing with vitamin D rechecking your levels after three months.  I insist that patients have their vitamin D levels checked regularly when supplementing - it is both a precautionary measure and  great way to check that the protocol is improving their levels.  Excess vitamin d increases the concentration of calcium in the blood which is then deposited into the tissues -especially in the blood vessels causing dangerous hardening and in the kidneys as stones.

VITAMIN D TOXICITY

Vitamin D is the most likely out of all the vitamins to cause toxicity when consumed in excessive amounts.  You won't cause toxicity through sun exposure as our clever bodies will stop making vitamin D from the sun when we've made enough.  Food sources generally won't cause toxicity either as the amount of vitamin D is well within the upper limits.  Please consult your health care provider before supplementing with vitamin D and have regular blood tests to check your levels.

Date posted: 2013-09-29 | posted by: debras




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