Vitamin D Fact 1. You are still probably not getting enough vitamin D for your best health
Vitamin D is critical for health and that’s a fact. Next time you go to your doctor, ask them specifically to test your 25-hydroxyvitamin D level.
Astute doctors providers are now checking this, but when they are time-crunched to discuss all of your health problems in 5 minutes, this one will get missed. So ask for it.
It’s your health so you deserve to know. Your blood level needs to be at least 50 ng/ml on the 25-hydroxyvitamin D test. Disease risk plummets at the level of 50 ng/ml and your well-being can rise.
Don’t go by the reference ranges that say you can be “normal” at 20-30 ng/ml.
Vitamin D is truly a hormone, not a vitamin, so don’t mess around.
Hormones have thousands of functions, so you really are leaving a lot to chance if you don’t know your numbers.
Deficiency causes your other hormones to be out of balance, including the ones that control your blood glucose (insulin), your sex hormones, even thyroid and parathyroid hormones.
Don’t be deficient. It’s a serious health risk.
Misconception: “But I drink milk, I’m fine.” Please stop thinking that milk is going to give you enough vitamin D.
Vitamin D is almost exclusively a sun factor.
Each summer sun exposure (if your skin gets a little change in pigment) provides 10,000-25,000 IU of vitamin D.
How much is in milk? 90 IU per cup. Truly pales in comparison!
Simple math would explain that you need at least 100 glasses of milk to even come CLOSE to what you get if you are out in the sun.
Do you work indoors? If so, you are almost certain to be deficient without supplements.
If you supplement with vitamin D, 5000 IU that amount of it weighs less than a couple small drops of water. The units are deceptive.
Don’t worry so much about taking too much vitamin D. A couple health exceptions exist, but they are very rare. And your doctor communicates these exceptions, and knows about, vitamin D, right?
If they give you a quick “no” answer about vitamin D, they may not know much about the topic.
The sun gives you about the equivalent of 4 small drops of water in weight of vitamin D.
A glass of milk gives you about 1 hundredth of a tiny drop of water of vitamin D, if that helps put it in perspective.
Not even a drop in the bucket of your body’s needs for an analogy. One final point on this topic; over-the-counter D3 is more natural, safe, and effective than the prescription variety, D2.
Vitamin D Fact 2. Vitamin D probably helps prevent autoimmune diseases and cancer
I lumped autoimmune disease and cancer together. Why? They are both diseases with mediators in the immune system.
Some cool trivia: Vitamin D directly interacts with the genes involved in autoimmune diseases and cancer.
What does that mean? Well, vitamin D is able to ramp down the expression of the genes that trigger autoimmune symptoms and cancer.
Vitamin D also is an immune system powerhouse in and of itself. It makes antimicrobial proteins that help kill viruses, fungus and bacteria where it is most needed.
Some studies show it is very effective at helping reduce chances of influenza and colds, but also plays a role in fighting other daunting infections.
Vitamin D also helps keep the immune system in check. Too much immunity is a bad thing. This is the case in autoimmune disease.
Multiple research studies show that vitamin D can change the ratio of T cells, and therefore helps keep the body from attacking itself.
Most types of cancer seem to be related to vitamin D inadequacy. This might seem like coincidence if it was one study.
But there are now hundreds of studies showing that vitamin D at higher blood levels is linked to less cancer occurrence. The coincidence that keeps being coincidental?
Clinical trials often shy away from giving vitamin D in repletion doses.
Vitamin D Fact 3. It can help with pain
Muscles aching, body creaks. Your hip hurts and you can’t tolerate exercise because you are so sore and tired. You have headaches.
You are just getting old. Or are you? Maybe you are deficient in vitamin D.
Vitamin D helps pain in cases of fibromyalgia, pain from autoimmune disease, and well, helps with the pain of the deficiency. Yes.
The deficiency itself causes pain, potentially because it causes muscles to be over-sensitive. It may also cause nerves to be more sensitive, thereby causing many vague, nagging aches and pains.
Vitamin D deficiency is even related to more severe forms of pain in spinal stenosis, headaches, and low back pain.
What’s the proof? Vitamin D has been shown to help both nerve and muscle pains, but typically at doses high enough to get the blood levels at an adequate range.
So, likely you need to take more than 2000 IU per day for pain relief. It also helps calm down excessive inflammation in the body, which in and of itself can be painful.
Vitamin D Fact 4. It can help your heart and blood vessels function
Your heart is a muscle that relies on a split-second demand for adequate electrolyte amounts for contraction and relaxation.
One of those electrolytes is calcium. Without enough vitamin D, your heart pump may function at a lower than optimal level.
In fact, vitamin D deficiency is repeatedly associated with higher risk of cardiovascular disease as well as death from it.
Stroke risk appears to double with deficiency. It goes back to the fact that vitamin D is a hormone, and as such, it helps regulate other hormones, including a hormone specifically secreted by the heart muscle called B-type natriuretic peptide.
It also helps balance out parathyroid hormone, which contributes to cardiovascular diseases and inflammation.
Looping the conversation back to inflammation, vitamin D plays a substantial role in decreasing some of the biggest inflammatory components in the body, including NF-kB.
When it comes to inflammation, it is never good for your heart because it make your cholesterol much more likely to deposit inside the arterial walls.
Again, vitamin D acts as a hormone, exerting 1000s of functions. It has even been shown in some case reports of children with enlarged hearts to help normalize heart function.
Vitamin D helps improve vascular tone, and early research shows it may help in erectile dysfunction. That, folks, is a blood flow issue.
In adults with heart failure, deficiency seems to severely increase the risk of death;by 3 times, and sudden cardiac death goes up by 5 times.
I personally helped facilitate a research project using vitamin D treatment in heart failure patients. I can’t wait to share the results.
Vitamin D Fact 5. Prevents pregnancy complications
This may be the most striking area for change in health because in relative terms, pregnancy is only 9 months.
A research group out of Medical University of South Carolina found that women achieving higher blood levels of vitamin D during pregnancy, often by taking higher doses of vitamin D, had huge reductions in pregnancy complications, including high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, infections, and preterm birth.
I have been privileged to get to know and work with a researcher from this project, Carole Baggerly. Their work is noble, but also has been an extremely challenging message to convey to the world because dogma is difficult to get past.
Luckily, if you even Google the topic now, WebMD and respected pregnancy organizations are getting the message out there.
Think of how many millions of lives this could help, and how many dollars it can save. I got a sneak peak at their newest research paper, and the new study has just as robust of pregnancy results.
Check out Grassroots Health website to learn more about the organization helping to reduce the burden of disease due to vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D Fact 6. It may make your body leaner:
You start taking vitamin D. Your aches and pains get better. You might get more energy. That might make you feel like exercising more.
But it also independently makes you leaner. Why? Deficiency of vitamin D is associated with extra infiltration or accumulation of fat within the muscle fibers of your body.
Therefore, vitamin D may change the structure and function of your muscles, but also, when your levels of vitamin D go up, you may get leaner.
It helps with muscle contraction, so exercise will likely feel a whole lot easier. It helps normalize testosterone and estrogen levels.
Studies using higher levels of vitamin D and giving it longer term demonstrate that vitamin D may help people who are trying to lose weight.
The vitamin D group lost more weight than the group not taking vitamin D.
Vitamin D Fact 7. Vitamin D helps your brain work better
Vitamin D deficiency is repeatedly related to symptoms of poor memory. Alzheimer’s disease risk goes up exponentially with deficiency.
So do mood disorders like depression and behavioral disorders such as ADHD and autism. So that’s just associations, but here comes the proof.
Higher dose vitamin D helped autistic symptoms in a recent small clinical trial. It helps in cognitive function in multiple sclerosis.
It helps symptoms of depression, especially seasonal affective disorder. It’s one piece of the puzzle, keep that in mind.
But how does it work? I’m going to talk about hormones and inflammation again.
You guessed it. Vitamin D helps make the “love” hormone called oxytocin. It helps with nerve growth and is critical to make neurotransmitters like serotonin.
Think about the fact that you may take a medication that helps with serotonin reuptake. Without enough vitamin D, there is not enough serotonin. There is a missing piece in the puzzle.
The brain happens to be very susceptible to inflammation and stress. Vitamin D knocks down inflammation and stress hormones. Any questions?
So we have the relationship, and we have the proof. And yet, why are we all still so skeptical? Is it because big pharmaceutical groups are a bit worried?
Are they churning out doubt in the media? Are they working with governing agencies dictating nutrition policies? I’ll leave that to you to decide.
The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body and is shared for educational purposes only. Consult your doctor or healthcare provider before making changes to your supplement regimen or lifestyle.
Heidi Moretti, MS, RD is The Healthy RD. A registered dietitian for 20 years, has a passion for functional nutrition and natural medicine. Has researched supplements and plants as medicine throughout her career. Loves helping people gain function and vitality by tackling root causes of illness.