Vitamin D – Why Optimal Levels Matter!
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that functions as a steroid hormone. Vitamin D has many functions including control over 50 genes in tissues throughout the body. Vitamin D is essential for calcium balance and bone health, is involved in cell changes and growth, helps the immune system including protecting ourselves from several types of cancer, helps regulate insulin secretion and blood pressure, helps balance brain function, mood, hormones and sleep!
Vitamin D deficiency in Canada is very common. The most common factors that lead to low vitamin D include decreased sun exposure and using sunscreen. Vitamin D is produced in our skin from UVB radiation. However, UVB radiation can damage skin and cause photoaging and skin cancer (which is why avoiding excessive sun exposure and using sunscreen is important).
Other factors leading to low vitamin D/poor absorption include having darker skin, obesity, elderly, fat malabsorption syndromes and kidney and liver disease as well as in exclusively breastfed infants.
Other than the sun, small amounts of vitamin D is also available from food sources such as fatty fish, liver, beef, egg yolks, dairy, mushrooms and fortified foods.
Vitamin D is extremely important in lifelong bone health. Calcium balance relies on vitamin D and when levels are low, calcium is taken from our bones and moved into the blood to maintain blood levels. Low vitamin D in children can cause rickets and in adults can cause osteomalacia. Appropriate vitamin D levels can help prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures.
Improving vitamin D levels has also been shown to help improve severity of PMS, regulate estrogen and progesterone levels in females, and improve physical symptoms and lab values associated with PCOS. Vitamin D can help to increase testosterone in males with low levels of testosterone.
Some research has shown vitamin D to be deficient in people with anxiety and depression. Low levels of vitamin D has also been associated with chronic sleep disorders and insomnia. Optimizing vitamin D levels for these individuals would be an important part of a treatment plan.
Optimizing vitamin D levels is especially important during the change of season when colds and flus are more common. Low levels can directly affect the immune system. Vitamin D is essential in decreasing inflammation, preventing infection and inducing action of our immune cells. Some research suggests low vitamin D levels may also be linked to an increase risk of developing allergies, especially to foods.
As vitamin D is fat soluble, it is stored in the liver and fat tissues. If too much vitamin D is being supplemented, vitamin D toxicity is possible. This is known as hypervitaminosis D. This toxicity can lead to high calcium levels in the blood which can result in kidney stones and calcification of the heart, arteries and kidneys over time. This can become dangerous which is why being on the correct dose is so important.
The Fall is one of the best times to have your vitamin D levels checked as they will reflect your ability to absorb vitamin D after the Summer. Doing a quick blood test for vitamin D 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 will be the most accurate reading. Taking the recommended dose of vitamin D daily does not guarantee your levels will be optimal. Having your levels checked will help to determine what the most appropriate dose for you would be.
Ask us about checking your vitamin D levels and how to optimize them today!
– Dr. Dean, ND
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