Vitamin D is a powerful hormone like nutrient that can protect your health from scary stuff. Most people think weak bones when they think about a vitamin D deficiency and rightly so. Vitamin D partners up with calcium and other minerals to keep bones strong, but that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Vitamin D protects us from auto-immune conditions. For example, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis can be triggered due to a deficiency of vitamin D. Another auto-immune disorder affected by low vitamin D status is inflammatory bowel disease. Low vitamin D results in accelerated IBD and is common among people with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Other auto-immune conditions affected by low vitamin D status include multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Vitamin D can protect your body from heart disease and cancer, scary diagnoses. One study demonstrated that Vitamin D inhibited the growth of thyroid cancer stem cells. Another demonstrated that vitamin D levels were associated with better patient outcomes in melanoma. In an analysis of 28 different research studies on vitamin D and cancer, researchers determined that high levels of the vitamin was protective in several different types of cancer; basal cell carcinoma, bladder, breast, colon, endometrium, liver, esophagus, stomach, melanoma, pancreas, prostate and kidney. Physical health is not the only thing vitamin D protects.
Additional research points to late-life depression being a result of vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D deficiency in children is a concern, too. According researchers, “In children with asthma and allergic diseases, vitamin D deficiency correlates strongly with asthma, allergic rhinitis, and wheezing.” Vitamin D is also involved in childhood obesity in both rural and urban settings. There is even a correlation of Type 1 diabetes and low vitamin D levels. Vitamin D deficiencies can have far reaching impacts.
We develop deficiencies in a number of ways. When the sun hits our skin, our cells can make vitamin D. A deficiency might occur due to decreased outdoor activities or due to having dark skin. It is also more difficult for our bodies to make vitamin D from the sun as we get older. In the winter, you simply won’t get enough vitamin D from the sun. In the summer, aim to get 10 to 20 minutes of direct sun on most of your body each day. No sun screen allowed. If you are older or have darker skin, plan on a few extra minutes.
In the winter months, we have to get our vitamin D from our diet or from supplements. Foods that are high in vitamin D are salmon (wild caught), sardines, tuna, cow’s milk, eggs (free range), and shiitake mushrooms.
If you are taking supplements, look for vitamin D3.
Knowing how much vitamin D to take can be a bit of a mystery. If you have a genetic SNP preventing your body from utilizing vitamin D like I do, you may need to take a rather large amount. The only way to find out if you have a genetic SNP is to take a test. I recommend 23andme.com. It is a simple saliva test and takes about six weeks to get the results. You can take your results to a health practitioner to have an interpretation done. There are also programs available on the internet that may be able to interpret your results as well. Once you know if you have a SNP or not, a health practitioner trained in functional medicine can recommend a proper dose. It is always a good idea to test your vitamin D levels occasionally just to make sure you are in the optimal range of 60-80 ng/mL
To make sure you have the right amount of this amazing nutrient, play outdoors, eat a diet rich in cold water fish and free range eggs and find out what your genes tell you about how you use vitamin D.