Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, along with vitamins A, E and K. If you are eating a low-fat diet, or are not digesting or absorbing fats well, you could be deficient in these fat soluble vitamins.
Vitamin D is both a nutrient found in certain foods, like cod liver oil, fish, eggs, cow’s liver, pastured pork lard, fat or bacon; and is also a hormone synthesized by our bodies when we are exposed to sunlight. So getting D from food is not easy for a vegetarian. Fortified foods generally use the synthetic form D2 which is not as easily used by the body. Sun exposure can be a good source of vitamin D, but not going outside enough, or using sunscreen can block the production of vitamin D. Many people believe that getting too much sun exposure is detrimental to our health, however The Lancet reported that "Paradoxically, outdoor workers have a decreased risk of melanoma compared with indoor workers, suggesting that chronic sunlight exposure can have a protective effect. Further, some melanomas form on sun-exposed regions; others do not." So is not getting enough vitamin D from the sun the reason that skin cancers seem to be increasing? And is vitamin D from supplementation as protective as getting healthy sun exposure?
Vitamin D has been found to be an essential component to the health of our immune systems, and low levels of vitamin D correlate with diseases like cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases, infections like influenza, cancer and many others.
Doctors are now recognizing the importance of adequate vitamin D levels, and may prescribe supplementation with vitamin D if you are found to have low levels. But what is the optimum level of vitamin D, and should you take vitamin D supplements to restore your vitamin D levels?
Just taking vitamin D supplements alone without knowing the balance of your calcium and magnesium levels and other mineral status can create unwanted health conditions. Vitamin D interacts with calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium and phosphorus, as well as the other fat soluble vitamins. Taking high doses of Vitamin D can drive down vitamin A levels, while it can cause an increase in soft tissue calcium levels.
Getting your mineral ratios tested through hair tissue mineral analysis can give you a better picture of what may be going on, and if you should take vitamin D alone, or use other mineral supplementation to help restore balance to naturally restore your vitamin D levels.
I was advised to take vitamin D when i tested low- not even out of range, but on the low end of "normal". However, doing this further disrupted my balance of calcium/magnesium that was most likely already imbalanced. I found this out after having my hair tested through HTMA. I started a mineral rebalancing program, and I can tell you I have noticed many positive changes in my health since starting. One thing that improved was heart palpitations I have experienced for many years due to mitral valve prolapse. They have disappeared since implementing the mineral balancing program. I was also experiencing menopausal hot flashes that also disappeared, along with several other positive changes. Vitamin D and calcium exist in a very delicate balance. Taking too much vitamin D can disrupt this balance, and can lead to hypercalcemia, where calcium levels in the blood are too high.
The body is always trying to maintain balance- and calcium is used by the body to keep the blood at a very tightly regulated pH between 7.35 and 7.45. So more likely, when there is too much calcium in the blood, it will be deposited elsewhere in the body and into the soft tissues. This can lead to kidney stones, bone spurs, cataracts, or other complications. A publication from 2008 suggests that higher vitamin D intakes beyond current recommendations may be associated with better health outcomes. While these studies indicated higher doses of supplementation were indicated, they also recognized that the implications and long term safety of 2000 IU or higher doses for the total adult population need to be addressed in future studies.
An important consideration is the form of vitamin D that is being tested. The initial form of vitamin D, when your skin is exposed to sun is called 7-dehydrocholesterol. It then travels to the liver, where it is converted into another slightly more active form of vitamin D called 25-hydroxyvitamin D. This is the form of the vitamin that doctors routinely test when looking for deficiency. When vitamin D leaves the liver, it travels to the kidneys where it is converted once more into the highly metabolically active form of vitamin D called calcitriol, or 1,25 dihydroxyvitamin D. This is no longer considered a vitamin but rather, a steroid hormone. So which is the best form of D to test? Scientists generally don't agree on that, or how much is an optimal level, and I will discuss this more in an upcoming blog post.
In the same way that just taking vitamin D alone can disrupt mineral or vitamin balances in our body, simply taking high doses of calcium alone is not a good thing either. Cofactors are required for our body to utilize the calcium, and calcium needs to be in balance with magnesium. Mineral balance is one of the foundations of health. If you'd like to find out more about mineral balancing, optimizing your vitamin D, or if you should be taking mineral supplements, contact me for more information! An individual nutritional therapy consultation can evaluate your current nutritional status. If you would like to get started, contact me for a free 20-minute consultation, and together, we can determine if nutritional therapy is a good fit for you or your child.