All About Vitamin D

well-being-vitamin-d As the body ages, the ability to make active forms of Vitamin D in the skin using natural sunlight decreases. Add to this the fact that a lot of us spend our time in doors working on computers and laptops, or not seeing much natural light outside and also when we do get outside between showers for an early morning walk there is no real sunshine. Pretty quickly you can see we end up with a Vitamin D deficiency.

I measure Vitamin D a lot in my patients who have problems with their immune system, infections, fatigue, headaches, a history of cancer, low mood, poor sleep and so on and often find the level has dropped well below “50” on the blood test score.

An ideal Vitamin D to keep your body healthy would be more up towards 80-100 or some even say around 110 so you can see that many of us are walking around with a mild to moderate Vitamin D deficit. Toxic levels would be over 200.

What does this all mean for your health?

Vitamin D is important to help prevent aging in the body and to keep the genetic DNA in the cells healthy. Having a good Vitamin D helps keep the immune system balanced so it doesn’t attack itself as in “auto-immune” disease, or as in creating rogue cancer cells.

The bowel needs Vitamin D to absorb good minerals (magnesium, calcium and others). Most of our good mood serotonin hormone is made in the healthy gut.

Hormones are made with the help of minerals so you can see how being deficient starts to impact on poor mineral absorption of key minerals and thus affects mood and the other hormonal systems – even sex hormones and adrenals and thyroid metabolism and blood sugar control (insulin hormone).

Vitamin D can help reduce or prevent the damage to kidneys from diabetes and from immune conditions that damage the small filtration units in the kidneys called “glomeruli”.

Vitamin D can help prevent age-related “macular” degeneration. The macular is the membrane part at the back of the eye that can deteriorate without sufficient zinc and minerals and vitamins or anti-oxidants like purple berry fruits and so on to keep it healthy as the body ages.

Athletic and exercise performance is enhanced by having a good Vitamin D level in the body. Blood sugar level control is really dependent on healthy Vitamin D. I find in testing blood sugar levels that the average blood sugar runs high, even diabetic sometimes, when the Vitamin D is low and this improves along with the insulin level when I top up the Vitamin D.

Vitamin D can increase “good” cholesterol and help improve a “fatty liver”. Aches in the body such as headaches, muscle aches, bone aches I have all seen improve with increasing Vitamin D to an optimum level.

Muscle pains and muscle weakness can occur as a result of Vitamin D deficiency. I sometimes see patients who develop painful shoulder muscles lying in bed at night and once we top up their Vitamin D this improves. I’ve also seen patients with migraines and headaches 

improve as we top up Vitamin D and their ability to absorb magnesium and key minerals improves.

Bone health is really affected by Vitamin D. Your GP may get you to take a strong Vitamin D 50,000 unit tablet once a month as you get older to help keep the bones strong. Any elderly person, who is invalid, or indoors should definitely be given a boost of Vitamin D on a regular basis to help prevent infections and keep their bones stay stronger longer.

Psoriasis skin rash problems and arthritis aches seem to improve with direct UV light and Vitamin D skin creams as well as a good boost of oral Vitamin D.

Attention span and Autism have been improved with helping Vitamin D levels and mood and mental wellbeing definitely is improved in many patients I see when we boost their Vitamin D.

Polycystic Ovary patients benefit from keeping their insulin levels healthy with a good lower carb, exercise rich, lifestyle and diet and also topping up Vitamin D to optimum levels.

The health benefits of Vitamin D go on.

So how do you get Vitamin D naturally?

Sunshine during the summer months between the hours of say 10am to 4pm – putting your skin in the sun so that is doesn’t burn, but getting some direct sunlight can help.

There is some Vitamin D – very small amounts in oily fish like sardines, salmon and foods like eggs yolks and liver. Cod liver is very rich in Vit D and A. Oysters have a little and so do sunflower seeds. Butter has a little and cream. Mainly it is sunshine that does the trick. Except in the elderly as I mentioned who have poor conversion and sometimes poor absorption.

In Australia there are Vitamin D injections. In New Zealand we have oral drops and capsules and tablets to use from health stores, or online stores like “iherb”. Drops for children usually have around 300 or so units per drop and adult ones have 1000 units per drop or capsule or tablet.

Many of us have “Celtic” fair skin or skin that burns easily or maybe a history of skin cancer and don’t want to expose the skin to sun too much so supplementing is an option I often use to help patients especially over winter. Grandmother’s used to give a spoonful of cod liver 

oil to children to prevent Vitamin D deficiency “rickets” (soft bones from lack of minerals through Vit D deficiency).

So what dose can you take s

The Recommended Dietary Intakes (RDI) are pretty low - these are 200 International Units per day for infants, men and women up to 50 yrs old and 400-600 units per day for older men and women. Pregnant women are recommended 200 units per day and the same for breastfeeding women.

There is a growing concern that these RDA (recommended daily allowances) are too low to really keep up optimal health. Since 2010 there has been a growing trend to take your body weight into account. If you multiply your body weight in Kilograms by 77 IU you get a rough guide to how many international units (IU) or Vitamin D you could take each day.

Just to compare 50,000 IU is like a whole day in the sun. The body can handle this, but for safety let us say 77 x 70kg means about 5000 IU per day is safe. If you want to be more conservative take 1000 -2000 units per day as an adult and keep the dose lower in children, breastfeeding and pregnancy and get a blood test to check how you are going.

Vitamin D toxicity is pretty hard to get and you’d have to take mega doses – many days of very strong tablets. With toxicity it is reported you can get diarrhoea, vomiting, fatigue and muscle weakness with headaches, nausea and loss of appetite if you take excess Vitamin D. So if you get this get your doctor to check your levels. These symptoms disappear if you decrease the Vitamin D to a lower dose. Vitamin D is fat soluble so it can build up in the body.

Most people are Vitamin D deficient. The more olive or pigmented your skin the more sunshine it takes to make enough Vitamin D. Ten minutes for a white “Celtic” or European descendant might mean an hour is needed to equivalent Vitamin D production for an Indian person with very dark skin to get the same Vitamin D from the sunshine.

If you like, email me, or come and see me for a Vitamin D test. It costs about $44 for the test at our local Auckland laboratories and can give a good indication of your current stores. I can help you work out a safe dose to help your health and current situation.