All About Vitamin D!
VITAMIN D (CHOLECALCIFEROL)
What else do you know about Vitamin D, other than that we can get it naturally from sun bathing and it regulates calcium for our bones? Did you know that although it is called Vitamin D, it acts more like a hormone? Did you know that 76% of people in the US are deficient in Vitamin D, and its deficiency has multi-systemic effects on their health? Yet so many healthcare professionals still overlook vitamin D levels of their patients! Read on to learn more about the importance of Vitamin D and the effects of its deficiency!
WHAT IS VITAMIN D AND WHAT CAN CAUSE ME TO BE VITAMIN D DEFICIENT?
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that is unique in that it acts more like a hormone than a vitamin. It is not naturally found in many foods, and thus supplementation of vitamin D became increasingly popular. It is nicknamed as the “sunshine vitamin” for a reason; our main source of vitamin D is through sun exposure. Not getting enough fun under the sun can cause you to deplete your vitamin D. But being in the sun does not automatically give you high levels of vitamin D. Many people have a hard time producing vitamin D from the sunlight, and therefore, even if you live in sunny states such as Arizona or California, you can still be vitamin D deficient. Also, since vitamin D is fat soluble, chronic gut conditions can lead to depletion of vitamin D through fat malabsorption. Which means even if you eat the few foods that have vitamin D, such as salmon, organ meats, and egg yolks, you may not be able to absorb it much!
HOW CAN I TEST MY VITAMIN D LEVELS AND WHAT SHOULD I DO IF THEY ARE LOW?
Vitamin D levels can be tested by your doctor through blood works. There are many supplements for vitamin D out there readily available. However, vitamin D is fat soluble, and if it is not emulsified into fat, you will not be able to absorb much of the supplement. There are also two types of vitamin D on the market, vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. While vitamin D2 is much cheaper to produce and thus is more common in fortified foods or supplement, vitamin D3 is the form that is naturally formed in our skin. Vitamin D3 is more effective at improving vitamin D status. Do not just self-prescribe vitamin D! There is a toxicity window, and just like with any hormones, you want to make sure that you stay safe within the correct levels. If you have low vitamin D levels, ask Dr. Alice about which supplement is most suitable for you!
BENEFITS OF VITAMIN D:
1. Autoimmune/ Inflammatory Conditions
Vitamin D deficiency is very common in all autoimmune and inflammatory conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematous, ankylosing spondylitis, Grave’s disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Crohn’s disease, etc. Autoimmune diseases arise when your immune system is confused and starts attacking your own tissues, thinking it is an outside pathogen. Vitamin D supports your regulatory T cells, which are responsible for differentiating between your own tissue and an outside pathogen, thus preventing development of an autoimmune disease.
2. Musculoskeletal Pain
Patients with musculoskeletal cramps and pain with no specific causes such as trauma, infection, tumor, and inflammatory disorders have high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency. Low vitamin D levels cause lower pain threshold and poor muscle recovery, leading to more muscle and bone aches.
3. Cardiovascular Disease/ Hypertension
Studies have found that the risk of heart attack is twice as high for those with vitamin D levels less than 34 ng/ml. Congestive heart failure rates are also higher in those who are vitamin D deficient than those who have optimal values. This also has direct correlation with hypertension- patients with hypertension who were given vitamin D supplements for 8 weeks lowered both blood pressure and heart rate.
Vitamin D is well known for their role in bone health and prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. However, it goes further than that and help prevent the progression of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs due to wear and tear of the joint cartilage between bones, and as vitamin D promotes new bone formation, it also has a role in regenerating cartilage near the bones
Low Vitamin D levels are associated with insulin resistance and type II diabetes in seemingly healthy children and adults. There are receptors for vitamin D on inflammatory immune cells, making the cells turn active and cause systemic inflammation in your body at low vitamin D levels, further increasing insulin resistance. Compared to metformin, a common drug for diabetic patients, which only have 13% improvement in insulin sensitivity, higher vitamin D levels correlated with 60% improvement in insulin sensitivity.
Vitamin D is not only linked to depression, but also is associated with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and anxiety. The relationship goes farther than just sunlight helping you to lighten up your mood, but vitamin D acts as a hormone to directly effect the hypothalamus in your brain for proper neuroendocrine functioning.
Migraines and headaches affect over 80% of people world wide. It is caused by inflammation in your blood vessels around your head and poor circulation, worsened by tension in the muscles of your neck. Vitamin D plays a crucial role in maintaining proper calcium levels, and calcium is responsible for maintaining vascular tone and coagulation. Vitamin D also regulates absorption of magnesium, and low vitamin D leads to low magnesium, which causes more muscle and vascular tension in the body, worsening the headache.
Vitamin D is our body’s natural anticonvulsant. Vitamin D regulates your body’s calcium and magnesium levels, the two most important minerals for your nervous system. Proper calcium and magnesium levels decrease hyper-excitability in patients with epilepsy. Vitamin D is involved in neuro-protection, brain cell development, and is also involved in other neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
9. Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is a disease where the body’s immune system attacks the coating that protects the nerve cells. Vitamin D acts to decrease autoimmunity, but also protects the nerve from damage, and is important factor in treating multiple sclerosis. The correlation between Vitamin D and MS are also apparent because MS is increasingly prevalent among people who live farther from the equator with less sun exposure.
10. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
PCOS is a disease only found in humans, and is the leading endocrine illness in women. Acting like a hormone, vitamin D play a role in the egg quality by regulating calcium, which is essential for egg development in your ovaries. Women with PCOS who were infertile have become fertile with vitamin D supplementation. PCOS is also very highly associated with insulin resistance, and women who were in vitamin D supplements had improvement in their serum insulin, triglycerides, and cholesterol levels.
11. Cancer Prevention
Vitamin D has anti-cancer, anti-proliferative, and pro-apoptotic properties which help prevent cancer. Studies have shown that inadequate exposure to sunlight, and thus low vitamin D levels, is associated with increased risk of cancer mortality, especially the cancer of the breast colon, ovary, prostate, bladder, esophagus, kidney, lung, pancreas, rectum, stomach, uterus, and lymphoma.