Vitamin D is critical for many functions in the body; it is crucial for healthy bones, and the active form of vitamin D interacts with more than 30 different tissues in the body, that affects more than 1,000 genes. In other words, it’s important for a whole lot of things other than your bones!
Here are some of the roles vitamin D plays in the body:
It is necessary for maintaining muscle strength, impacts the immune system, increases our resistance to infections, esp. bacterial & viral infections that impact the respiratory tract. It can protect against colorectal cancer, important for maintaining healthy heart function, and blood pressure.
Vitamin D deficiency/insufficiency is a problem in this country, esp. for those who are dark-skinned, or spend most of their time indoors, use sunscreen, live in northern latitudes, and/or are overweight. Winter is an especially difficult season for our bodies to synthesize enough vitamin D, as the days grow shorter, darker, and we spend less time outside. For this reason, now is a good time to consider having your levels checked
While exposure to sunlight is the optimal way to get vitamin D, many are concerned about the risk of skin cancer or sun damaged skin, so then get it in food, but it’s not naturally present in large amounts. The majority of dietary vitamin D in the US comes from artificial fortification of milk or nondairy milk products; breakfast cereals, and orange juice. Herring, wild salmon, sardines, or fish liver oils are good natural sources of vitamin D, as well as small amounts in eggs, beef, and butter. I advocate getting your nutrients from food when possible, but it’s challenging to get adequate amounts of D from dietary sources alone.
Here’s an approximation of what you’d need to eat to=just 600 IUs of vitamin D
1.5 quarts (6 cups) of fortified milk 10 ounces (3.5 tins) of sardines 15 eggs / 300 cups of mushrooms / 18 ounces (1.1 pounds) of caviar
Unless you REALLY like sardines or can afford mass quantities of caviar, chances are you’ll want to consider supplementing to ensure adequate vitamin D levels.
Our body uses cholecalciferol or vit. D3, so it’s the optimal form for supplementation. The vast majority of vit. D3 in supplements is produced from either lanolin or fish liver oil. Ergocalciferol, or vitamin D2, is commercially prepared from ergosterol (present in yeast) and is generally preferred by vegans. I recommend 2,000 IU per day of vit. D3 for adults, esp. during the winter months. The upper limit is 5,000 IU per day, so this dose is well within the “safe” range, unless you haven’t a clue what your Vit.D level is. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means it is stored in body tissues and fat cells, making it possible to reach toxic levels in the body, if you are taking too much. Fat soluble Vit. D needs to be taken with fat, to insure its absorption. Since dinner tends to be richer in fat than other meals, I suggest patients take their D with dinner, or the fattiest meal of the day. One study found taking Vit.D with dinner increased blood levels of Vit.D by 50% more than when it was taken with breakfast.
Research suggests Vit.D can help prevent flare-ups in people with inflammatory bowel disease, and improved eczema symptoms. If you plan on becoming pregnant, have your Vit.D levels checked, and corrected first if possible. Studies show having adequate Vit.D during pregnancy can be protective for both mom and baby. Newborn babies who are exclusively breastfed should be given 400 IU per day of Vit.D. To insure this, just put one drop of Vit.D oil (400 IU) on your nipple before nursing, alternating breasts each day.
If you have hyperparathyroidism, Hodgkin’s or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, sarcoidosis, tuberculosis, kidney stones, kidney disease, or liver disease,
make sure you talk to your healthcare provider before taking more than
the (RDA) of vitamin D.