Today’s post comes to us courtesy of integrative nutritionist and guest contributor, Karen Raden, MS, RD, CNN. Trained at Bastyr University, “the Harvard of Nutrition,” Karen runs a full practice in North Chicagoland. She and her husband Tony offer a gluten- and dairy-free meals delivery service designed to balance blood sugar for a variety of dietary styles and needs. She’s also one of the more passionate and intuitive people I know. I hope you enjoy her information as much as I did:
Vitamin D … What’s the Deal?
Everywhere you go these days people are talking about vitamin D…how much to take, what it does, and why it is so important. My goal is to clear up the myths and to provide you with the science so that you can feel “in the know.”
Vitamin D is the generic term for a group of fat-soluble sterol substances that have hormonal activity. Vitamin D compounds are derived from 3 sources: from plants as ergocalciferol (Vitamin D2), from animals as cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3), or by conversion of 7-dihydrocholesterol to Vitamin D3 in the skin after ultraviolet exposure. These compounds are transported to the liver where they are converted to 25-hydroxyvitamin D2 and D3.
The primary role of vitamin D is to regulate blood levels of calcium and phosphorus by promoting absorption in the intestines and reabsorption in kidneys.
Calcium and phosphorus levels are important for bone mineralization and growth as well as for the prevention of hypocalcemic tetany. Vitamin D is also an important immune regulator. It promotes phagocytosis, anti-tumor activity, and immunomodulary functions that play a role in autoimmune disease. Additionally, vitamin D regulates cellular proliferation, differentiation, apoptosis and angiogenesis.
A team of researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine used the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to conclude that vitamin D is independently associated with all-cause mortality in the general population. Low Vitamin D levels increase the risk for osteoporosis, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus erythematosus, depression, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy and many other diseases. Research like this highlights the need for re-evaluation of optimum vitamin D levels and the need for blood testing.
Even if you take walks outside daily, you still may be vitamin D deficient. Because of where we Chicagoans live on the planet:
above 42 degrees north latitude (a line approximately between the northern border of California and Boston) to be exact…you still may be deficient.
I was recently at a nutrition conference where 7 of the 10 health care practitioners presenting there stated that getting levels of vitamin D up to the “optimal” level of 50-60ng/ml is the BEST way to prevent swine flu and other immune compromising illnesses. Yes, toxicity above 100ng/ml is possible, so retesting is KEY!!!
What to do?
1. Request at your next physical to have your Vitamin D3 (25-OH-D) level checked.
2. If your level is lower than 50, you most likely need to supplement. The only caveat here is if you have been told that you have “calcification” issues, elevated calcium levels, elevated PTH or history of kidney stones. In these cases, you should work with a skilled practitioner who can direct you on dosage.
3. For most adults, it takes between 2000-4000iu vitamin D3 daily to raise vitamin D levels. Current dosage recommendations are: 35ius of vitamin D-3 per pound of body weight daily. For a child who weighs 50 pounds, that would be 1700 iu daily. I do not recommend taking more than 5000iu per day, unless you are working with a trained health care practitioner.
4. Start supplementing with the correct form of vitamin D: Vitamin D3 cholecalciferol. There are gummies, chewables, tablets and drops available. Vitamin D comes in 1000iu per drop to 5000iu per capsule. It is a very easy to use and inexpensive supplement. I have both of my children taking the drops of vitamin D daily. I give them 1 drop of vitamin D3 1000iu mixed in with applesauce daily. It has no taste! Makes compliance easy as can be!
5. AND, the most important thing is to RETEST YOUR 25-OH-D LEVELS EVERY 3 MONTHS. This is the only way to measure accurately. If your levels have not gone up, add 1000iu daily and then retest again. Once the summer months hit, and you are getting more sun, you can cut back on your dosage. If you are having your levels checked every 3 months, you can accurately monitor your dosage based on the season.
I hope that you found this information to be useful for you. Share it with your friends! Vitamin D supplementation, if needed, is such an easy thing that you can do for yourself and your family which can prevent so many illnesses. Vitamin D supplementation is inexpensive and easy to take. Once you know your exact level, you can start being proactive with your health and feel empowered to be making the right decisions for yourself and your family!
Wishing you the very best,
*Thanks to Karen Raden for this wonderful contribution! When I received her November newsletter I asked her permission to share this information on my blog — especially as I have so many vegan and raw vegan visitors. As Karen shares, anyone can benefit from Vitamin D testing, but vegans and raw vegans in wintery climates run a higher risk of getting low. You can learn more about Karen here.