Earlier this month, the Endocrine Society revealed their Clinical Practice Guidelines for prevention and treatment of vitamin D deficiency. While these guidelines are news in the world of western medicine, they are business as usual in our integrative medicine practice. But for those of you still unaware about the need to supplement, especially living here in the Pacific Northwest, we’ve put together an easy to use guide on why and how to supplement your vitamin D levels.
What is vitamin D?
Although it’s commonly referred to as a vitamin, vitamin D is actually a hormone. Vitamins, though processed and utilized by the body, are not manufactured by the body. Vitamin D on hand other hand, is produced by the skin of the body but only when sunlight is present to carry out the synthesis. A fat-soluble vitamin that exists in several forms, each with a different biological activity, it is the body’s only source of calcitrol (activated vitamin D), the most powerful steroid hormone in the body.
What does vitamin D do?
Vitamin D is involved in the making of hundreds of enzymes and proteins crucial to good health and disease prevention. It enhances muscle strength and builds bone and has anti-inflammatory effects. It is also known to boost immunity and insulin functions. Because of this, vitamin D deficiency is thought to play a role in most major diseases.
Many people don’t realize that one of the country’s biggest epidemics is vitamin D deficiency. But how will being deficient in vitamin D really affect you? Well, we have only to look at the list of diseases in which vitamin D deficiency plays a role to recognize the importance of this supplement.
- Osteoporosis & Osteoarthritis
- Cancer (including breast, prostate and colon)
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetes
- Autoimmune diseases
- Multiple sclerosis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Infertility and PMS
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
What can I do to get enough vitamin D?
Since sunlight is the only way for the body to generate vitamin D itself, getting adequate exposure to the sun is, obviously, one of your best sources of vitamin D. Remarkably, the human body, if unshielded by clothing, sunscreen and other blockades to ultraviolet rays, can produce in the realm of approximately 20,000 units of vitamin D in 20 minutes of summer sun.
Since only 10% of your body’s vitamin D comes from food sources like fish oils, fatty wild caught fish (mackerel, salmon, halibut, tuna, sardines and herring), fortified foods (milk, orange juice and cereals), dried Shitake mushrooms and egg yolks, the only other reliable source is through supplementation of vitamin D3.
Because you’d need to eat a minimum of 5 servings of fatty fish a day or drink 20 cups of fortified milk to get the amount of vitamin D necessary to maintain overall health, supplementation with vitamin D3 becomes crucial when living in low light climates, like we do here in the Pacific Northwest.
(This article appeared on a client’s site Summer 2011 with one additional site customized paragraph, promoting their business.)