The only problem is we’re deficient in sunlight.
Most of us work indoors. And we’re taught by the “authorities” to be scared of the sun because it’s dangerous and can cause skin cancer. It’s said we must slather ourselves in sunscreen or wear protective clothing whenever we go outdoors.
We’ve created a Vitamin D deficient society by virtue of our lifestyles.
By protecting yourself from the sun, you may prevent one of the more benign forms of skin cancer — basal cell carcinoma; however, you do nothing to prevent the deadly form — malignant melanoma.
If you allow yourself to become Vitamin D deficient, you put yourself at risk for more serious forms of cancer than you prevent by avoiding sunlight. Incidences of colon, prostate, and breast cancer are significantly higher in a Vitamin D deficient person.
So What Exactly is Vitamin D and What Does It Do?
Vitamin D is not actually a vitamin.
It’s a prohormone and it’s responsible for over 2000 genes in the body.
Vitamin D is fat-soluble, which means it is stored in the liver and fatty tissues of your body and is slowly released.
The main, naturally occurring dietary sources are cod liver oil and salmon. The only significant plant sources of Vitamin D are mushrooms, in particular shiitakes; when mushrooms are exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light, the level of Vitamin D increases dramatically.
Another great way to get natural Vitamin D is through green foods. Foods become green because of chlorophyll, the green pigment present in green plants. Chlorophyll is also responsible for the absorption of light from the sun, thus getting the energy needed for photosynthesis. So you can receive your Vitamin D from the sun much as the plants do. The green plants with the most vitamin D are parsley, nettle, alfalfa, blue-green algae, chlorella, and horsetail.
Some foods are fortified with Vitamin D, such as homogenized milk.
The dietary type of Vitamin D is D2, or ergocalciferol. While it is somewhat effective, it is felt that the Vitamin D produced naturally in your body by its reaction to the sun is more potent and effective.
The type of Vitamin D produced from within your own body when UVB rays from sunlight strike the skin and trigger Vitamin D synthesis – D3 – is also known as cholecalciferol.
Both forms of Vitamin D are formed when the UVB rays of the sun interact with a certain form of cholesterol, a lipid called 7-dehydrocholesterol. In humans, this cholesterol is found in the skin.
The Vitamin D at this point is still inactive. It then travels through the bloodstream to the liver where it is converted to a pre-hormone known as calcidiol, or 25-hydroxycholecalciferol, or 24-OH-D. This is the inactive storage form of Vitamin D that is used to measure your Vitamin D level in your blood samples. From there it travels to your kidneys where it is metabolized and becomes the active calcitriol, or 1,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol, or 1,24-OH-2-D3.
It is then released back into your bloodstream with the aid of a carrier protein – called the Vitamin D receptor – where it helps regulate how your body uses calcium and phosphorus. This Vitamin D – calcitriol – shows its biological effects by binding to Vitamin D receptors located in target organs and tissues, such as your intestines, brain, heart, and skin.
It reaches its maximum level approximately 24 hours after contact with the sunlight.
Vitamin D3 is manufactured mostly in the outer layer of the skin, the epidermis. Of these 5 separate levels of the skin, it is the cells in the lower 2 layers where Vitamin D3 is commonly found.
Benefits and Roles
The main role of Vitamin D is to promote calcium absorption in your gut and to maintain the normal level of calcium and phosphorus in your blood. Without sufficient Vitamin D, bones can become thin, brittle, or misshapen. Together with calcium, Vitamin D can help protect you from osteoporosis.
Vitamin D has other roles in your body in controlling cell growth, neuromuscular activities, immune function, and reduction of inflammation. There are many genes controlled by Vitamin D, including those that regulate cell growth, cellular differentiation in shape and function, and cellular death.
Common Conditions and Symptoms Associated with Vitamin D Deficiency
- Autoimmune conditions (such as Hashimoto's, Lupus, Ankylosing Spondylitis, Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Crohn's Disease)
- Cancer – particularly breast, colon, and colorectal
- Cystic Fibrosis
- Diabetes (both Types 1 and 2)
- High Blood Pressure
- Muscle weakness
- Musculoskeletal pain, including joint pain and low back pain
- Obesity and excess weight
- Osteoporosis, Osteopenia, and Osteomalacia
- PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome)
- Poor balance
- Systemic inflammation
Tips to Improve Your Vitamin D Status
• Get outdoors and enjoy the sunshine for at least 20 – 30 minutes a day, preferably when the sun is highest in the sky.
• Avoid sunscreen for a full 20 – 30 minutes.
• Expose your arms and legs. You need to expose 40% of your skin to make sufficient Vitamin D.
• Be sure to avoid washing the exposed parts of your skin with soap for at least 48 hours to give your body a chance to absorb all the Vitamin D it produced as a result of the sunshine exposure.
• Load up on foods rich in antioxidants and beneficial fats that will strengthen your skin cells and protect them from sun damage.
• Get tested for Vitamin D. The 25, Hydroxyl Vitamin D test is the one most commonly used.
• Supplement with Vitamin D if you’re low.
The older you get, the more unhealthy you are, the harder it is for you to make Vitamin D.
During the winter in all locations north of Atlanta, Georgia, it is virtually impossible to get enough vitamin D, even with mid-day sun exposure. If you are darkly pigmented, you’ll need more sun exposure to make sufficient Vitamin D.
Vitamin D Supplementation
If you’re unable to get your daily dose of sunshine, then take a Vitamin D supplement.
Vitamin D3 is best absorbed and utilized. It’s usually from lanolin, which is from sheep. If you prefer vegan sources, here are 3 brands I recommend:
• Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw: D3 Vitamin Supplement – 60 Capsules
• Premier Research: D3 Serum – 2200 IU per drop
• Biotics Research: Bio-D-Mulsion Forte – 1 oz
Vitamin D2, a less well absorbed form of vitamin D, is another vegan option.
In general, Vitamin D supplementation is much less effective than sun exposure. It’s best to get sunlight exposure as much as possible, and only use the supplements when sunlight exposure is not possible.
However, it’s best to test to determine whether you’re getting enough. So many factors affect how well you derive Vitamin D from sunlight. Most people just don’t get enough. Even if you get plenty of sun exposure, it’s possible to become Vitamin D deficient.
You can overdose on Vitamin D. That’s why I recommend a baseline test before starting supplementation. You cannot overdose on Vitamin D via sunlight exposure, but you can with supplementation.
According to Dr. Mercola, you may need 3000 units of vitamin D per 100 lbs of body weight to correct a deficiency. In the case of cancer or severe auto immune disease, optimal may be in the range of 5000 units per 100 lbs of body weight. The human body, given the right conditions, can make up to up to 20,000 units in a day!
Vitamin D supplementation can be helpful for combating acute infectious disease, like the flu or a cold. In this case, you should take 2000 units /kg per of body weight each day for 3 days.
Vitamin D has a long half-life, which means that you can take it once a week rather than daily.
Vitamin D Testing
Testing for Vitamin D is very important to make sure you optimize your levels and avoid overdose. You should test 25-Hydroxy Vitamin D; not the more expensive 1,25 dihydroxy Vitamin D.
You can get tested by going to www.Directlabs.com.
Learn more about Vitamin D testing at Lab Tests Online. This is a site where you can find information about any lab test. It is very thorough and informative.
I have found in my practice that it’s SO important to get Vitamin D tested … not just once, but every 3 months, until your levels are in the optimal range (I target for 75 in general, but since there are so many factors involved, I tailor my recommendation to the person).
Vitamin D Levels — What’s Optimal?
>100 ng/mL Excessive vitamin D
75-100 ng/mL Proposed optimal range
50-75 ng/mL Suboptimal
<50 ng/mL Deficient
<20 ng/mL Seriously deficient
Vitamin D Level Optimization
For anyone with levels below 20, I generally recommend 10,000 and sometimes more for 3 months, then recommend retesting.
In many cases the levels come up to the 30s by then and I recommend the same for another 3 months. If the levels come up higher than 30?s, I’d probably drop that down a bit and retest in 3 months. If lower, I would increase the dose and monitor again soon.
The key is testing. If someone is really low and has serious conditions, like autoimmunity, I often recommend higher doses and retesting sooner.
If you decide to skip the test and just supplement with 2000 – 4000 IU you run the risk of not correcting the problem. If you supplement with 10,000 – 20,000 without testing, you run the risk of Vitamin D excess. It’s important to work with a trained practitioner. You are welcome to work with me in one of my Vibrant Living programs like B4 Be Gone Blood Sugar Balancing (B4BeGone), Correcting Adrenal Fatigue and Exhaustion (CAFE), or the Energy Recharge Coaching (ERC) program.
Additional Resources and Reading on Vitamin D
- Mercola.com “Daily Sunlight Can Keep Cancer Away” August 7, 2008
- Mercola.com “Lack of Sunshine Causes One Million Deaths a Year” August 24, 2007
- Dr. Joe Mercola Comments How Much Vitamin Do You Need?
- Video by Dr. Joe Mercola. 1 hour video with lots of details about Vitamin D
- Annals of Epidemiology April 14, 2009 Dr. Cedric Garland
- Annals of Epidemiology July 2009, Volume 19, Issue 7, Pages 468-483
- Science Daily, “New Model of Cancer Development: Low Vitamin D Levels May Have Role” May 26, 2009
- The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology March 2007; 103(3-5):708-11
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition June 2007; 85(6):1586-91.
- American Journal of Epidemiology October 12, 2009
- Arizona Center for Advanced Medicine, “Vitamin D, Sun, Skin Cancer”, June 25, 2013
- Linus Pauling Institute, “Vitamin D”, June 22, 2011
- Hair Loss Revolution, August 11 2016, “Can Vitamin D Deficiency Cause Hair Loss?”