Vitamin D may be one of the most beneficial but overlooked substances in the human body. It is also one of the most common deficiencies I see in my patients in our Functional Medicine practice at Vine Healthcare.
Why Vitamin D matters
1. Vitamin D is responsible for building bone. It regulates the balance of calcium and phosphorus in the blood, which helps with healthy remodeling of bone. Calcium supplementation alone without adequate vitamin D levels will have little effect on osteoporosis. “Rickets” is a bone disease characterized by bending and weakening of bones. The recommended daily allowance (“RDA”) of Vitamin D is the amount required to prevent this deficiency disease in most people. However (optimal) levels of Vitamin D may be required to prevent or treat osteoporosis. An article in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2005 estimated that increasing the serum Vitamin D level to 44 (double the level required to prevent rickets) would reduce fractures in women by 50%.
2. Vitamin D is an immune booster. Vitamin D induces production of a chemical called “cathelicidin” which is a potent antimicrobial. Evidence seems to indicate that Vitamin D may speed recovery from or prevent viral illnesses like the flu. It increases the ability of macrophages (immune cells) to “kill” foreign invaders in the body.
3. Vitamin D is active against cancer. In 2008, the American Association for Cancer Research reported that increasing the Vitamin D level in blood to 50 could prevent as much as 83% of breast cancer. There is no commercially available drug with this level of risk reduction. Adequate Vitamin D levels have also been shown to prevent ovarian, colon, and several other cancers.
4. Vitamin D is active in many other diseases. Adequate Vitamin D levels have been shown to be beneficial in preventing heart attacks in men, multiple sclerosis, and type I diabetes. Interestingly, adolescent girls with higher Vitamin D levels were found to have increased jump height and velocity in sports. Lower blood levels are also seen in patients with Alzheimer’s dementia, depression, and cardiovascular disease.
Where do we get it?
Natural Vitamin D is obtained from exposure to sunlight or (in small amounts) from the food we eat. Once in the body, it must be activated in the kidneys to the usable form, Calcitriol. At our office in Carmel, Indiana, we see virtually 100% of patients tested who are deficient due to our northern latitude, lack of winter sunlight, and concerns for skin cancer, which lead to sunscreen use and covering the body, which prevents sun exposure. Because Vitamin D is active at several locations in the body and is chemically similar to steroids, it is technically a hormone rather than a vitamin. Like all hormones, it should be measured in the blood and replaced with a specific goal level in mind. At Vine Healthcare, we would love to partner with you in your health, measure your Vitamin D level, and provide the best, most well absorbed, and purest Vitamin D3 supplements to optimize your health.