Vitamin D the sunshine vitamin is among the most deficient substances in the body. How can something that is made naturally by the body be lacking, and what happens to your body when you don’t have enough. I find my hair is not as strong and my joints feel a little rickety. To make the body feel whole and healthy every bit of its function needs to be considered.
Vitamin D is not a vitamin it is a hormone that is made within the body. Its discovery began with a boom in rickets amongst children during the Industrial Revolution. With a movement from farm life to smoggy city factory life exposure to sunlight decreased drastically.
In 1822 a Polish physician noted that children working in factories in Warsaw and or living in the smog filled city had drastically increased cases of rickets over children who lived and worked in the countryside, his recommendation was to increase exposure to sunlight. Though it is more prevalent today, vitamin D deficiency has been around for thousands of years, it is hypothesised that Neanderthals exhibited bone deformations that can be attributed to rickets.
Main Functions of Vitamin D
- Calcium and Phosphorous: metabolism and normal calcification of bones.
- Vitamin D role in Calcium Metabolism: increases absorption in gut, decreases excretion from kidneys, respiration of calcium
- Supports Healthy Bone and Teeth: puts calcium-phosphorus into teeth and bones
- Immunity: prevents rickets, cancer fighting, fights of free radicals that are persistent in the system
- Mental Health: provide proper nutritional support for nervous system
Vitamin D, to be of any use to the body, first needs to be activated and processed through the liver in to 1,25 – dihydroxyvitamin D and then in the kidneys to its active form of 1,25 – dihydroxyvitamin D (D3) – after which it enters into circulation and travels to the main areas of calcium tissue uptake; small intestine and bones. The small intestine has vitamin D receptors for D3, these activated receptors allow for the absorption of calcium through the intestines.
“More than three fourths of all Americans are vitamin D-deficient.”
― John Cannell,
If there is not enough calcium in the blood, Vitamin D will move to bones and signal the release of calcium from bones as a way to maintain intracellular and extracellular calcium concentrations. When there is sufficient calcium in the diet and body, Vitamin D is regulated and its production and activity is low. When calcium is lacking in the body its production is high.
Diets that involved packaged and processed foods, food high in flavour additives and fortified with additional nutrients along with Calcium. With a higher consumption of calcium in the diet and with calcium being one of the most recommended supplements by both doctors and pharmacists – this can lead to an increase of calcium in the system.
A decrease in Vitamin D and a over saturation of calcium can often results in calcification to the breast, to arterial plaque as well as other areas in the body as calcium cannot be properly utilized and metabolized by the body. Moreover, if there is too much Vitamin D in the system due to toxicity calcification within the body can also occur. Therefore it is essential to be testing once a year for serum Vitamin D levels especially if one is on a vitamin D supplements. Calcium ion serum testing should also be conducted once a year to monitor the amounts that are in the body body and if there is a possibility of an overdose of vitamin D (too much vitamin D can lead to bone calcification).
Common Reasons for Vitamin D Deficiency
- People with darker skin. The darker your skin the more sun you need to get the same amount of vitamin D as a fair-skinned person.
- People who spend a lot of time indoors during the day. For example: If you’re housebound, work nights or are in hospital for long time
- People who cover their skin all of the time. For example: If you wear sunscreen or if your skin is covered with clothes.
- People that live farther from the Equator. This is because there are fewer hours of overhead sunlight the further you are from the equator.
- Older people have thinner skin than younger people and this may mean that they can’t produce as much vitamin D.
Most living things require water, food, oxygen and sunlight for a healthy existence. Why would this not apply to humans?
– Carlos A. Camargo
- Infants that are breastfed and aren’t given a vitamin D supplement. If you’re feeding your baby on breast milk alone, and you don’t give your baby a vitamin D supplement or take a supplement yourself your baby is more likely to be deficient in vitamin D.
- People who are overweight (obese) – Fat soluable Vitamin D gets trapped in fat tissue
- Living in big cities where building block sunlight
- If ones kidney and liver are not functioning to par Vitamin D cannot be properly processed and activated therefore resulting in a deficiency in Vitamin D stores. Moreover such a decline in this hormone can also lead to further issue to the organs.
- Individuals who take hormone lowering medication can result in a decrease and deficiency in Vitamin D.
Signs of Vitamin D Deficiency
- Rickets in children(bow legs, knock-knees)
- Osteomalacia in adults
- Muscle cramping, constipation, nervousness
- Poor bone development
- Colon Cancer and other Cancers
- Heart Disease
- High Blood Pressure
- Autoimmune Diseases (such as osteoporosis)
- Chronic Fatigue
- Psoriasis or eczema
- Infections that are recurrent
- Infertility – particularly in males
Sources of Vitamin D
Vitamin D3: Is found in animals sources and by products
Vitamin D2: Is found in plant leafs – though in very low amount, moreover as it is in the form of Vitamin D2 it is hard for the body to utilize it and convert it. If an individual is Vegan or Vegetarian it is incredibly important to make sure they supplement with Vitamin D.
- Cod Liver Oil
- Raw Milk
- Eggs (Yolk)
- Beef Liver
Signs of Vitamin D Toxicity
- excessive thirst
Supplementing with Vitamin D
Maintenance levels during times of the years when daylight is at its lowest should be between 2,000 – 4,000 IU per day. D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol)can both be found at supplements, however in order to obtain the benefits from vitamin D it is essential to obtain VD3.
If one is very low in Vitamin D it is essential to increase supplementation, for some time, to 10,000 IU daily. Liquid Vitamin D3 supplementation is best and easiest to take. Make sure to check levels with each new season so as to know when to supplement and when to wain off and enjoy the sun.
Dowd, J., & Stafford, P. (2008). The Vitamin D Cure. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Eds. Feldman, D., Pike, J.W., & Adams, J.A. (2011). Vitamin D. New York: Elsevier Inc.
Holick, M.F. (2010). Vitamin D. Physiology, Molecular Biology and Clinical Applications. London: Humana Press.
Khalsa, S. (2009). The Vitamin D Revolution. United States: Soram Khalsa.
Norman, A.W. (1979). Vitamin D. The Calcium Homeostatic Steroid Hormone. New York: Academic Press, Inc.