A Big Player in Your Health Arsenal..Vitamin D

Vitamin D

Sue’s “Cliff Notes” on one of the most important “players” in your health arsenal. Read this and you’ll know more than your doctor does! But more importantly, you’ll stay healthy.

At the end of the article, I’ve listed information about an easy way for you to find out if you have enough of this important nutrient “stockpiled” in your body… and it’s also cheap if you act before the end of October.

Current Studies

Study after study has confirmed that keeping our Vitamin D levels up is an extremely important issue for all of us, and that many of us need to “up” our intake of Vitamin D and its levels in our blood.

  • Current research has implicated vitamin D deficiency as a major factor in the pathology of at least 17 varieties of cancer as well as heart disease, stroke, hypertension, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, depression, chronic pain, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, muscle wasting, birth defects, periodontal disease, and more.
  • Dr. Cedric Garland, a 20-year veteran vitamin D researcher, believes that vitamin D can prevent up to 75% of breast and colon cancer with optimal vitamin D blood levels. You can watch a video of him addressing this at grassrootshealth.net.
  • In August 2009, OSU (Oregon State University) announced the results of a recent study which basically said that your immune system will not activate to do its job if you have low levels of Vitamin D, and since it also modulates your immune response, it prevents an overreaction in the form of inflammation, which can lead to conditions like asthma… (and I’ll add, other autoimmune diseases).
  • Scientists at the Children’s Hospital and Research Center Oakland in Oakland CA say the brain has a diverse distribution of vitamin D receptors wherein vitamin D directly and positively affects cognitive function. Vitamin D supports brain health, while a deficiency can result in brain dysfunction.
  • Vitamin D deficiency may play a role in cardiovascular health since low blood levels of vitamin D can increase coronary artery calcification. Vitamin D deficiencies can also elevate risk of stroke and congestive heart failure, while optimal levels support normal levels of inflammation… important for cardiovascular health.

From The Vitamin D Council

Vitamin D’s influence on key biological functions vital to one’s health and well-being mandates that vitamin D no longer be ignored by the health care industry nor by individuals striving to achieve and maintain a greater state of health.

Immune System

Autoimmune diseases appear to be on the rise, and it begs the? … WHY? Lack of adequate levels of Vitamin D may be one part of the answer to the puzzle.

  • MS (Multiple Sclerosis), which is very rare among people living near the equator, becomes progressively more common the further out to the poles you go.
  • Similarly, Vitamin D may help prevent rheumatoid arthritis, another autoimmune disease.
  • Th1 cells are part of our immune system and their job is to attack “foreign invaders”.  When you don’t give your body enough vitamin D, it can get back at you by attacking your own body instead of fighting off unwanted visitors. This is what autoimmune diseases are…the body mistakenly attacking itself.

Pregnancy and Infants

  • If a pregnant woman or new mother has low vitamin D levels, her breast milk will too. A pregnant woman should ask for her level to be tested. Don’t assume that your levels have been tested in routine pregnancy blood work…. you need to specifically ask.
  • A recent study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (August 6,2010) found that women who developed a severe form of pregnancy related high blood pressure (pre-eclampsia) had lower blood levels of Vitamin D. The study found that this might help explain why African American women are at greater risk for the condition than other racial groups, as the process of converting UVB rays on the skin into Vitamin D is less efficient in people with darker skin.

Are you D-ficient?

As the shockingly high number of people low on Vitamin D shows, not too many of us are getting outdoors enough.

  • Vitamin D is fat-soluble, so when you make a lot by spending a day outside, some of it gets stored in your fatty tissue and your liver.
  • When you’ve made enough to last for awhile, your body automatically stops making more.
  • If you’re outside in the nice weather (without sunscreen), you probably store enough vitamin D to carry you at least partly into the winter.
  • On the other hand, it’s hard to tell whether you’re getting enough every day, because you can’t really know how much D you’re making from sunshine.
  • If you live in a rainy, foggy or overcast climate or in an area that has a lot of air pollution, you might not be making enough, because the ultra violet light from the sun is blocked.
  • If your blood level is below 30ng/mL you may need to take upwards of 4000 IU per day to get to therapeutic levels. Research has shown this to be safe….

You might be D-ficient if:

  • You’re over 50 years old…. You’re now making only about ½ as much D in your skin as when you were younger.
  • You don’t get any sunlight…. Especially important for the elderly or people who are housebound
  • You have kidney of liver disease…. You can’t convert D into its active forms.
  • You take some cholesterol lowering drugs… Many of these drugs block your absorption of D and other fat-soluble vitamins.
  • You take corticosteroid drugs such as prednisone, cortisone for allergies, asthma, arthritis or some other health problem…. These drugs can deplete your Vitamin D3 level.
  • You’re a strict vegetarian or vegan…. There’s very little D in plant foods.
  • You abuse alcohol. Alcohol blocks your ability to absorb D in your intestines and store it in your liver.
  • You’re obese
  • You have Crohn’s Disease or Cystic Fibrosis
  • You have fat malabsorption challenges…people with digestive problems and also people without gallbladders should work to optimize their digestive process.

Our Evolution

As we were “meant to live”…. before chemicals, drugs, & pills, … how did our ancestors get enough Vitamin D no matter where they lived? In a word… the SUN!

  • Vitamin D is known as one of the 4 fat-soluble vitamins, but it’s actually a substrate (foundation) for a steroid hormone that serves many functions in your body, and the best way to get it is by getting adequate exposure to sunlight.
  • What’s sunlight? Haha… I make joke (coming from the Pacific NW).
  • The sun has been vilified as the “bad guy” for years now and people everywhere are living lifestyles that try to avoid the sun…. this is a lifestyle that is very different from that of our ancestors, or even our parents.
  • Many of us spend more time indoors and when we do go outside, we cover up and slather ourselves with sunscreen.

I’m… gonna soak up the sun…. gonna tell everyone.. to… ligh…ten….up….. Sheryl Crow

Hey! I’m not advocating going unprotected outside in the strong sunlight for long periods of time and we all know that getting sunburned is flat out bad…. but do any of you remember the term “sunbathing”? I read a book recently about a family living on an island in the Puget Sound in the 1930’s who would place the baby outside in her crib to “sunbathe” whenever the sun came out in the winter. (And I don’t think their reasoning was to make sure she had a “tan”). The point being, people used to know that it was necessary for our health to get adequate amounts of sunlight on our bare skin (no sunscreen).

Skin Cancer

It’s true that sun exposure is associated with a higher risk of skin cancer, and people who don’t tan well are especially high risk. But the picture isn’t as simple as we’ve been led to believe.

  • There is some evidence that eating a healthy, varied diet high in anti-oxidants, and having the right ratio of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids in your diet may be a factor in prevention.
  • Antioxidants applied topically and or from the diet can diminish the damage that UV light does to the skin.
  • Sunlight actually helps to prevent most other cancers.
  • We all need to be mindful of our body’s health, including that of our largest organ… our skin.
  • If you have a history of melanoma and always cover up or wear sunscreen, you should monitor your blood D levels several times a year and supplement as necessary.

The informed individual who carefully studies the literature can very likely reduce his or her risk of cancer and a number of other diseases by careful exposure to UVB, being particularly careful to avoid sunburning while getting an adequate intake of Vitamin D.”

William B.Grant, PhD, Vitamin D researcher…. Google him.

Common sense and moderation is the key. What’s moderation?

  • Generally speaking, 15 minutes of sun on your skin each day will be enough to keep your levels at a decent level. However, it’s individual. It depends on how white your skin is, how intense the UVB rays happen to be.
  • The maximum production in the skin occurs BEFORE you turn red, or even turn pink…so don’t burn!
  • The darker your skin, the longer you have to stay out to absorb the beneficialrays. Black skin has built in sunblock, so if you are African American, you may need to stay out for 120 minutes for this kind of Vitamin D production. (get tested and consider supplements).
  • You don’t have to be in a bathing suit, but it can’t just be your face and hands being exposed either. Again, it’s individual, but the more skin exposed, the quicker and better.
  • When the sun is at a low angle in the sky, as in the morning, the late afternoon, or in the winter months, it’s too weak to provide optimum levels. In the US, which is between 30-45 degrees latitude, 6 months or more during each year may have insufficient UVB sunlight to produce optimal D levels…
  • Pay special attention if you live north of an imaginary line running from the northern border of California all the way to Boston… you’re particularly at risk.

Eating your D’s …. You can also get some from food and supplements

  • Fish oil contains a lot of Vitamin D, so you get some from eating fish liver, mackerel, herring, sardines, salmon, tuna, and other oily fish.
  • Beef liver, egg yolks, and butter have some, though not a lot. Plant foods have almost none.
  • Vitamin D is in fortified milk, but not always in milk products… cheese, yogurt, & cottage cheese usually aren’t made with fortified milk, so they don’t have much or any vitamin D. Check the label to be sure.

A couple of  years ago, I had my blood level tested for Vitamin D and it was at 19 ng/mL…BAD! I keep a bottle of Carlson’s Lemon Flavored Cod Liver Oil or Fish Oil in my refrigerator and take a couple of TBSP at least several times a week, but this is mostly to get the Omega 3’s that I (we) need. To get the level of  Vitamin D that I need,  I also take emulsified drops of Vitamin D3 as well. That’s a form that our bodies can easily absorb. I just had my levels tested last week and I’m at a healthy 59 ng/mL going into winter…PERFECT! (You want to be between 50-75 ng/mL).

Read on to find out how to take advantage of the October Special from Direct Labs to measure your Vitamin D levels.

You’ve come this far, you might as well learn a little more so you’re an expert!

Rickets, a defect in bone growth in infancy and childhood, was first identified in 1650.  It wasn’t until 1922 that medical research demonstrated that something in cod liver oil prevented and cured rickets. Additionally, vitamin D2 added to milk in the United States and Europe in the 1930s essentially eliminated rickets (disease of weak bones in children) or osteomalacia (same disease of weak bones but in adults). Currently, fortification with vitamin D2 or D3 has continued to keep rickets scarce in North America. The minimum amount of vitamin D needed to prevent rickets is 100 IU (2.5 mcg) per day in infants with little to no sun exposure.

  • Vitamin D is synergistic to calcium and magnesium… we need it to properly absorb and utilize these minerals. Vitamin D and calcium work together to keep your blood level of calcium normal. You also need D to help your bones hold onto their calcium.
  • Vitamin D can help your immune system in general; in particular you need it to make monocytes, the white blood cells that fight off infections.

Vitamin D2 and/or Vitamin D3

  • Vitamin D is typically found in two forms: D2 and D3. D2 comes from plants, fungus and yeast. D3 is the kind we make from sunlight reacting with the cholesterol in our skin, and we can also get it from fish and animal products. Both have been shown to be effective in clinical studies to raising levels in the blood; however, D3 is preferred since it’s metabolized much better in the human body than D2.
  • Vitamin D2 is also known as “ergocalciferol,” and vitamin D3 is also known as “cholecalciferol.”… this is good to know if this is the way it’s listed on a label rather than D2 or D3.
  • Vitamin D3 is considered to be the most “natural” form. Human beings do not make vitamin D2.
  • Vitamin D2 doesn’t bind as well to the receptors in the human tissues compared to vitamin D3.

OD…ing on D

  • Unlike water soluble vitamins, fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, & K) can be stored by the body. It’s possible to accumulate too much of the fat soluble vitamin D if you are getting them in any form other than from sunlight, such as fish oils, supplements & fortified foods.
  • As stated above, the body makes it from sunlight and stops when it’s made and stored enough. This keeps you from “OD-ing” on D.
  • If you’re taking supplements, fish oil, fortified milk etc… there is a chance that you could accumulate too much in your body.
  • Large doses can make calcium build up in your blood, which could have serious consequences.
  • Too much D might also increase your risk of a heart attack or kidney stones.

So what’s this mean for us as we approach winter?

  • Coming into winter and the flu season, everyone should really consider getting their Vitamin D levels tested.
  • Studies show that the current Government guidelines (400 IU per day)… and reference ranges… are FAR too low.
  • The scientific consensus it that 1000-4000 I.U. of vitamin D3 per day is indicated to reduce the risk of cancer by 50% and for optimal health in general, with 6000 IU/day recommended for pregnant and nursing women.. *(although you should get your levels tested first.. don’t just assume that your levels are low and start taking large amounts of vitamin D).
  • You want your levels to be somewhere between 50 and 75ng/mL… under 30 is health concerning.
  • Unless you live in a sunny place where you will be outside a lot this winter with adequate skin exposure, supplementation through the winter months is probably a very good idea.
  • Since it’s a fat-soluble vitamin, I recommend emulsified D3 drops… this form is better absorbed by the body than pill form.

Bottom Line

Many factors influence how your body makes Vitamin D from the sun: age, race, sun exposure, and location.  It’s virtually impossible to tell what your levels are without getting your levels tested.

My opinion? “Forget the flu shot!! Go get your Vitamin D blood level test ASAP, and if you’re low… start right away on a supplementation program”.

  • Although you can, you don’t need to go to your doctor to get your levels tested. You can go on-line to Direct Labs and order the Vitamin D, 25-hydroxy test on-line yourself.
  • The normal cost is $59, but Direct Labs is offering a special for the month of October for only $39!
  • You’ll need to create an account, order the test, pay, print a requisition form, find the closest lab and go.


  • As an  NTP (Nutritional Therapy Practitioner), I have an account and can handle the process for you. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t in Oregon… I can do this in any state except New York and New Jersey.
  • If you find that you need supplementation, I have an excellent emulsified Vitamin D3 drop from Biotics Research that I can sell you for $14.50.

If you’d like my help with any of the above, please contact me at livinginhealthybalance@gmail.com.

Susan Hamilton, NTP, CHFS

Some of my sources: Vitamin D Council…NTA…Biotics Research NW….Apex Energetics…Dr, Alan Pressman….WebToday… WebMD….007b.com….Dr. William B Grant, PhD….Dr. Cedric Garland….Dr. Joseph Mercola….Dr. Andrew Weil…Women to Women…Grassrootshealth.net (they’re conducting a 5 year project to gather info to eliminate our Vit D deficiency epidemic… check it out if you want to join the study)

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2 Responses to A Big Player in Your Health Arsenal..Vitamin D

  1. blair says:

    I LOVE your blog Sue!! SOOOO informative! oxox

  2. Susan Walsh says:

    Really enjoyed reading your information. I am thrilled you to know you are sharing this important information.

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