Feeling exhausted, sad and sore and finding your ability to heal sluggish?
You could have a vitamin D deficiency.
The wonderful news? This is (usually) very easy to treat, and we’ll come to that a little later. But first…
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a group of fat soluble vitamins unique amongst its compatriots by being the only vitamin manufactured by our bodies, thanks to the power of the sun. The other vitamins we need to ingest.
It also acts as a hormone. Medicine.net states, a hormone is “a chemical substance produced in the body that controls and regulates the activity of certain cells or organs” and vitamin D fulfills this criteria.
Where does Vitamin D come from?
The vast majority of vitamin D is created in our bodies from the sun’s rays. I’ll share a tip soon about how to harness the right amount of sun exposure in a moment, but for those who a sun scared, you can also get this nutrient in supplemental form, from vitamin D enriched foods and from foods like fatty fish, cheese and egg yolks.
But, there’s a catch.
The majority of our vitamin D comes from the sun, not food.
If you live above 35° latitude — which according to Wiki is defined by “the southern border of Tennessee, and the border between North Carolina and Georgia, as well as the southernmost point of Nevada” — vitamin D synthesis is strictly seasonal. The majority of vitamin D is created during the summer. What about in winter? There is little to no synthesis.
And as we age, our skin can become less efficient at producing this incredible nutrient.
Then there are those with don’t like sun exposure, preferring to hide indoors.
In these, as with many cases of deficiency, we must supplement.
Note: It is impossible to overdose from the sun, but, although rare, you may through supplementation.
So between latitude, age and sun avoidance…
Could you be deficient?
Forrest and Stuhldreher asked this very question. They looked at the prevalence rates of vitamin D deficiency in US adults using a sufficiency level of 50 nmol/L and above (via serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations). That is, when your blood tests results are returned, the number next to Vitamin D on your test panel should show a value of 50+ nmol/L.
At this low 50 nmol/L level, they found “vitamin D deficiency was 41.6%, with the highest rate seen in blacks (82.1%), followed by Hispanics (69.2%).” In clinic, I have always preferred to see levels at 80 nmol/L or above, so this is a worrying discovery. Especially when we consider the importance of sufficient vitamin D levels in…
A stronger skeleton
Vitamin D is critical for strong bones through various mechanisms.
In the journal Endocrine Reviews, the author noted a deficiency in this important vitamin could cause increased turnover of bone, as well as bone demineralization and loss, and also contribute to hip and other bone fractures.
Improved muscle function
An interesting study by Denise Houston and her research team looked at muscle function and vitamin D levels in men and women 65 years and over.
The participants where put through their paces, with tests assessing walking speed, seat to stand ability, the capacity to keep their balance through a range of more challenging positions, and their hand grip strength.
Low vitamin D levels were linked to poor physical performance. So is it the chicken or the egg, you might ask? It is possible the participants of this study were weakened and so stayed indoors, leading to lower vitamin D levels. However other research has indicated this nutrient is important for increased muscle growth.
We need to maintain our focus on the importance of sufficiency. Then there’s…
While much of the mainstream world has been caught up in the Vitamin d-calcium-bone health mantra for many years, the important evidence of this nutrient to other areas of our health is also mounting. Our immune function is one such area.
* Those will vitamin D levels below 40 nmol/L had increased days off work due to respiratory infection
* There was an increased association of upper respiratory tract infections in those with lower vitamin D levels
* In children, vitamin D has been shown to reduce respiratory infections
* Vitamin D deficiencies are common in those with autoimmune disease, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), diabetes mellitus (DM), inflammatory bowel disease and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
In these autoimmune diseases, and in others, there is commonly…
Do you suffer from chronic pain?
You are most certainly not alone.
As someone who lives with chronic pain myself, I always find it interesting to look at different studies and approaches. As I mentioned before, my preference is for people to maintain vitamin D levels at 80 nmol/L or above. So a study by von Känel and team published in the journal Pain Medicine is alarming.
They found 71% of chronic pain patients had vitamin D levels of < 50 nmol/L, with a further 21% at < 75 nmol/L. That leaves a mere 8% who hover around or above sufficiency.
If you have chronic pain, get yourself tested. If you are deficient, speak to your health professional and supplement.
This under-appreciated vitamin — although maybe not after reading this article — has also been shown to play a role in Diabetes. As discussed in a paper by Christine N. Arnold, low levels of vitamin D3 can cause “glucose intolerance and impaired insulin secretion are observed in populations with type 2 diabetes.” Her paper makes for interesting reading!
If you’re worried about possible low vitamin D levels, it’s important to ask your health professional for an assessment. It’s a simple, fast blood test.
Boost your vitamin D creation via the sun
Your body only needs 10 – 15 minutes of daily sun exposure to create the vitamin D required… given you are in the right part of the world and it’s the right season. Strip off, cover your moles and exposure your skin for this time. There is no advantage to the skin turning any shade darker than slightly pink; there is no additional vitamin D boost at all. Do NOT get burnt!
While we don’t understand all that vitamin D does yet…
I remember attending a seminar where the lecturer reported the only cell receptors present on every cell in the body were those for the thyroid hormone and vitamin D. While we don’t yet know the entire spectrum of biological effects and impacts this has, we can guess from this that vitamin D has more significant roles in the body than we currently understand.
It’s time we all become more aware of implementing safe vitamin D boosting habits and have ourselves tested for this key nutrient.