Get Your Vitamin D
Vitamin D, what can I say about it? We’ve heard of it, know we need it and at the same time, I wonder if we really know what it is and why it is so important? If you’re someone being treated for a health condition, chances are you have been told to take it in supplement form. For the rest of us, we may take a daily vitamin, eat foods that have been fortified with it and occasionally spend time outdoors because we are told we get it from the sun. Essentially, we’re covered .. right?
Hold that thought …..
According to some reports, the United States, alone, is ‘epidemically’ low in vitamin D. At the same time, studies are showing that supplementation does very little, if anything, for reversing this fact or improving our ‘current state of health’. You know what that tells me? It’s in our interest to take a closer look and consider our options.
So what is vitamin D?
Well, your first thought is probably a vitamin … why else would it be called vitamin D?! Good point; however, it’s only called a vitamin because it is photochemically produced from 7-dehydrocholesterol (7DHC) in the skin (7DHC is a zoosterol manufactured along several pathways in the body). It’s at this point it’s considered a vitamin because nutrients are what the body uses to produce other chemicals. In this case, 7DHC is photosythesized into provitamin-D which is carried to through the bloodstream to the liver where it is converted into the prohormone D2. Circulating D2 is picked up by the kidneys and turned into the biologically active form known as D3. It’s at this point that vitamin D becomes a hormone since it is now considered a signaling molecule for the vitamin D receptor. (VDR)
Therefore, vitamin D is a hormone produced by the body.
Now for as clear as this sounds, why is it so difficult to keep our levels up? Good question …. because unless you are someone that never goes outside, you are more than likely getting plenty of sunshine (cloudy doesn’t matter). In other words, it’s not due to the lack of exposure. In fact, researchers are demonstrating that all we need is between 5 and 30 minutes of light on the face, hands and / or feet twice a week.
Allow me to highlight potential issues:
1) Sunblock a.k.a. sunscreen
ü To convert 7-dehydrocholesterol into provitamin-D, the body requires UVB light which means we are literally blocking the body’s ability to make what it needs (just look at what we call it…..sunblock). Look, I completely understand the desire to protect ourselves from skin cancer; however, vitamin D is actually needed for the very same thing. Talk about being between a rock and a hard spot (bear with me)
ü Sunscreen is being added to say many body care products which means if ‘you clean up’ before going outside, chances are you are NOT getting the recommended sunshine
2) Genetic adaptations, more specifically with the cytochrome P450 enzymes, which interfere with the livers ability to convert provitamin-D into D2
ü This can occur either naturally OR as a result of taking certain medications
3) Genetic adaptations and / or endocrine imbalance, since the parathyroid hormone along with several other hormones, including cortisol, which have significant roles in modifying and regulating systemic processes, further interfering with the conversion of D2 into D3 in the kidneys
4) Digestive dysfunction whereby fats, carbs and proteins are not being efficiently broken down
5) Genetic adaptations on the VDR
ü While I recognize this is a potential issue, I firmly believe our challenges begin with the aforementioned
What is it needed for? (according to the National Institute of Health)
Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption in the gut and maintains adequate serum calcium and phosphate concentrations to enable normal mineralization of bone and prevent hypocalcemic tetany. It is also needed for bone growth and bone remodeling by osteoblasts and osteoclasts. Without sufficient vitamin D, bones can become thin, brittle, or misshapen. Vitamin D sufficiency prevents rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. Together with calcium, vitamin D also helps protect older adults from osteoporosis.
Vitamin D also has other roles in the body, including modulation of cell growth, neuromuscular and immune function along with the reduction of inflammation. Many genes encoding proteins that regulate cell proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis (cell death) are modulated in part by vitamin D. What’s more, many cells have vitamin D receptors on them.
So, as we see, vitamin D is an important chemical that WE are wired to make. How I see this is, it’s our responsibility to help the body do what it’s designed to do. Now I realize it’s possible to supplement the system with vitamin D3 and calcium; yet, I question how good this really is?! The reason being, D is a fat soluble vitamin which means the body stores what it doesn’t use. When we spend time outside, the body does its thing, uses what’s needed and stashes the rest for those long dark days indoors. And because it’s not widely found in food say for fish, liver and egg yolks and the ones marked as fortified, the chances of getting too much are pretty slim. On the other hand, to take supplements means we’re exceeding required levels which then increases the chance for toxicity. Oddly, we’re NOT seeing people show up at the hospital with vitamin D toxicity. On the contrary, they’re being diagnosed with all types of health issues from high blood pressure, diabetes, at least one type of autoimmune disorder if not more, depression, bone disorders, etc and while it’s recognized that with proper vitamin D levels, these conditions could be prevented, there are a number of medications with potential interactions when combined with vitamin D supplements. Hmmmmm….
As for my professional / personal opinion, I believe to replace a naturally produced chemical with a supplement interrupts production. Think about the message we’re sending to the body or for that matter, consider the potential toxic load. The intelligence within our genes far exceeds anything we can conceive of and what scientists have determined through the study of the human genome is genetic adaptation. Truthfully, each one, no matter how slight, has proven to be in the direction of survival. In the case of vitamin D, one would argue that the genetic adaptations I mentioned earlier are hardly for our benefit …. Well, I understand the way you think and have quite an explanation that I must keep separate (see recent blog post). In the meantime, given what we know about adaptation, which is that it occurs without anyone knowing about it, it stands to reason that consuming supplements is signaling the need for change, preventing production in order to avoid toxic levels. Granted, the body can’t predict how much ‘you’re’ going to take which is why having a solid relationship with it matters.
With this in mind, there are some ways to enhance both vitamin D production as well as use:
ü Nourish liver health (click here for ideas) ~ a necessary step for metabolism and the conversion of chemicals involved in hormonal production
ü Spend a bit of time outside in the middle of the day; no more than 45 minutes a week for fair skin, up to 3 times longer for darker skin without any product. This works out to a couple lunch breaks during fair weather
ü Stress reduction
ü Holy basil
ü Carrot seed oil
ü Moroccan thyme
ü Bitter orange
Without question, these oils in no way contain anything that remotely resembles a nutrient, including vitamin D (cholecalciferol). Frankly, they don’t even possess the recognized precursor 7-dehydrocholesterol. Reading this may even make you wonder why they’re even suggested. Well, what they do offer is the potential for relieving the stress response on a systemic / cellular level which only stands to enhance digestion, enzymatic function as well as cell metabolism and assimilation of nutrients.
How this occurs is due to the fact that they are what’s known as, lipophyllic which means they are picked up by fats in the body and used, just like our hormones. That said, these do not replace hormones, keep in mind, vitamin D is a hormone; they simply assist the body with regulating itself which is why changing the oils from time to time is necessary. Some aromatherapists may disagree because the typical model for dealing with health issues is to manage them and truth be told, there are a variety of oils that do mimic different neurochemicals and why it is necessary to stop implying the oils are good for everyone. As you will see in this detailed description of the oils, it becomes necessary to rotate and give the body a chance to adjust to the information being provided.
At this time, the daily value (DV) or amount of vitamin D determined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been established to be 400 IUs (international units) for adults and children 4 and older. The reason I’m giving you this number is so that you can relate it to the amount in the foods you’re eating. Unless a product is fortified, food labels are not required to list it. For that reason, I’m providing a link to a document that spells it all out for you It’s 149 pages and after going through it, I came to discover that it does not list spirulina. Interesting AND makes sense; you see, there is a patent out there for the sole purpose of harvesting the abundant sterol found in blue green algae and turning it into a vegan D3 supplement. I say eat your spirulina! In all honesty, from what I can tell, we’re basically in the ballpark, so to speak, when it comes to getting enough in our diets without taking supplements; our focus really needs to be on helping the body to use it. We can do this through the inclusion of essential oils as well as beginning to notice our underlying beliefs which I talk more about in my ‘I’m Not Worthy’ post ….
A side from all of this, I have developed a few recipes that I find to be tasty ways of 'eating your sunscreen'