As the days are getting shorter, our sleeves are getting longer. Less sun exposure means less natural production of Vitamin D in our skin. Vitamin D is needed for healthy bones and teeth. It also functions like a hormone in our bodies helping to regulate bone development, immune function, insulin activity, and calcium balance.
A severe deficiency of Vitamin D results in a skeletal deformity called Rickets. Although there are very few cases of Rickets in developed nations, the other common health issues associated with Vitamin D deficiency are widespread.
Vitamin D plays an important role in preventing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attack, congestive heart failure, and stroke. Elderly people with inadequate vitamin D levels show a greater incidence of falling and of fractures, and more muscle weakness. Current research is also linking low levels of vitamin D with senile dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Vitamin D deficiency is implicated in problems with maintaining blood sugar balance, in osteoporosis, asthma, eczema, psoriasis, PMS and inflammatory arthritis.
Depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue and even memory loss can be helped by Vitamin D. Many types of cancer are less frequent in patients who have high normal Vitamin D levels. So is MS.
Vitamin D is essential to healthy immune function. This is good to note as children return to school. In a review article called ‘Epidemic influenza and Vitamin D’, the authors suggest that the cold and flu season occurs in winter months due to low reserves of Vitamin D. (Epidemiol Infect 2006;134:1129-40; also Science News, March 2010). They suggest that children who have adequate Vitamin D are less likely to experience upper respiratory infections. This may be because Vitamin D supports the formation of white blood cells and so facilitates proper immune function.
The majority of Americans are Vitamin D deficient. In Vermont, as far north as we are, the sun is only strong enough from late May until early September to support making Vitamin D--and even then, use of a sunscreen with an SPF factor of 8 reduces production of vitamin D by 95 percent. A simple blood test can help determine if your body has adequate vitamin D.
In the winter--and in the summer if we use sunscreen--we need to rely on diet and supplementation. Wild-caught, fatty fish (especially salmon and mackerel), sardines, shrimp, free-range eggs and cod are all good sources of Vitamin D, but it’s hard to eat enough of them to have an adequate amount in our diet.
It is important for most people to supplement their diets with Vitamin D. While the RDA for Vitamin D is 400 IU per day, recent perspectives suggest that this is a grossly underestimated. Supplementation of between 1000 and 5000 IU’s per day is safe and usually effective. Not all vitamin D supplements are created equal. Vitamin D3 is the best and most available to our body. Supplementation of between 1000 and 5000 IU’s per day is safe and usually effective. Since absorption can vary with skin type, digestive health, dietary variances, medications and supplementation, please consult your practitioner for a review of your current Vitamin D sources and an individualized assessment to see what dose is appropriate for you.
In closing, you may ask why Vitamin D deficiency is so prevalent. If we need it, shouldn’t we be able to get it without supplementation?? I would suggest that our shift to a predominantly indoor culture, air pollution, suboptimal diet and poor digestive assimilation capabilities are part of the problem. Interestingly, a worldwide assessment showed that only residents of Thailand have adequate Vitamin D stores year round. Vacation anyone?
Linda Haltinner, DC, is a Chiropractic Physician at Sojourns Community Health Clinic. For more information please contact Sojourns Community Health Clinic at 802-722-4023, 4923 US Route 5, Westminster, VT, www.sojourns.org. Find us on Facebook and check out our blog: http://www.reformer802.com/journey2wellness.