In this month's newsletter, Dr. Gleason highlights Vitamin D: what it is, where it comes from, and who needs more of it. Learn common signs of Vitamin D deficiency and the important benefits of year round supplementation. Find out why "The Sunshine Vitamin" may be the key to helping you feel your best.
Vitamin D, despite its name, is actually a steroid hormone. It's different from all other vitamins which come from food. It's designed primarily to come from exposure to sunlight, thus it's known as The Sunshine Vitamin. An excellent book on the subject is, The Vitamin D Solution by Michael Holick, MD, PhD. Dr. Holick has been studying Vitamin D and treating his patients with it for more than 35 years.
What are the most common signs of Vitamin D deficiency?
This deficiency is most common in those who use sun protection and avoid outdoor activity.
Research shows that by optimizing your Vitamin D levels (either by sun exposure, diet, or supplementation) you can reduce the risk of:
Experts agree that many Americans and people worldwide have insufficient or deficient levels of Vitamin D. The CDC says that 32% of children and adults are deficient (using a grossly low level as its cutoff). The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey says that 50% of children age 1-5 and 75% age 6-11 are deficient or insufficient. The International Society for Clinical Densitometry (bone density) says that 95% of the elderly are deficient.
At The Gleason Center, we are frequently asked about testing for Vitamin D. It's our recommendation that regular testing be performed and that levels be optimized. In our testing, we find that nearly everyone needs to supplement. Officially, the recommended range is 30-60 ng/ml on a blood test. Most nutrition experts recommend levels between 50-70 ng/ml and even higher for those with autoimmunity or cancer, more in the 60-100 ng/ml range.
We're also asked “How much vitamin D should I take?” Ideally, we get Vitamin D from the sun. However, it's the rare person who gets enough that way. Our general guidelines are:
By testing hundreds of patients we have found these dosages to be necessary. Dr. Holick notes that obese people may need 3-4X that amount.
A study of Japanese children that were given 1200mg/day of Vitamin D demonstrated a 40% reduction in the incidence of influenza, which is much higher than the flu shot can claim.
Recent studies show additional benefits of optimal Vitamin D status including:
What about skin cancer? Sensible sun exposure decreases the risk of melanoma, the most severe form of skin cancer. It is noted that those who have occupational sun exposure have lower levels of melanoma than average. Most melanoma occurs on parts of the body that are not exposed to the sun. Dr. Holick recommends protecting the face from the sun but exposing the rest of the body (i.e. arms, legs, chest, and back) to half the amount of time that it would take to sunburn. He also thinks that wide brimmed hats are better than chemical sunscreen.
Also of note is the fact that glass selectively screens out good UVB that makes Vitamin D, but allows the harmful UVA to pass deep into our tissue increasing the risk of melanoma. Tanning beds can be effective if they emit UVB, but again only stay in them for half the time it would take to burn.
Vitamin D is involved in the production of endorphins, those feel-good neurochemicals. The most common symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency are throbbing, aching bone pain, and muscle weakness. Everyone should have their Vitamin D level checked regularly, particularly those who are depressed, in pain, or feeling weak.
If you like this post, you might also enjoy our: April Newsletter