Monday, June 1, 2015
7 Steps to Healthy Hormones - Step 4: Supplement with Vitamin D3
Vitamin D is more than a vitamin. It really is a prohormone, a substance that the body converts to a hormone. The skin makes vitamin D after exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D is absorbed from certain foods, such as dairy products and certain oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines. Vitamin D has its effects by binding to a protein (called the vitamin D receptor). This receptor is present in nearly every cell in the body and affects many different body processes.
In the past decade, medical researchers have learned that vitamin D plays a much greater role in maintaining our overall health than previously thought. Until recently, it was believed that vitamin D’s primary role was to maintain the proper balance of calcium and phosphorus needed to build and maintain healthy bones, and that it was activated only by the kidneys. However, research by Michael F. Holick, MD, PhD, revealed that nearly all cells in the body contain vitamin D receptors, which allow them to convert circulating (inactive) vitamin D3 into the active hormone. With enough vitamin D in the bloodstream to regulate calcium, the “extra” vitamin D is recruited and activated by cells all over the body.
According to an article from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vitamin D3’s role in promoting human life is more profound than previously suspected.
“These physiologic arenas are the adaptive immune system, the innate immune system, insulin secretion by the pancreatic β cell, multifactorial heart functioning and blood pressure regulation, and brain and fetal development.”
This is why people who live in dark areas suffer from significant depression and health disorders unless they supplement. For many people, optimal vitamin D levels may require a combination of sun exposure, dietary sources of vitamin D, and supplements as needed.
Many people who are deficient in vitamin D exhibit symptoms that are easily confused with other conditions. For example, chronic pain in muscles, joints, and bones is often misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue or myalgia. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is another potential sign of vitamin D deficiency. SAD can be misdiagnosed as depression or bipolar disorder. It is often remedied by exposure to sunshine, UVB rays, or vitamin D. Chronic diseases, such as periodontal disease, loose teeth, and high blood pressure, can also be signs of vitamin D deficiency. A compromised resistance to infection is also sometimes associated with inadequate vitamin D, which we now know is critical for immune system function.
Women who breastfeed can deplete their vitamin D reserves. Subsequently, their breastfed infants also tend to be vitamin D deficient. Several studies have also shown that vitamin D deficiency is common among postmenopausal women, probably due to age related decline in vitamin D production, as well as changes in body composition. Of particular interest to women of childbearing age is a report from Dr. Ellie Campbell, who noted that many of her female patients who were struggling with infertility also tested remarkably low in vitamin D. When these women were given supplements to restore their vitamin D levels, they were able to get pregnant. Polycystic ovary syndrome, another prevalent cause of infertility, is also associated with low vitamin D levels, Dr. Campbell reports. In addition, PMS and dysfunctional bleeding may also be associated with a vitamin D deficiency.
Smaller trials and observational studies suggest that optimizing vitamin D levels may help prevent a wide range of diseases associated with low levels of vitamin D. Optimizing your vitamin D levels with adequate and sensible sun exposure, dietary sources, and supplements as needed offers real health benefits. Vitamin D contributes significantly to overall health, throughout your life stages. Most people should supplement with around 2,000IU to 5,000IU daily of vitamin D3 on days they’re not in the sun. I recommend you work with your healthcare provider to make sure that your Vitamin D levels are optimal.