FACT: A vitamin D deficiency may result in as much as a 50 percent increased potential for diabetes.
FACT: A vitamin D deficiency puts you at a higher risk for cancer, especially breast, prostate, colon, ovarian, and melanoma.
VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY is a widespread phenomenon with significant implications for health. In modern society vitamin D deficiency is the rule, rather than the exception. While we can blame more severe cases of deficiency on grains, it also commonly occurs independent of grain consumption. The restoration of vitamin D levels is second only to grain elimination when considering the most powerful healthy lifestyle strategies.
Modern lifestyles have compromised our vitamin D status. How? Over the centuries we began inhabiting cold climates depriving ourselves of year-round sunlight, wearing clothes that cover our skin, and increasing out time spent indoors. This is crucial since exposure to sunlight is necessary to activate the vitamin D in our skin. We have also adopted an aversion to organ consumption. Many organ meats contain high levels vitamin D, especially liver.
Let’s not forget aging, which is associated with a progressive loss of the ability to activate vitamin D in the skin. An interesting fact is that, after age 40, the majority of us experience decreased ability to activate sufficient amounts of vitamin D in our skin from the exposure to sunlight. Living in the tropics is no guarantee of adequate vitamin D status. A recent assessment of elderly males living in a tropical climate revealed that 66.7 percent were vitamin D deficient.
Vitamin D deficiency allows a number of abnormal health phenomena to occur:
- Greater inflammation, as is reflected in higher C-reactive protein levels, tumor necrosis factor, and others
- Higher blood sugar and resistance to insulin (conditions that lead to diabetes)
- Injury to pancreatic beta cells that produce insulin
- Weight gain
- Greater risk for osteoporosis and fractures
- Periodontal disease
- Higher risk for cancer, especially breast, prostate, colon, ovarian, and melanoma
- Higher risk for heart attack, heart failure, and cardiovascular mortality
- Preeclampsia and eclampsia during pregnancy
- Depression and seasonal affective disorder
- Autoimmune/inflammatory diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, multiple sclerosis)
For many of these, the association between lower levels of vitamin D and disease is powerful. For example, a vitamin D deficiency may result in as much as a 50 percent increased potential for diabetes. Accordingly, all of the above phenomena are improved or reversed with the restoration of vitamin D to healthy levels, including the facilitation of weight loss.
Please note that achieving an ideal level of vitamin D is key— not too low, but also not too high. The ideal level of vitamin D, measured as 25-hydroxy remains open to debate. However, applying epidemiological observations to the above diseases, combined with studies that demonstrate vitamin D’s relationship to minimizing unhealthy levels of parathyroid hormone that can impair bone health, suggest that 60 to 70 ng/ ml is the ideal range.
Too much vitamin D is also not a good idea. Besides provoking abnormal calcium deposition in tissues, vitamin D levels that exceed 100 mg/ dl are associated with increased potential for the abnormal heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation.
The majority of people require vitamin D doses of 4,000 to 8,000 international units (IU) taken in an oil-based gelcap form to achieve the target value of 60 to 70ng/ ml.
Vitamin D should be taken as D3, or cholecalciferol, which is the form that naturally occurs in the human body and is widely available as a nutritional supplement. You do not want the form found in mushrooms (D2 or ergocalciferol), which is also the form in prescription vitamin D. In this instance, the nutritional supplement form is superior to the prescription form.
Ideally, your vitamin D level should be reassessed every 6 to 12 months to maintain desired levels, as your needs may change over time. And, if you have an uncooperative or uninformed doctor, you can do it yourself, as discussed in the video above.
Let’s talk about DIY vitamin D: getting vitamin D right, and restored properly, all on your own. These are the sorts of conversations, by the way, that I talk about a lot in my new book Undoctored — Why Health Care Has Failed You And How You Can Become Smarter Than Your Doctor. And I really mean that. You can become more knowledgeable, more capable, in matters of health, because we have a sad situation in health care where the doctors and hospitals are largely built on profit; on generating revenues, and the doctor’s very good at dispensing medications, and getting you into the hospital for revenue-generating procedures, but he’s lousy at giving you information tools for health.
So don’t be surprised if your doctor knows almost nothing about vitamin D, or brushes it off; dismisses it: says “It’s stupid.” It is not. It’s so important to get your vitamin D exactly right because it plays such a big role in so many facets of health; literally hundreds of health conditions, and every organ of the body. So getting it right is critical. I count vitamin D second only to wheat and grain elimination in the menu of strategies in the Undoctored Wild-Naked-Unwashed list of strategies; it’s so powerful.
Ideally, you start with a blood level of vitamin D, before you start taking vitamin D, and that’s because it will give you an indication of what your dose should be. You don’t have to have a starting level, but it does help, ideally. And the test you want is a 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood level; very easy to get. And the level will give you an indication of how much you need.
Let’s say your starting level is 20 (ng/mL), which is moderate deficiency, and you’re an average-sized person. A dose of 6000 to 8000 IU (International Units) oil based gel cap vitamin D (our preferred form, not tablets, and preferably not drops because those are very erratically absorbed) but 6000-8000 generally gets you to our target blood vitamin D level, which is 60 to 70 nanograms per milliliter — the level at which ideal health from vitamin D can emerge.
What if your level is 5 — severe, profound deficiency. You might need a little more: 10,000 to even 12,000 units is a typical dose required to get your level up to 60-70. What if your starting level is 47? Oh, you might only need 3000 units, or 2000, and it’s easy to get to 60 or 70. That starting level indicates to you how much you’re going to need.
Once you start your vitamin D, take your dose. If you don’t have a starting blood vitamin D level, you can just pick a dose: 6000 units is the most commonly chosen dose, because that’s about the average need. Individual needs vary widely, but the average need is around 5000 to 6000. Let’s just say you start 6000. You’re going to want a blood level of 25-hydroxy vitamin D down the road, but no sooner than three months, okay? No sooner than three months, because it takes that long for the blood level to stop rising and plateau, or level off to a steady state, we say. You can even wait six months; that’s okay. And once again, get that blood level of vitamin D. If it’s not at 60-70, adjust your dose.
So if it’s 43, increase your dose. If you were taking 6000 for only 43, maybe add another 4000, make a 10,000 a day dose.
Or if your level is 92 — doctors all say “oh, stop the vitamin D” — no don’t do that. Just cut the dose back. If 6000 got you to 93, cut it down to 3000 units — you have a more modest need for vitamin D. It’s very rational.
Now when you change the dose (either increase the dose or decrease the dose) once again, wait three months before you check a blood level again, because it takes that long to, once again, plateau. It also helps to get a blood level vitamin D every six months, ideally, or at least once a year. And try to be aware of what time of year you got it, because some people do activate vitamin D in the skin from sun. So if you’re staying at the same dose, let’s say 8000 units a day, and your blood level is a nice comfortable 63 in the winter time, but in the summer time goes to 93, you retain some of the capacity to activate vitamin D in the skin. And you (most of us don’t have to do this by the way, but some people do) you’ll have to decrease your dose, from 8000 maybe to 5000, in the summer time.
Recall that most of us lose the capacity to activate vitamin D in the skin over about age 40 or so. So most of us don’t have to do this. But if you’re among the few who do show seasonal fluctuation, you may have to adjust the dose somewhat.
Now, it’s also worth knowing that about two years or longer into your vitamin D restoration experience, most people experience reduced need. So you’ll know this because you were taking the same dose, let’s say 6000 — your last level was 63, very good. Six months, a year later, it’s 71; still good, right? Another year later it’s 92. There’s nothing wrong; it just means your body has built up its stores. You can reduce the dose, say, from 6000 maybe to 4000, and then once again, another level down the road six months or so; very easy.
Now to get your own blood vitamin D level — for one, even if the doctor is uncooperative, sometimes he or she will still order you the tests. But you have to specify a 25-hydroxy vitamin D ,because they’ll often order the wrong test, like a 1,25-dihydroxy vitamin D, which does not indicate your vitamin D status (it’s a kidney test, in effect, so you want the 25-hydroxy vitamin D), it’s very easy.
If the doctor won’t comply, and you can’t find a health care practitioner to order for you, it’s very easy to get on your own. You can get a ZRT test kit, and you do your own finger stick in your own living room or kitchen; very easy — get your results back in couple of weeks, and reasonably priced. The Vitamin D Council makes a test kit available to you. Just google “Vitamin D Council”. And there are many direct consumer lab testing services, such as EverlyWell and Direct Labs, that will direct you to a laboratory in your neighborhood. Get the blood drawn. Get the results back, and it’s very easy. You’ll have to pay for it yourself, though you can submit it to your health insurance company if you want that hassle. You can do that, and sometimes you get your money refunded.
Getting vitamin D is easy, and it’s so critical for your health. It’s one of those things you want to get just right, because the price of not getting it just right can be osteoporosis, hip fractures, heart disease, higher blood sugar, mental/emotional issues, more seasonal affective disorder, greater risk for dementia, greater heart disease risk, greater potential for inflammation, autoimmune diseases; so getting your vitamin D is crucial. It’s important. It’s a crucial part of your Undoctored Wild-Naked-Unwashed strategy