I was recently invited to participate in a Vitamin D Challenge, which helped me realize that I didn’t know much about the importance of vitamin D to my overall health and well being.
Five Important Facts About Vitamin D
I decided to conduct some research. Here are five important things I learned about vitamin D:
1. It’s Not Included In Routine Blood Tests
I get my blood work done twice a year to gain insight and trends about my health so I can identify and focus on any areas that need improvement. I was surprised to discover that the basic metabolic panel that I have been using does not measure vitamin D. I had no idea what my vitamin D level is or what it should be.
2. It’s Really Important
Dr. Stasha Gominak is a neurologist in Tyler, Texas specializing in conditions affecting the nervous system, such as epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease. In her article on Sleep, Chronic Pain, and Headaches, Dr. Gominak explains that low vitamin D levels could have a hazardous impact on health.
Vitamin D deficiency may affect or create the conditions for impaired sleep, weight gain, increased appetite, acid reflux, gallstones, bloating, constipation, osteoporosis, anemia, autoimmune disease, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and more.
3. It’s Not A Vitamin
Vitamin D is not a vitamin. A vitamin is something our bodies need, but cannot produce. We get vitamins from the foods we eat or through supplements.
Vitamin D is actually a hormone. Hormones are chemicals that our bodies need and that our bodies are able to produce. For example, our bodies naturally create adrenaline when we are frightened, cortisol when we’re stressed, and serotonin when we’re happy. Our body naturally creates vitamin D when our skin is exposed to the sun.
Whoever wishes to investigate medicine properly should proceed thus: in the first place to consider the seasons of the year. – Hippocrates
4. Sun Exposure Matters
Throughout human history, people with lighter skin tones have lived in higher latitudes. As a result, their bodies have adapted to create sufficient vitamin D even with limited sun exposure. People with darker skin tones have historically lived in lower latitudes and their bodies have therefore adapted to create vitamin D more slowly due to the abundance of sunshine.
The time of year is also important, especially in higher latitudes where the amount of sun available is dramatically different depending on the season.
5. Age Matters Too
Our ability to create vitamin D diminishes with age. Considering who I am (a person with light skin), where I live (North Carolina), and when it is (winter), I may be perfectly capable of producing the optimal level of vitamin D in my fifties, but I may need a supplement in my sixties. Or I could go south for the winter and use sunlight, rather than supplements, to create the vitamin D I need.
My Personalized Strategy
When I research health issues, I often find contradictory information and advice. During this research I discovered differing opinions regarding the optimal level of vitamin D. The Vitamin D Council suggests a level of 50 ng/ml is the ideal level. Dr. Gominak suggests to, “sleep normally the vitamin D levels must be 60 – 80 ng/ml.”
My plan is to take the 25(OH)D blood test this winter to get my baseline. Once I know my vitamin D level during the lowest sun season, I will create my personalized strategy, based on the following details:
1. Recommended testing intervals – how often and when to take the test
2. If/when should vitamin D supplements be used and the recommended dosage for the same.