Are you getting enough vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. Well, it’s technically a hormone but it isn’t really used as a hormone in the body. Just about every cell in the body has a vitamin D receptor (VDR). This means that vitamin D is vital to many things that happen inside of you.
- Mood / Brain Function
- Immune Function
- Heart Health
- Weight Loss / Gain
- Bones Health
But are you getting enough? For most people, the answer is no.
In this blog, we’ll look at a few functions of vitamin D and where you can get vitamin D from. Let’s break it down!
I see a lot of thyroid clients. Mostly women but I have a few male clients as well. The thyroid doesn’t discriminate!
The thyroid regulates much of our hormones in the body. And when the thyroid goes haywire, so do your other hormones. There are a lot of things that affect the thyroid but we’ll just focus on vitamin D here.
Vitamin D in the liver converts thyroid hormone T4 to T3. The thyroid makes T4 but the body can’t use T4. So, it needs to convert inactive T4 to the active form, T3. This happens in other places but most of it happens in the liver.
In order for the conversation to take place, you need a healthy liver and ample amounts of vitamin D. And you need vitamin D to keep your liver healthy.
I know, your liver labs look great! But that doesn’t always give you the whole picture of what’s happening. How you feel and what your thyroid labs show can give you a good picture of your liver. How stressed you are will affect your liver function as well.
I know…so many things to think about!
Mood / Brain Health
Hormones that affect mood are serotonin and dopamine. Both need vitamin D for ample production and movement around the body.
This study shows that low vitamin D levels early in life can create an environment for depression. It’s because low vitamin D affects your genes. Specifically, MAO-A. It can also suppress serotonin and dopamine the brain.
Low vitamin D levels have been linked to dementia and other cognitive diseases as well. Is it the sole cause? Probably not. But can low vitamin D aid in the progression of these diseases? Probably.
This study shows that vitamin D interventions early in life can help reduce the incidence of cognitive decline later in life. We need vitamin D our entire life!
Vitamin D has been implicated in Multiple Sclerosis, ALS, and Parkinson’s as well. Notice anything in common? All of these are autoimmune diseases in part or in whole. Vitamin D plays a massive role in our immune system. We’ll get to that though.
Much of our posture comes from the center of our body…our core! The muscles that wrap around your midsection, including those back and butt muscles make up your core muscles. Maintaining good strength in your core helps with posture and balance. Aside from working those muscles out, vitamin D helps to maintain those muscles as we get older.
Also, regular vitamin D intake can help increase muscle mass and stability in the elderly. This helps maintain good posture and bone structure. This is super important as we age because our muscles weaken. Weak muscles make us more at risk for falls and injury. Maintaining muscle mass through the years will help maintain bone health as well.
When we think of vitamin D, we think of bone health. But do you also think about immune health? You should! Vitamin D plays an important role in our immune system.
Vitamin D helps our innate immune system function as it should. The innate immune system is our body’s response to external invaders. Invaders like viruses and bacteria that gets into the body.
Lack of vitamin D has been linked to an increased risk for developing autoimmunity. This is where your immune system sees your body as an invader and begins to attack itself. Certain autoimmune conditions attack certain parts of the body. For instance, Hashimoto’s attacks the thyroid.
Since vitamin D helps build your innate immune system, you’re less likely to get sick of something flying about the air. And you’re less likely to develop an autoimmune condition…with some other factors as well. When it comes to autoimmunity, vitamin D is only one piece of the puzzle. But an important piece no less.
I talked about how vitamin D helps maintain muscle mass and promotes muscle growth. Let’s not forget the heart is a muscle. Vitamin D can help reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and high blood pressure.
Fun fact of the day – in the 80s and 90s, researchers noticed people with CVD had a higher risk of death the further from the equator they were. This sparked them to start researching vitamin D and heart health!
They aren’t quite sure yet how vitamin D is heart protective. They think it has something to do with our inflammatory system. Our immune system is linked to our inflammatory system. Or it could also be our ability to “kill” bad cells and make new good cells. Regardless, the research is clear that vitamin D helps the heart!
Also, taking a calcium supplement without vitamin D and K2 can increase your risk of your arteries becoming hard. This leads to CVD.
Weight Gain/ Loss – Obesity
Like I mentioned earlier, vitamin D plays a role in your mood. You may notice that you eat when you’re sad. And you probably eat when you’re bored. You also probably beat yourself up for doing both. And both are okay!
What if it’s not your fault? What if you can’t control it because your vitamin D is low?
Food gives us a serotonin boost. It makes us feel good. When serotonin is low, your body tells you to eat something yummy to give it the boost that it needs. When your vitamin D is low, your serotonin is also probably low. This is one reason why you get cravings.
There are a ton of other reasons, but vitamin D can be a big culprit.
Vitamin D ensures that we absorb as much calcium as we can from the digestive tract so we can form new bone fragments. But an intake of calcium without vitamin D leaves it with really nowhere to go. And it ends up in places like your arteries. This isn’t good.
As an aside, for best absorption of calcium, you also need vitamin K2. This nutrient directs calcium to the bones so we don’t get calcium build up in our arteries. Just taking a calcium supplement alone won’t promote bone health. I know…it seems weird. But it’s a group of nutrients we need to create new bone like boron.
I wrote a pretty extensive blog of bone health in the past. You can read that here.
So…What Are the Symptoms of Low D
By far, one of the first symptoms people notice is fatigue. Even if you get enough sleep and have a healthy diet / lifestyle, low vitamin D levels can make you feel weak and tired.
Another common symptom is back pain in the absence of injury. Remember we talked about those core muscles and bone health?
You also might feel like you get sick more frequently than you used to. This could be many things but it’s most definitely your immune system telling you it’s not happy!
You may also notice changes in your mood as well.
Muscle cramps or poor workout recovery could be a sign as well.
This is not an exhaustive list. It’s just the most common symptoms.
Types of Vitamin D
There are two main forms of vitamin D – D2 and D3. Both of these can come from supplements but only D3 can be made by you.
So, the next question is…where do you get it?
Here are a few places you can get vitamin D:
- Vitamin D fortified foods or drinks
- Foods with natural levels of vitamin D
- Sun exposure
When we’re exposed to sunlight, our body makes D3. We get D2 through fortified foods. When a doctor prescribes you a vitamin D supplement, it’ll likely be D2 because it’s cheap. But you can buy both forms over the counter.
There are some complications with sun exposure. Many rely on this to get their vitamin D, but it may not be enough. To get enough from the sun you need 20-30 minutes 3-4 times a week with 70% or more of your body exposed around high noon in the summer.
Yeah…we’re talking a bikini or speedo midday throughout the summer. Most have jobs and can’t get that type of exposure. Also, the further from the equator, the weaker the UVB rays. This means a lesser chance of making enough vitamin D to hold you through the winter.
On top of that, the darker your skin is, the lesser chance you can make enough vitamin D from the sun.
But what’s best absorbed? Hands down, D3 is the best absorbed form of vitamin D in the body. So, all those fortified foods you eat may not be doing for you what you hope it will. And if you add on any digestive issue, the probability of you absorbing that D2 gets slimmer.
Who Needs Vitamin D
Everyone. That’s the simplest answer I can give you. Literally everyone needs vitamin D.
However, there are some at risk individuals who REALLY need vitamin D:
- Those with digestive diseases like Crohn’s, Colitis, etc
- Those who have undergone gastric bypass
- Those with fat absorption issues (i.e. no gallbladder)
The Best Place to Get Vitamin D?
There are several places you can get vitamin D but there’s only one tried and true place…a supplement.
Like I said, we don’t covert D2 very well or it’s poorly absorbed for many. So that scratches your vitamin D from fortified foods (i.e. milk, cereal, grains, etc). Foods that have natural vitamin D like fatty fish, eggs, and mushrooms are good sources. But you need to eat quite a bit to maintain adequate levels. And you’d need to eat a TON to increase your levels if they’re low.
And most don’t get the sun exposure they need or wear sunscreen. Yes, sunscreen stops UVB rays. UVB rays are the rays that help the skin make D3. So that scratches sun exposure.
This leaves you with a quality vitamin D supplement.
Oh, next time you’re getting labs drawn from your doctor – ask them to check your vitamin D levels. It’s a cheap, easy test that most insurance companies cover. If you’re not showing signs of low vitamin D, the lab value will let you know if you need a little vitamin D in your life. Before you show signs. Prevention is key!
The sweet spot for your vitamin D levels is somewhere between 50 and 70 nmol/L.
As a bonus, here are my favorite vitamin D supplements.
- Designs for Health Vitamin D Supreme
- DaVinci Labs D3/K2 Liquid
- Pure Encapsulations Vegan D3 Liquid
- MyKind Organics Vitamin D3 Spray
- Cytoplan Vegan D3
Vegan D3 supplements generally don’t contain K2. Well, the brands I trust anyway. There are some new brands out there but I don’t know how “clean” they are. With that, I recommend a K2 as well.
Here are some good K2 brands:
- Klaire Labs Vitamin K2
- Ortho Molecular Vitamin K2
You can purchase any of those supplements here. Just remember, supplements CAN interact with medications. If you’re on medications, I recommend looking at interactions first.
And I can help you with that. You can click here to book your free phone chat!
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