Vitamin D Supplementation and Your Health
I’m an advocate of vitamin D supplementation. I know, I live in the sunny southwest. But like most people I spend most of my time indoors. I walk and/or hike outdoors three to six hours a week throughout the year (even in the summer). Still I’m not regularly exposing at least 70% of my skin for at least 20 minutes in midday sun. I don’t spend as many hours outdoors as hunter-gatherers, herdsmen, or primitive agriculturalists, so I supplement.
I take vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) gel caps (an average of 2000 IU per day). At times I’ve taken higher doses during the winter. Many nutrition experts recommend supplementing with 2,000 to 5,000 IU per day. People dark skin, who live at a higher latitudes, or in areas with high levels of air pollution need to take more Vitamin D than those with fair skin, living at the equator, or in areas with very little cloud cover or pollution. It’s an inexpensive supplement to take. You can buy a six month supply for less than .
Note: Vitamin D3 is not equivalent to Vitamin D2, the synthetic form of Vitamin D that manufacturers add to almond milk and other packaged foods.
Isn’t that a lot?
Here’s an excerpt, written by nutrition and paleo diet expert, Don Matesz, from my previous book, The Garden of Eating: A Produce-Dominated Diet & Cookbook:
“According to Dr. Reinhold Vieth, Ph.D., [a professor in the Departments of Nutritional Sciences, Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology at the University of Toronto] in the tropics where humans originally emerged, people who spend most of their days outdoors (farmers, lifeguards, and others) produce about 4000 IU of vitamin D daily (tanning reduces vitamin D production) and have circulating vitamin D levels at least twice the typical modern urbanite.
“Vieth has accumulated substantial evidence indicating all people require that much vitamin D to maintain health. He says “The potential benefits of greater vitamin D nutrition include a reduction in the occurrence of breast, prostate, and bowel cancers and the autoimmune conditions of multiple sclerosis and insulin-dependent diabetes.”
I participate in a study, the Vitamin D Action project, run by Grassroots Health. This international public health project aims to solve the worldwide vitamin D deficiency epidemic. My participation gives me an inexpensive way to track my vitamin D levels and it helps researchers who want to reduce disease rates. Once every 6 months I pay , fill out a short survey, and send in a home test kit with a few drops of blood. My results further research on the benefits of vitamin D supplementation and help me gauge whether to increase or decrease my dosage of D3. I think it’s made a huge difference in my ability to fend of colds, flus, and viruses.
You can participate in the study and track your vitamin D levels too. Here’s how.
What’s so great about vitamin D
Most people associate vitamin D with bone health. Vitamin D is the most important factor in your ability to absorb calcium. It’s also necessary for activating thyroid hormone, for cholesterol metabolism, optimal immune function, fertility, fat metabolism, cancer prevention, controlling inflammation, insulin resistance, type I and type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Do you need to supplement?
If you spend at least 15 minutes in midday sun nearly naked without sunscreen, at least three to give times a week, you probably don’t need to take supplemental Vitamin D…but for the rest of us, I think it’s essential.
Vitamin D and your immune system
Recently, a friend of mine who is an infectious disease specialist and the former chief of epidemiology at one of the hospitals here in Phoenix gave me a copy of an abstract from the January 2011 issue of the Journal of Infectious Diseases that examined the role of vitamin D3 supplementation and its role in controlling chemical messengers induced by candica albicans and in increasing the proliferation and maturation of immune cells that help fight off infections. The article indicates that some doctors are recognizing the role of vitamin D3 in the treatment of infectious diseases. For you nutrition geeks, here’s the title of the article and citation so you can look it up: 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 Modulates Cytokine Production Induced by Candida Albicans: Impact of Seasonal Variation of Immune Responses (JID 2011:203)
Are you deficient in vitamin D?
Check out this article on the Vitamin D Council web site.
If you have a copy of our book, The Garden of Eating: A Produce-Dominated Diet & Cookbook, I recommend you read pages 48, 49, and 63 to 65 in chapter 5: A Short Fat Primer of our book. I also recommend you check out the Vitamin D Council’s web site.
If you’re not taking supplemental vitamin D3 and checking to make sure your blood levels are within an ideal range (the vitamin D council recommends 50 ng/ml), you could be missing out an easy and inexpensive way to reduce your risk of infectious diseases and chronic degenerative diseases, including autoimmune disorders.