Chasing Vitamin D

When we think of "vitamins," we know they're important for health. But vitamin D is special. It is actually a pre-vitamin that gets converted in the liver and kidneys. About 80% of the U.S. population is deficient, because it's difficult to get enough of it.

So, let's talk about how much of this critical fat-soluble vitamin we need, and how you can get enough of it. The three ways to vitamin D are exposure to the sun, consuming vitamin D containing food, and through supplements. And what does this all have to do with gut health, you might ask?

Why is vitamin D important, and how much do we need?

Vitamin D helps us absorb calcium from our food and acts like a hormone to help us build strong bones. Vitamin D can also help with immune function, cellular growth, and help to prevent mood imbalances such as depression and seasonal affective disorder.

Not getting enough vitamin D can lead to bone diseases like osteomalacia, it can also increase your risk of heart disease, neuro-degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, autoimmune diseases, certain cancers, and even death. The "official" minimum amount of vitamin D to strive for each day is merely 400-600 IU. Many experts think that this is not nearly enough for optimal health. I agree!

To ensure you get adequate amounts of vitamin D, you can implement any combination of the three vitamin D sources mentioned above on a weekly basis.

How can I get enough vitamin D from the sun?

Your skin makes vitamin D when it's exposed to the sun; that's why it's referred to as the "sunshine vitamin" which gets converted in the liver to its active form. How much vitamin D your skin makes depends on many things. Location, season, clouds, clothing, all affect the amount of vitamin D your skin can produce from the sun. One standard recommendation is to get about 5–30 minutes of sun exposure between 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. to the face, arms, legs, or back. This should be done without sunscreen, at least twice a week. Of course, we should always avoid sunburns and of course in some locations (and seasons of the year) it's not easy to get sun exposure.  So, how can we get enough vitamin D in other ways?

How can I get enough vitamin D from food?

Vitamin D is naturally found in fatty fish, liver, and egg yolks. Some mushrooms make vitamin D when they're exposed to the sun. Some foods are "fortified" (which means vitamin D has been added). These include milk, some orange juices, breakfast cereals, and yogurt. It will say on the label how much vitamin D has been added per serving. I would highly suggest you stay away from the non-organic, sugar-added and gluten-laden varieties, as you can get vitamin D from the whole foods mentioned above.

Because vitamin D is fat-soluble, you can increase absorption of it from your food if you eat it with some fat (healthy fat, of course). Between sun exposure and food, it still may be difficult to get even the minimum of 400 IU of vitamin D each day; this is why vitamin D supplements are quite popular.

How can I get enough vitamin D from supplements?

Before you take vitamin D containing supplements, make sure you check that it won't interact with other supplements or medications you may be taking. Always read your labels and ask a healthcare professional for advice.

The maximum amount recommended (for the general population) is 4,000 IU/day. Too much vitamin D can raise your blood levels of calcium (to an unsafe level), and this can affect your heart and kidneys. However, according to the Vitamin D Council (yes, that is how important deficiency in this vitamin is!) 1000IU/day for every 25 lbs for adults is a safe dosage. 

The best thing, if you're concerned, is to ask your healthcare professional to do a blood test and make a recommendation about how much vitamin in supplement form is right for you. Your healthcare practitioner may recommend higher amounts of vitamin D supplementation for a short time while under their care. The best form of vitamin D is D3 as that is the type that your body naturally produces in response to the sun.

The way doctors measure if you’re deficient in vitamin D is by testing your 25(OH)D levels. Be sure to ask for this test, as in most cases, it is not an automatic test done on a routine wellness visit.

Why it’s important to have good gut health

Because Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, it is important to have a well-functioning liver and gallbladder to reap its benefits. You see, the liver makes a substance called bile, it’s like a detergent, which is then stored in the gallbladder and used when you eat something fatty to dissolve and extract vitamins and minerals.

The combination of enzymes from the pancreas and bile go to work and extract all the nutrients you need from the food you eat, and so when your digestive system is compromised, meaning if you’re bloated, gassy, have diarrhea or are constipated, you will not be able to take that vitamin D from food, supplements or the sun and convert it into the active form of vitamin D needed for the hundreds of critical functions in your body, which equals, a vitamin D deficiency.

So, there you are, taking supplements, eating vitamin D-rich foods, and getting some sun on the daily, but you’re still deficient!? Well, start with taking a look at your gut; perhaps you need digestive enzymes to help you break down food better. Maybe you need to cut out crap foods that are not serving you in any way, like processed sugar and gluten. Whatever the issue may be, you can bet that it starts in the gut. 

What can you do?

  1. You can get your vitamin D levels checked at your next wellness visit

  2. You can supplement with Vitamin D3 according to your levels

  3. You can take my FREE 5-Day Kick Sugar for Good challenge which guides you through eliminating processed sugars from you diet; a huge step in the right direction to healing your digestion, and in my opinion, the very first step toward improving your overall health today! Just click below for 5 days of delicious, easy recipes!