Tuesday, April 14, 2009

D-lightful Vitamin D

I thought it timely to re-post this blog post regarding vitamin D, since it is during this time of year that most people's D levels are at their lowest:

I am learning more about the enormous benefits of vitamin D, commonly known as the "sunshine vitamin". Doc Gurley comments on her blog: 

"D is associated with massive decrease in breast cancer, prostate cancer, autoimmune diseases (including juvenile diabetes, inflammatory bowl disease, and multiple sclerosis).......even associated in such common, chronic problems such as high blood pressure and low birth-weight babies."

This is impressive stuff. But it's even more impressive in view of results from a new study, conducted by the University of Toronto, which concluded that vitamin D deficiencies at the time of breast cancer diagnosis were shown to cause a 94% increase in breast cancer spread and 73% were more likely to die over the next 10 years, compared to women with normal vitamin D levels.  

Whoa! Where can I get some of this powerful stuff?

The National Institutes of Health vitamin D dietary supplement fact sheet found here offers information on benefits, sources, and suggested supplement guidelines. 

There are few natural dietary sources of D. Fatty fish, and fish oils are among the best sources. Vitamin D is frequently added to pasteurized milk,  some ready-to-eat cereals, and some processed orange juice products.  

When UV rays in sunlight hit our skin, our bodies are able to generate vitamin D. There are a great number of variables in this process, however. Depending on your skin color, cloud cover, how many minutes you are exposed to the sun, and what season of the year, you may or may not rack up enough IUs to meet your daily requirements. Since UV rays cannot penetrate glass, sunlight coming through a window does not provide vitamin D. Few of us are able to obtain the daily requirements by sun exposure. Many of us who have autoimmune disease can not expect to get our vitamin D from the sun, since avoidance of UV rays is important. 

Which brings up the last source of vitamin D - dietary supplements. The NIH supplement fact sheets give this information for using D supplements:

"there is evidence to suggest that for women with a deficiency, taking 800 International Units (IU) of vitamin D a day can raise levels to the optimal range. For healthy people without a deficiency, current recommendations for people between ages 0 - 50 to get 200 IU vitamin D daily, with 400 IU recommended for those between the ages of 51 and 70. After age 70, 600 IU of vitamin D are recommended each day."

Always check with your doctor before beginning any supplementation program, since an excess of vitamin D can cause toxicity and can alter calcium levels. 


Anonymous said...

Great article and excellent information! There is a lot of controversy about the right dose of vitamin D, even within "expert" groups, with many people calling for higher doses. What seems to ALWAYS get lost in these debates is that you can get your vitamin D level checked with a simple blood test - and then take the right amount for you! Most people's lowest vitamin D is in May - after a winter or relative darkness. If you want to make sure your vitamin D level is always good, get one now and see how you're doing.

Julia Oleinik said...

Doc Gurley,

Thanks for the comment and clarifications! Great suggestions.

Get those vitamin D levels checked, people!


Daisy said...

Thanks for this important post.

I have a vitamin D insufficiency (and sjogren's), and my doctor told me a while ago that I needed to take 2,000iu of vitamin D3 each day. But recently I've read that people with insufficient amounts should really be taking 5,000iu. So I'm confused!

Unknown said...

My Vit D level was tested last week as part of my labs. It was 31.8, where normal is 30-100. Since it is not technically deficient, should I add a Vit D daily until I see my doctor? My next appointment with "regular" doctor is 2 weeks from now, and I don't see my rheumy doc until July! Can it HURT to add the Vit D?

Julia Oleinik said...

Hi Candace,

I'm wondering if a better solution would be to increase your intake of foods that are fortified with vitamin D; such as some dairy products, and make an effort to be outdoors to catch some natural D in the sunshine until you see your doctor. Your question - "can it HURT to add Vit D?" is a good one. I'll be doing a bit of research on that one.

Unknown said...

I do already eat quite a bit of foods with Vit D, and since I live in the "Sunny South", there is plenty of sun exposure--whether it is wanted or not! AND I do go for walks outside on my breaks each day. I am an "outdoorsy type" and am really trying to figure out how much I will need to limit sun exposure now.

However, I DID receive a letter in the mail from my "rheumy doc", advising me to add 1000 iu daily to ensure that my levels remain in the normal range. It further advised that "your body is unable to absorb calcium without it. Vitamin D deficiency can result in poor bone health".

It is nice, after 13 years of a doctor who didn't care, to have one who follows up on his labs between visits!

Liz said...

I was diagnosed with Sjogrens earlier this year, the dryness just came on all of a sudden, within a few weeks I was very dry! I was taking D3 almost daily, 5000 iu. When they tested me I was 37. I am hearing now that maybe D is not too good for you. I know 2 people that did a protocol that used drugs to lower 1,25 D levels and got better, they had lupus and sceleroderma, both even worse than this. It was called the Marshall Protocol. I am very much thinking about trying that since my Rheumy does nothing for me other than Salagen, which helps for one about 2 hours at a time. :(

John Canos said...

When Sjogren's started with me, I had just increased my D intake as per my Family doctor. I noticed the day after taking the D, I was worse, so I immediately stopped it. Within a few days things settled. I have not take any since then, about one year, my D level has dropped below 20 so far, but my dryness did not get worse! I am at least the same as I was one year ago. Had I continued the Vit D, I would be in big trouble now. I have heard of that theraphy, Marshalls protocol, but they take too many pills, so not getting involved with that at this time as long as things don't get worse. More info is coming out every day in Pubmed that Vit D up to the point of around 20 is OK, but higher can cause problems. Pushing higher D levels is the idea of supplement companies trying to make more money, even though they are making our health worse, like they care!!!