Why is vitamin D so important to Canadians?
Why is it so important to know about my vitamin D levels? My naturopathic doctor, Dr. Suzanna Ivanovics, was adamant that I check my Vitamin D levels through a blood test. Why not? I was already getting blood test to check my cholesterol and a few other things. One more test wouldn’t hurt.
Turns out, my vitamin D levels where very low – 63. Quite a shocker — especially since I was taking vitamin D supplements on my own. After informing Dr. Suzanna of my results, she put me on 4,000 IU per day.
Not understanding the importance of vitamin D to my overall health, I decided to ask Dr. Suzanna a few questions about it.
Why is vitamin D vital to human health?
Vitamin D plays a vital role in bone health, and then development and the prevention of osteoporosis. Vitamin D also has many other roles to play in the body.
Vitamin D is actually a steroid hormone that has affects our DNA. It prevents various diseases by making sure that certain unwanted genes are not activated, while activating other genes that prevent disease.
What type of diseases and health issues does Vitamin D help prevent?
Vitamin D reduces the following health issues:
- 77% reduction in cancer – especially breast and colon
- 25% reduction in heart disease
- 33% reduction in diabetes
- 90% reduction in cold and flu
The Vitamin D council reviewed the recent scientific research and found that with Vitamin D supplemented within the optimal range can prevent over 100 different diseases. Vitamin D also reduces depression, autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, improves brain health and reduces muscle pain and weakness.
Sounds like vitamin D is important to everyone’s health. Are Canadians vitamin D deficient?
Most likely. Recent research has determined that 70-90% of Canadians will become vitamin D deficient this winter.
If Canadians were not deficient in vitamin D, we could save our health care system an estimated $14 billion annually and prevent 16% of premature deaths. Because we bundle up in the cold winter months and limit our exposure to the outdoors, we are not exposed to sunshine, which helps our bodies produce vitamin D. In certain parts of Canada, the sun’s UVB rays do not penetrate far enough into the atmosphere to even produce adequate amounts of vitamin D.
What can we do to take Vitamin D?
Since we do not get enough vitamin D from the sun, we need to consider consuming vitamin D rich foods or supplements. However, the Vitamin D Council informs us that few foods do contain significant sources of Vitamin D. Thankfully, vitamin D can be taken orally, in capsule or liquid form throughout the winter months to help increase the levels of this nutrient in our body.
How much Vitamin D should I take?
A simple question that sadly does not have a defined answer. So, the short answer is that the optimal dose of vitamin D is different for each person. Many factors such as body composition, age, medications, kidney function, liver disease, nutrient status, and digestive function all affect how the body responds to vitamin D supplementation.
Naturopathic Doctors are trained at taking a comprehensive history and taking into account all aspects of an individual’s health. This allows NDs to choose the correct dosage for each person. Once this is determined, most patients can achieve optimized levels without risk of toxicity.
So you are saying that we can have too much vitamin D?
Yes. Ensuring optimal levels of vitamin D in the body is important because toxicity from excess vitamin D can be dangerous and may cause calcification of internal organs as well as the formation of kidney stones.
Why should I test my Vitamin D levels?
Health Canada recommends a very conservative dosing regime for Vitamin D, and this may not be sufficient to ensure that blood concentrations are in the optimal range. Blood testing through your medical or naturopathic doctor, allows them to get a baseline value and also to monitor your body’s concentration of vitamin D in order to achieve a normalized level without risk of toxicity. It also allows your ND to assess how well your body is responding to vitamin D supplementation and to adjust the dosage accordingly. The Vitamin D council describes this testing as the “only way to know for sure if a certain dosage is working for you”. The best test is a blood test that checks for your 25 hydroxy vitamin D levels in serum.
I heard that Vitamin D is important for calcium intake. Is this true?
Vitamin D, along with other co-factors, plays a crucial role in the development of bone as well as the prevention of osteoporosis due to its role in calcium regulation.
Why is the brand and type of vitamin D important factors when buying this stuff? I see so many different types on the shelves that I don’t know what to pick.
The selection of vitamin D supplements on the market can be daunting to the average consumer. The most active and well used form of vitamin D is D3 also known as cholecalciferol, which is sourced from cod liver or sheep wool that is collected during the shearing process. Vegetarians and vegans may opt for D2 or ergocalciferol, which is a precursor to D3.
Generally, vitamin D comes in capsules, softgels and liquid forms. Sublingual forms are liquids that are dissolved under the tongue. These readily enter the blood stream and bypass the digestive tract, allowing the vitamin D to be used by the body more efficiently. Pills are less absorbed as they must be digested and should be taken with food. Naturopathic doctors are experts in the field of nutritional supplementation: Speak to an ND about which form is the best for you to take.
Don’t I get enough Vitamin D from the sun?
Perhaps during the summer months, but between the months of October and March, when we are far from the equator, we are not exposed to enough UV light from the sun. Again, the only way to know for sure is to test, not only in the winter months, but also in the summer months. Regular testing, when supplementing, also helps to detect any toxicity.
What is the take home message to supplementing with Vitamin D?
First, determine if vitamin D is indicated for your unique health situation. If so, then make sure you are taking a dose that is specifically suited to you and that it is taken with the necessary cofactors. For added effectiveness, consider taking it in accordance with nature’s rhythms (ie: in the morning or midday) and test your vitamin D levels to make sure your body is in the correct range to receive the full benefits of this vitamin without any of the risks. Seek the expertise of a naturopathic doctor as she is trained in evidence based natural medicine and practices individualized patient centered care, with a tailored approach to your specific health needs.
Under the watchful eye of Dr. Suzanna, I take vitamin D on a daily basis – in liquid form. She assessed my lifestyle and my habits and gave me a vitamin D that was easy to administer and pleasant to take. Did you know that as little as three drops of liquid vitamin D is equivalent to 4,000 IU? I didn’t, but that’s why I have an expert on my side. A blood test for vitamin D is about $32 in some Ontario labs.
For further reading….
Some additional articles on the importance of vitamin D:
Yours in health,
Dr. Suzanna Ivanovics
Satori Health & Wellness Owner