Living in the Pacific Northwest is beautiful. But one thing we often lack, due to an abundance of rain, is sunshine. The downside to this isn’t just a lack of a good tan, it’s the lack of vitamin D. Vitamin D is a precursor hormone for calcitriol which is critical for cell regeneration as well as bone strength. More studies seem to be indicating that Vitamin D deficiency accelerates aging and cognitive decline.   As we age, we are less likely to convert sunshine to Vitamin D and so supplementation becomes increasingly important to slow the aging process and remain healthy.
Vitamin D isn’t just for slowing the aging process. Vitamin D is a recognized as a prohormone and has multiple functions in the human body. Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption in the gut and maintains adequate serum calcium and phosphate concentrations to enable normal bone mineralization and to prevent leg cramps. It is also needed for bone growth and bone remodeling. Vitamin D also helps in the reduction of inflammation as well as modulation of cell growth, neuromuscular and immune function, and glucose metabolism.
Preventative benefits of having optimum vitamin D include:
- reverse estrogen dominance
- reversal of autoimmunity
- breast cancer
- metabolic disease
- insulin resistance
- diabetes type 1 and 2
- hair loss – both alopecia areata (autoimmune disease) and androgenic alopecia
Self Assessment Checklist for Vitamin D Deficiency
Take this test and see how many you are ticking “yes”
- I rarely go out in the sun
- I put on sunscreen before I leave the house
- My clothes cover most of my body
- I live above 35 degrees latitude in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere (in other words north of Atlanta and LA or south of Sydney-Australia, Santiago-Chile or Buenos Aires-Argentina)
- I do not take a vitamin D supplement
- I do not eat wild, oily fish (salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines) two or three times a week
- I do not eat a lot of mushrooms
- I drink fewer than 10 glasses of fortified milk or orange juice a day
- I’m dark skinned
- I’m older than 60
- I’m younger than 20
- I’m overweight and carry significant fat
- When I press firmly on my sternum (breastbone around your heart), it hurts
- When I press firmly on my shins, it hurts
- I feel less energy and muscle strength than I should
- I’m depressed
- I have an autoimmune disorder (like Hashimoto’s, Graves’, Celiac, etc)
If you checked more than 3 of the above, there is a chance you are vitamin D deficient. The source of this checklist is from Dr. Michael Holick, the leading expert on vitamin D and author of “The Vitamin D Solution.”
Optimum Vitamin D Levels
Optimum vitamin D levels also help improve sleep which is critical in the detoxification process of the brain.
According to many functional medicine doctors  , the optimum range of vitamin D is 40-70 ng/mL and higher for some. When supplementing with vitamin D, it’s a good idea to have your levels tested to see what your supplementation should be. According to Dr. Stephen Cabral, most adults will benefit with 3,000 to 4,000 IU daily. Note that vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, so it’s a good idea to eat some fat with your supplements.
Foods Naturally Containing Vitamin D
- Cod liver oil
- Fatty fish (Sockeye Salmon is great)
Vitamin D from the sun is also great but when it’s 30 degrees F, baring your arms for 20 to 30 minutes may seem like a tall order! If you aren’t in a cold weather area right now, do get out and enjoy the sun without sunscreen and bare your arms for 20 to 30 minutes. Don’t expose yourself long enough to get sunburned of course!
How did you score on the self assessment? What next steps will you take to bring your vitamin D levels up to optimum level?
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