Article contributed by Karyn Gronn (JHB-based Banting Buddies coach)
WHY DO WE NEED VITAMIN D3 AND WHY THE BIG HYPE?
All over the WORLD, including sunny South Africa, Vitamin D deficiency is rampant. The truth is we do not get sufficient Vitamin D through sun exposure or through our foods. Vitamin D supplementation gives us the biggest bang for our health care Rand, due to the major protective and maintenance benefits we get from it.
Despite its name, it is not a vitamin but a powerful pro – hormone under the same umbrella as estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and cortisol (this in itself says a lot). It is responsible for the regulation of over 3 000 genes out of the 30 000 in the human body, according to the genome study project (WOW). This is one of the primary reasons it influences so many diseases, from cancer and autism, to heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis. We know that a deficiency in this vitamin is suspected to be linked with autoimmune diseases such as Type 1 diabetes, lupus, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease and more recently with autoimmune thyroid disease.
It is well known that Vitamin D is important for calcium absorption for bone health and density as well as strong teeth. However, studies are indicating benefits for the following too:
SOURCES OF VITAMIN D
- Our bodies can produce Vitamin D3 (25-hydroxy vitamin D) naturally through our skin by sun exposure. It is a fat-soluble hormone and is formed when the UVB rays are exposed to the surface of the skin and it converts a derivative of cholesterol into Vitamin D3. That Vitamin D3 does not penetrate the blood stream immediately. New evidence shows that is takes up to 24 hours before its absorbed. CONCLUSION: Do not shower or bath with soap for 2 whole days. Riiiiight
- With humanity being so cautious and well educated on the dangers of sun exposure, we have been indoctrinated to lather ourselves with SPF. Factor 20 is no longer sufficient – these days we prefer to use factor 50. This largely blocks the rays, which we know helps with the conversion of cholesterol to vitamin D, AND not to mention how we limit our outdoor activities.
CHOLESTEROL is vital for our well-being and is not the enemy we have been led to believe.The cholesterol theory has ben debunked.
- Unfortunately we are limited with foods that contain Vitamin D. However the consumption of REAL FOODS such as milk, salmon, tuna, mackerel, bacon, beef liver, cheese, eggs, fish liver oils can help. Please do be aware that if you are deficient, then diet alone is unlikely to give you the Vit D that you need.
- FORTIFIED foods with the “ADDED Vitamins”. Food manufacturers are fortifying foods, such as yogurt, cereal, and orange juice. This was to help consumers fill the nutrient gap in their diets. However I believe this no longer makes the food REAL and along with that comes other issues.
Take 2000 to 5000 IU of a good Vitamin D3 supplement for at least 3 months (don’t try and supplement with D2 as it won’t be as effective). After 3 months, do a blood test to see if you are at an optimal level. The test is inexpensive and is now readily available. The test is called 25 (OH)D. The optimal range for general health appears to be somewhere between 50 and 70 ng/ml shown through your blood tests. A reading of under 30 is regarded as critically deficient. As for how to optimise your vitamin D levels, I firmly believe that appropriate sun exposure is the best way to get a good dose, and if that is not possible (or sufficient), a good quality supplement of D3 is needed. In fact, I personally take a vitamin D3 supplement, and believe most should. If you decide to start a Vitamin D supplement, and you are on other medications, please check in with your doctor first as there are some contra-indications where care must be taken.
COULD YOU BE VITAMIN D DEFICIENT?
- You have a naturally dark skin. The darker your skin pigment the more it acts as a natural sunscreen and therefore you have less Vitamin D3.
- You feel like you are in a “dark place”. A good dose of sun raises the feel good hormone, serotonin. If you are feeling low, then you might be deficient.
- Mid-century or older. Aged skin doesn’t make as much Vitamin D from sun exposure, and especially when the elderly spend more time in doors than out. The kidneys also become less proficient.
- Overweight or obese. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble, hormone-like vitamin, which means body fat acts as a “sink” by collecting it. If you’re overweight or obese, you’re therefore likely going to need morevitamin D than a slimmer person.
- Achy breaky bones. Your body needs Vitamin D to absorb calcium from your food. (Vitamin K2 is vitally important for this function too, as it directs the calcium to your skeleton, while preventing it from being deposited where you don’t want it — i.e., your organs, joint spaces, and arteries. A good source of vitamin K2 is butter.)
Author: Karyn Gronn
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