Taking Back Our Stolen History
Vitamin D
Vitamin D

Vitamin D

A fat-soluble vitamin that’s stored in the liver and fatty tissues. This means that increased body fat has the ability to absorb vitamin D and keep it from being used within our body. It is somewhat different than other vitamins because our bodies make most of our vitamin D on their own, rather than solely relying on food sources. It is estimated that up to 90 percent of people have insufficient levels of vitamin D and are unaware of their deficient state. While conventional media and medicine promote sun avoidance, doing so can actually put your health in grave danger and cause vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis and autism.

The way our bodies make vitamin D is to convert sunshine into chemicals that are used by the body. In particular, when UV-B sunshine rays land on the skin,  a substance in the skin called 7-dehydrocholesterol is literally converted into vitamin D3.

7-dehydrocholesterol or the cholesterol in our skin — and very similar to cholesterol itself — converts “previtamin D” and makes it into usable vitamin D3, which is sometimes also called provitamin D. (source) Previtamin D first travels through the kidneys and liver in the bloodstream and then is converted into a biologically active and usable substance called calcitriol.

Vitamin D actually becomes a hormone within the body, particularly a secosteroid hormone. What we know as vitamin D is really a precursor to a steroid hormone. It impacts not only our skeletal structure, but also our blood pressure, immunity, mood, brain function and ability to protect ourselves from cancer. (source)

Recent studies have also linked this miraculous vitamin to the prevention and potential cure of many other devastating and debilitating conditions including cardiovascular disease, blood pressure issues, high cholesterol levels, neurological system disorders, kidney failure, reproductive system disorders, muscle weakness, obesity, disorders of the skin and even tooth decay.

There are 77,269 articles on vitamin D available on PubMed, making it the most studied vitamin. Just a glimpse at the literature shows numerous benefits associated with this micronutrient. American Journal of Public Health surveys decades of studies, revealing a strong correlation between vitamin D and its metabolites with reduced risk and decreased mortality from colorectal, breast, prostate, and ovarian cancers.

The British Journal of Psychiatry discusses the positive effects of vitamin D supplementation on depressed patients. Nutritional Neuroscience illuminates the link between low serum levels of vitamin D and autism spectrum disorder, then demonstrates that vitamin D supplementation leads to improvement on behavioral and language metrics in children with ASD. Vitamin D also protects against development of multiple sclerosis (and ameliorates symptoms in patients with MS), strengthens bones and protects against osteoporosis/osteomalacia, protects against development of type I diabetes; increases insulin sensitivity in type II diabetes, and improves cardiac function post-myocardial infarction.

Vitamin D2 vs. Vitamin D3

There are two types of supplemental vitamin D: vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). The precursor to vitamin D is found in both plant and animal products, but animal-derived products of vitamin D3 are thought to be more absorbable and beneficial. Why? Well, manmade vitamin D is made one of two ways: D2 is created by irradiating yeast and other molds (known as vegetarian vitamin D2) or by irradiating animal oils and cholesterol, creating vitamin D3.

The type of vitamin D our bodies naturally make is called cholecalciferol, which is vitamin D3. The body is able to covert some D2 to be used for body functions but prefers and is able to use vitamin D3 much more effectively. Compared to D2, vitamin D3 is 87 percent more effective, and is the preferred form for addressing insufficient levels of vitamin D.

Unfortunately, most vitamin D-fortified foods and dietary supplements mostly contain ergocalcifero, a type of vitamin D2, which is neither as absorbable nor convertible by the body into what it needs.

D3 from animal products (specifically from the cholesterol within these products) is closest to what sunlight naturally produces in humans when the skin works to convert UV light. Vitamin D3 is believed to convert up to 500 times faster than D2 and has been estimated to be four times more effective in humans. (source)


How Our Bodies Get Vitamin D From the Sun to Prevent Vitamin D Deficiency Symptoms

Many people assume that the best way to acquire vitamin D is through drinking milk, eating fish or even taking supplements like cod liver oil. While these do serve as food sources of vitamin D, direct exposure to the sun is actually the best way to absorb this important vitamin.

When you sit in the sun unexposed, without sunscreen, for roughly 10 minutes, you likely absorb about 10,000 units of natural vitamin D. However, keep in mind that this amount differs from person to person, depending on skin tone.

Melanin is a substance that affects how light or dark your skin color is, and the more melanin you have in your body, the darker your skin color will be. Melanin gets released when we are exposed to the ultraviolet rays of sunshine. The more sunshine we receive, the more melanin is released in our skin. It’s believed that up to 90 percent to 95 percent of most people’s vitamin D comes from casual sunlight exposure. The amount of melanin you have in your skin affects the amount of vitamin D you can produce, so the fairer your skin, the more easily you can make vitamin D. (source)

The cholesterol in the skin converts melanin into usable vitamin D to be distributed throughout the body. This is why for many people, a slight to moderate rise in cholesterol levels can be experienced in the winter months when there is less exposure to sunshine, since it’s common to spend much more time indoors.

How Much Sun Is Enough?

Most experts recommend getting about 10 to 15 minutes of direct sunlight daily, without wearing sunscreen, if you are fair to medium toned. If you have dark skin, you will likely need more time in the sun to make enough vitamin D because your skin has more protection against the sun’s effects.

Some experts recommend that darker toned people spend about 40 minutes to one hour in the sun daily if possible. If you live farther from the equator (in the U.S. this would be the mid-states or farther north), then you need more overall time in the sun (closer to one hour a day).  If it’s the winter, you need to double the recommended time to allow enough vitamin D production to occur.

Here is a good rule of thumb to know that the sun is creating vitamin D in your skin: You want to look at your shadow and see that it’s shorter than you are. This tells you that the sun is high enough in the sky and strong enough to convert vitamin D in your skin. For example, you may experience this during the hours of 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. but not as much during other times of the day when the sun is lower and therefore less likely to penetrate your skin effectively.

If you are worried about not wearing sunscreen and fear the effect that direct sunlight can have on your skin, try applying sunscreen to your face and hands but not on your limbs (assuming your limbs are exposed). This leaves enough unexposed skin to properly create the vitamin D you need.

Why Are We So D’ – ficient?

Decades ago, most of us worked out in the sunshine, and absorbed approximately 10.000 – 20,000 IU of vitamin D in 15 minutes. That’s many times more than the current FDA requirements of between 200 and 400 IU. But for the past twenty or thirty years, the medical establishment has been screaming that “sunlight is dangerous for your health”… and telling you to cover yourselves with sunscreen, even though there is no real evidence the sun’s UV rays when used wisely cause cancer.

What’s more, many of us have indoor jobs, and from September to the middle of April in the northern latitudes, the sky can remain quite gray, making it nearly impossible for you to gain enough of the sun’s healthy rays to create natural vitamin D. Particularly if you are overweight, pregnant, elderly or dark skinned. This contributes to the two most common causes of vitamin D deficiency symptoms:

1. Lack of Sun

While years ago people spent more time outdoors, walking to do errands and even working outside, today we see a different situation. Most children spend unprecedented hours inside — watching television, playing video games and surfing the internet. Similarly, most adults work indoors, exercise inside gyms and spend their free time inside their homes where they are sheltered from the sun.

With all this time indoors, it’s no wonder we don’t get enough of the “sunshine vitamin” and vitamin D deficiency affects over a billion people worldwide. Traditionally, the human vitamin D system begins in the skin, not from the foods you eat. Although food sources of vitamin D can help raise your levels and prevent a deficiency, the sun is your most effective way to sustain proper vitamin D levels. (source)

2. Sunscreens

Not only are we failing to get enough time outdoors in the sun, but when we do, many of us wear sunscreen nearly the entire time. As the risk for developing skin cancer has also risen in recent years, doctors strongly encourage the use of sunscreen for children and adults, even through the winter months and when sun exposure is generally limited.

Alarmingly, some research shows that when you wear sunblock SPF 8, you reduce your body’s ability to make vitamin D by 90 percent. If you choose a sunblock with a higher SPF of 30 (which is the number normally recommended by doctors), you reduce your body’s ability by up to 99 percent. This results in further deficiencies because even though we spend time outdoors, the sunscreen doesn’t allow our bodies to convert vitamin D from the sun. (source)

Research also shows that certain health conditions, such as abdominal obesity, type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance and hypertension, also increases a person’s risk of vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D Deficiency Symptoms

There is a great body of evidence that shows that people with vitamin D deficiency are at an increased risk of developing health complications and conditions like cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, various types of cancer, immune disorders and adverse pregnancy outcomes. According to several scientific studies and reviews, a vitamin D deficiency symptoms can be linked to the following health problems: (source)

Researchers suggest that anyone with these health conditions or the following symptoms should be tested for vitamin D deficiency:

  • weakness
  • chronic fatigue
  • depression
  • trouble sleeping
  • anxiety
  • weak or broken bones
  • weakened immune system
  • inflammation and swelling

The only way to know if you are deficient in vitamin D is to have your doctor perform a test, called a 25-hydroxy vitamin D test. This will tell you if, and how severely, you are deficient. When your doctor performs a blood test and gives you the results for your vitamin D levels, keep these numbers in mind:

  • 50+ equals a good level of vitamin D
  • 30–50 means you want to supplement with vitamin D, work on spending more time in the sun and add vitamin D foods into your diet
  • less than 30 means you are very deficient and definitely want to take immediate action to bring those levels up

Talk with your doctor about supplementing with higher doses of vitamin D if you are severely deficient or have a very low level according to the tests. When your doctor performs a vitamin D test, specify that you would like to have the 25-hydroxoyvitamin D test done, sometimes also called the 25(OH) D test.

Some other types of vitamin D tests can show normal or even elevated levels of vitamin D, which are actually inaccurate and can hide a serious deficiency, so the 25(OH) D test seems to be the most accurate when determining your true vitamin D levels. (source)

Top 7 Health Benefits of Vitamin D

1. Contributes to Bone Health

Vitamin D plays a role in calcium absorption into the bones. Calcitriol (converted vitamin D) works with the parathyroid hormone to maintain calcium levels. Additionally, vitamin D has an effect on other important vitamins and minerals that contribute to both health, including vitamin K and phosphorus. Vitamin D is partially responsible for maintaining phosphorous levels in the blood, and since vitamin D affects calcium’s ability to bind to proteins, it’s believed that it’s also linked to vitamin K.

A deficiency in vitamin D can result in the softening of your bones, which is called osteomalacia, or a bone abnormality called rickets. Additionally, a deficiency increases your risk for developing osteoporosis and experiencing fractures or broken bones.

Studies have shown that vitamin D in doses of 800–5000 IU per day can improve musculoskeletal health by naturally slowing aging of the skeletal structure and reducing the rate of fractures and falls in older adults that are over 65. (source)  Older adults with adequate vitamin D levels are more likely to be active, have improved muscle strength, and are less prone to falls and injuries.

When vitamin D levels are low, the parathyroid becomes overactive. This is known as hyperparathyroidism and results in drops in phosphorous. Phosphorus, in addition to calcium and other compounds, is needed in order to properly mineralize bone density.

2. Helps Manage Blood Sugar Levels and Can Prevent Diabetes

Diabetes symptoms result from a lack of insulin or inadequate insulin secretion following increases in insulin resistance. According to research conducted at the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, calcium is necessary for insulin secretion, and vitamin D promotes calcium absorption and utilization, therefore contributing to the regulation of insulin secretion. (source)

According to a 2015 study published in Current Diabetes Reviews, vitamin D replacement has beneficial effects on all aspects of type 2 diabetes, including the incidence, control and complications of the disease. There is also mounting evidence linking low vitamin D levels to diabetes. (source)

3. Protects Against Cancer

Vitamin D deficiency symptoms have been correlated with increased risks for cancer development, especially breast, colon and prostate cancers. According to research published in Frontiers in Endocrinology, vitamin D plays a role in factors that influence tumor growth, cell differentiation and apoptosis. Researchers have found that increased sunlight exposure and circulating levels of vitamin D are associated with the reduced occurrence and mortality in many types of cancer. (source)

Research shows that vitamin D can affect the risk of breast, colon and ovarian cancers possibly due to its role in the cell life cycle or its ability to block excess estrogen. According to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, improving vitamin D and calcium nutritional status substantially reduces the risk of cancer in postmenopausal women. (source) Another 2018 study helps solidify these breast cancer findings as researchers found postmenopausal women with 60 ng/mL or more of 25-hydroxyvitamin D, the main form of vitamin D in the blood, had one-fifth the risk of breast cancer compared to those with under 20 ng/mL. (source)

According to one large-scale study, optimal vitamin D levels can slash your risk of cancer by as much as 60 percent. Keeping your levels optimized can help prevent at least 16 different types of cancer, including pancreatic, lung, ovarian, prostate, and skin cancers. Moreover, vitamin D can build your defenses against cancer by:

  • Enhancing the self-destruction of mutated cells (which can replicate and cause cancer)
  • Slowing down the production and spread of cancer cells
  • Helping in the differentiation of cells (cancer cells are not differentiated)
  • Preventing the formation of new blood vessels from pre-existing ones (this can help stop the progress of benign tumors into cancerous ones)

4. Combats Heart Disease

A growing number of research points to the fact that vitamin D deficiency is linked to increased risks for cardiovascular disease since it’s involved in regulating blood pressure, cholesterol levels and inflammation.

Animal studies have shown that the disruption of vitamin D signaling promotes hypertension, atherosclerosis and cardiac hypertrophy. We know that humans who are deficient are more likely to die from coronary heart disease and other heart-related symptoms, according to research from the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. (source)

5. Enhances the Immune System

Vitamin D helps with healthy cell replication and may play a role in protecting against the development of autoimmune conditions in addition to less serious common colds and the flu.

Our immune cells contain receptors for vitamin D, and it’s been shown that vitamin D seems to prevent prolonged or excessive inflammatory responses. Inflammation is often at the root of many modern, chronic diseases and autoimmune disorders: multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive disorders, high blood pressure, and more. (source)

6. Facilitates Hormone Regulation and Helps Improve Mood

Because it acts like a hormone within our bodies and affects brain function, vitamin D deficiency has been linked to an increased risk for mood disorders, including depression, seasonal affective disorder, and severe mood problems experienced during PMS, insomnia and anxiety. (source)

Low levels of vitamin D can also interfere with proper testosterone and estrogen production, leading to imbalances that can result in many unwanted symptoms.

7. Helps with Concentration, Learning and Memory

Several studies have shown that vitamin D also affects our ability to make decisions, concentrate and retain information. Some studies have shown that people with lower levels of vitamin D perform poorly on standardized exams, may have poor decision making skills, and have difficulty with tasks that require focus and attention. (source)

Additionally, some research has shown a correlation between low levels of vitamin D and an increased risk for developing schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis. (source)

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