Prevention and Vitamin D
By Don Bennett, DAS
Just like my in-depth
article on B12,
this piece on vitamin D is not short 'n sweet, and this is for two reasons:
1) There's some misinformation about vitamin D, and clearing up misconceptions
about health issues is one of the things I do, and 2) It's vitally important
that you have correct information about the things that can have a huge
impact on your health, your quality of life, and your longevity, and vitamin
D is one of those things.
There has been a lot
of buzz about vitamin D's role in cancer prevention. This has actually
been known for a long time but only now are there studies to back it up.
The statement that sunshine is a requirement of vibrant health is viewed
by some as nonsense because we all know that sunshine causes skin cancer,
right? Wrong! Sunshine is not only not the primary cause
of skin cancer, but the vitamin D produced in your body from sun exposure
helps your body to stay ahead of cancerous cells so that you never get
a diagnosis of cancer. But these diagnoses make a lot of money for some
very powerful and influential industries, and the burgeoning markets for
cancer prevention drugs (that "may" help prevent cancer) only
add to the importance of keeping the information on natural ways to prevent
cancer away from the general public.
But the truth is out
there for those open-minded enough to hear. Listen to what one of the
researchers has to say about vitamin D and cancer, and about a "more
rational approach to cancer screening".
at the Moores Cancer Center and Department of Family and Preventive
Medicine, UC San Diego used a complex computer prediction model to
determine that intake of vitamin D3 would prevent 58,000 new cases
of breast cancer and 49,000 new cases of colorectal cancer annually
in the US and Canada. The researchers' model also predicted that 75%
of deaths from these cancers could be prevented with adequate intake
of vitamin D3. Dr. Cedric Garland, UCSD School of Medicine, lead researcher
on the study discusses the implications of this finding and the proposed
for disease by looking for nutritional deficiencies! This "pre-actionary"
approach is in stark contrast to today's reactionary medicine which says
wait until you find something either through testing or symptomatic
expression and then manage it with medications, surgeries, and
Studies have shown
sufficient vitamin D levels are linked to a reduced risk of a variety
of cancers. Vitamin D is important for healthy cell growth and for cellular
communication which reduce the risks for some types of cancer. The American
Journal of Public Health reported that researchers searched the Pub Med
database and found a number of observational studies of vitamin D status
in relation to cancer risk dating from 1966 to 2004. Thirty of those studies
focused on vitamin D and colon cancer, 13 on breast cancer, 26 on prostate
cancer, seven on ovarian cancer, and several that assessed the association
of vitamin D receptor genotype with cancer risk. After their review, the
researchers concluded that the majority of the research demonstrated a
protective relationship between sufficient vitamin D levels and a lower
risk of cancer. The key word there is "sufficient". The amounts
of vitamin D that are added to fortified foods are only enough to help
prevent rickets (more on this in a moment), they are not enough to provide
that protective mechanism described above.
The Mayo Clinic
reported that overall 93% of 150 schoolchildren and adults were deficient
in Vitamin D, this in a Minnesota-based study. Within that same study,
the Mayo Clinic found 100% of African-Americans, East Africans, Hispanics
and Native Americans were deficient. This is truly a pandemic of staggering
If you are living
in accordance with your biological imperatives which means among
other things that you are getting sufficient vitamin D your chances
of being diagnosed with cancer are dramatically reduced, often to zero.
When the average American is tested for vitamin D, they come up short;
they are deficient in this vital nutrient, even though many processed
foods are fortified with vitamin D. Vitamin D is a nutrient that cannot
be obtained from natural, unprocessed, healthy foods the foods
that we are designed to eat. This is because vitamin D was expected to
come from sun exposure, and who knew that one day people would be living
in geographic regions where this was not possible during a portion of
the year, or that even during warm, sunny weather people would be spending
a majority of their time indoors instead of outdoors, and that scare tactics
would be used to discourage people from getting adequate sunshine during
the warmer months. So if vitamin D plays an important role in cancer prevention,
and most people are deficient in this nutrient, then the result would
likely be a predisposition to cancer (and other diseases) which is exactly
what we have today. This result has become big business for various industries,
but it's bad news for those who suffer from it. Unfortunately in this
country the bottom line is "profits before people" (not my words)*.
The good news is: now YOU know about the benefit of vitamin D in the prevention
of cancer. Put it to good use, and pass it on. (In a moment I'll outline
a prudent vitamin D strategy.)
population of the world has been brainwashed by the American Academy
of Dermatology and the sunscreen industry for 30 years with the unrelenting
message that you should never be exposed to direct sunlight because
it is going to cause serious skin cancer and death. ... Sensible sun
exposure decreases the risk of malignant melanoma."
Dr. Michael Holick
Even Whole Foods unknowingly
perpetuates the disinformation.
great for skin because D and other nutrients are made in the skin! Just
In this six
minute video you'll hear some facts about the benefits of vitamin
D and some of the misleading propaganda, including my favorite,
a quote from the American Academy of Dermatology which says, "It's
appalling that anyone in good conscience could make the claim that
intentional sun exposure for any length of time is
the "sunshine is bad for health" notion come from?
There was a
study that demonstrated a correlation between people who got sunshine
and those same people having a higher rate of cancers (breast, prostate,
ovarian, etc). Huh? If someone cared to read the entire study and
not cherry pick specific data that perhaps served their agenda,
they would see that those people who got enough sunshine reduced
their risk of cardiovascular disease and therefore lived longer,
but because their diet and other lifestyle practices weren't equally
healthful, since they lived longer, their risk of cancer increased
because, in general, cancer risk increases along with biological
age... the longer you live, the higher your cancer risk will be.
Therefore, because increased sunlight exposure increases your longevity
for one reason, it will also appear to increase your risk of cancer.
But this does not necessarily mean that sunlight is intrinsically
"carcinogenic," which is now commonly assumed in some
circles. But if besides getting appropriate amounts of sunshine/D
you also pay equal attention to the other basics of health, your
cancer risk will decrease along with your risk of cardiovascular
But what else is vitamin
D good for? It's a well known fact that without sufficient vitamin D,
all the calcium in the world wouldn't be enough to keep you from getting
osteoporosis; vitamin D being necessary for good bone health. And vitamin
D also plays a role in the prevention of other chronic, degenerative diseases.
And that's something to think about: these conditions are all very slow
in getting to the point where you become aware of them. A vitamin D deficiency
is not like an oxygen deficiency, which you'd know about immediately.
So we go through life slowly degenerating and assuming that it's simply
part of getting older, and that it's nothing unique or personal because
it happens to everyone. But if everyone is sub-clinically deficient in
vital nutrients, and if everyone is not supporting their body's efforts
in staying ahead of serious illness, and if everyone is doing the things
that unknowingly cause these diseases, then it's only natural that everyone
would degenerate over time and get that dreaded diagnosis of something
serious at some point. So if vibrant health is something you'd like to
invest in and experience, it's crucial that you trash any notion that
serious disease is inevitable, because this can become a self-fulfilling
prophecy for people who believe it.
a sample of serious health issues people face with chronic vitamin
increased risk and severity of 11 types of
cancer, includingmelanomas. Adequate vitamin
D has been shown to make cancers cells lose their blood supply and
thus their ability to expand. It also inhibits cell growth, inducing
what's called cell apoptosis' (inability to divide) in breast
cancer, prostate cancer, and osteosarcoma.
Inflammation of the body such as lupus, rheumatoid
arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn's Disease and
Heart disease increased risk of both heart attacks
Pain issues everything from joint pains, back aches,
Weak, brittle bones especially dangerous for women
and the elderly.
It's interesting how
all the recent health care reform discussions have shed light on the fact
that we here in the USA are doing far worse than folks in other countries
(who have a better health care system than we'll likely ever have). The
U.S. is 19th in infant mortality, we're 35th in average life expectancy
(out of 191), we're the most overweight country in the world, and not
surprisingly we're the sickest people when it comes to the preventable
diseases of lifestyle. And mostly you have a for-profit ill-health management
system to thank for this, because a true health care system would include
education that would make it perfectly clear that a high fat diet and
insufficient exercise, sunshine, and sleep are public health enemy number
shown that sufficient vitamin D levels are linked to a reduced risk
of a variety of cancers. Researchers searching the PubMed database
found it contained 63 observational studies of vitamin D status
and cancer risk from 1966 to 2004. Thirty studies on D and colon
cancer, 13 on breast cancer, 26 on prostate cancer, and seven on
ovarian cancer. The researchers concluded that the majority of the
research demonstrated a protective relationship between sufficient
D levels and a lower risk of cancer.
When I find myself
among those discussing the current health care issues, I'm often asked
what I think is the best health care system. Knowing what I know about
the health care system we've had and will likely continue to have*,
and knowing what I know about disease avoidance and health creation, there
is no contest: the absolute BEST health can only be had when you take
responsibility for your own health care. And yes, that places the care
of your health on you, but if you place your health, your quality of life,
and your life itself in the hands of those not properly educated in health
creation and disease avoidance, you will likely get what the average customer
of the traditional health care system gets: a life expectancy less than
your actual longevity potential, and a quality-of-life in the "winter"
of your life that is far less than what it could be. And telling yourself
that this is what most people experience isn't going to make it feel any
better. When I'm in the last fifth of my life, I want to feel as great
as I did when I was in the first fifth, and I'm willing to do what it
takes to accomplish this. And the good news is, what it takes is both
enjoyable and delicious.
And since death is
inevitable, I want to die of non-specific organ failure, i.e. "natural
causes", not some all-too-common serious disease accompanied by diminished
quality-of-life. Natural causes or "old age" was once the major
cause of death. You went to bed one night at a ripe old age, in reasonably
good health, and simply didn't wake up the next day. That's for me! But
we've been conditioned to believe that serious illness is the norm and
is unavoidable. But this is simply not true.
Who is at
risk of Vitamin D deficiency?
are more likely to have vitamin D deficiencies including: breast-fed
infants, the elderly, people with dark skin tone, people living
in latitudes far from the equator, those not eating a diet fortified
with vitamin D, and those who are obese. In certain countries, clothing,
for cultural dress or weather conditions can also limit the exposure
to sunlight and thus to vitamin D. Even in sunny areas, those people
who tend to work or play indoors, or wear sunscreen when outdoors,
can have vitamin D levels that are too low.
Vitamin D "How
How do you make sure
your vitamin D level is providing optimal protection? Simple; live in
the tropics. If you do, there's not much to think about regarding vitamin
D (unless you wear too much clothing or don't spend enough time outdoors).
But for those who can't get adequate sunshine all year-round sunshine
strong enough to produce vitamin D and the other sun-provided nutrients
here's a sound vitamin D protocol for those times when you can't
get your D and other nutrients from the sun via daily sunbathing (more
on these other sun-provided nutrients in a moment).
Get tested. See what your D level is currently. It's
good to have a baseline, and not good to simply assume you are
low. You don't want to supplement with vitamin D (or any nutrient) if
you don't need to. The test to get is called a 25-Hydroxy-Vitamin D
test, sometimes referred to as 25(OH)D or Vitamin D, 25-OH,
Total. The test you don't want is 1,25-dihydroxy-vitamin D
and, unfortunately, about 20% of U.S. doctors order this test thinking
that by measuring the most potent steroid in the human body, calcitriol,
they are getting useful information, but they are not. 1,25-dihydroxy-vitamin
D is an adaptive hormone; it goes up and down with calcium intake.
So if 1,25-dihydroxy-vitamin D is normal or high, these docs tell their
patients that they are okay on vitamin D when in reality they may be vitamin
D deficient, increasing their odds of cancer and other degenerative disease.
The test result range
you are looking for is between 50-80 ng/ml. Unfortunately there are some
docs who see a reading of 30 ng/ml as being "okay", but current
research shows that this is too low. Some researchers have a more conservative
range of 40-60 (this may be due to a concern that D is fat soluble, and
therefore taking too much and having too high a level can result in vitamin
D toxicity; more on this in a moment). But all my research suggests that
if you keep tabs on your D level, the range of 50-80 ng/ml is a safe one
to shoot for (and this does not require weekly or even monthly testing).
And just to point
out how there can be misinformation even about something that should be
well settled, and is not a matter of opinion, here are some of the various
recommendations you will find when researching the "okay" vitamin
10 to 55 ng/mL Philip Batty, M.D. (not
a typo!) 16 to 74 ng/mL healthguide.howstuffworks.com (also an
25 to 50 ng/mL answers.com (50 should be the low
30 to 80 ng/mL NIH (National Institutes of Health - U.S. government)
40 to 65 ng/mL Mark Hyman, M.D.
50 to 80 ng/mL reality-based health practitioners
different measurements used
In the U.S.
the vitamin D test measures in "ng/ml". In the UK and
Europe the test uses "nmol/L" or "ug/L". The
optimal range to be in is:
- 80 ng/mL (this is the measurement type
used in this article; also called ug/L)
125 - 200 nmol/L
factor is 2.5, meaning, to convert from one to the other, simply
multiply or divide by 2.5
NOTE: If you
see a test result measured in ug/l, this is the same ratio as ng/ml,
and therefore the same ranges can be used.
different testing methods used
Many blood tests
must conform to a standard so that a test result from one lab can
be compared to the test result from another in an apples-to-apples
manner. Unfortunately, the 25-Hydroxy-Vitamin-D test is not one
of those tests. Of all the labs in the U.S. one lab uses a different
testing method than all the others, making their results essentially
inaccurate (because you can't compare them to the recommendations
in this article). The lab that doesn't play well with others is
Quest Diagnostics. So if your test is performed there, you need
to multiply the result by 1.3 to be able to have a meaningful result.
If your test is done by Lab Corp (the other big lab chain), your
results are accurate. The take-home point here is: If you get tested
at a doctor's office, don't be shy about asking for the name of
the lab that does your D test. (And don't be surprised if the doc
doesn't know about this issue.)
As Dr. Garland in
the above video suggests, get tested through a health care professional,
or get a self-test kit and do it yourself. I would add that if you are
supplementing with a meaningful amount of vitamin D, since it is prudent
to test every two months until you find what dose gets you in the 50-80
range while supplementing, it is important to get tested using the same
lab or with the same test kit each time so you are comparing apples-to-apples.
There is a through-the-mail test kit available here,
and a more accurate test can be done at a lab where blood is drawn, and
in most states in the US you can do this without a doctor's order by buying
the test from here
(and I have no affiliation, financial or otherwise, with these companies
or the vitamin D manufacturer that I recommend).
Besides getting a
baseline, a better reason to test for your D level before you start
supplementing is to see just how deficient you are if you are deficient.
If you're only a little deficient ("insufficient"), then the
dose of your D supplementation could follow the guidelines in this article
(maintenance dose). But if you are seriously deficient, you'd want
to know this because your initial dosing of D should probably be more
along the lines of a therapeutic dose which will taper down to a maintenance
dose as your levels come up.
If low, raise it (enough but not too much) If you are
low in D and you can get out in strong enough sunshine, do so. Just don't
The second video
above mentioned 15 minutes in the sun in a bathing suit in summer
is plenty, but that only refers to the part of the day when the
sun is strongest. Fifteen minutes in a bathing suit in summer but
at 10am or 3pm may not be enough, and 15 minutes at high noon in
summer in Canada will not be enough (and wherever you are, you should
shoot for the hours between 10am to 3pm because that's when the
best "D making" wavelengths occur, just be careful not
to burn because the "burning" rays are there too).
And how light
or dark your skin tone is also affects the amount of time you should
sun yourself, as does cloud-cover, altitude, and time of year. So
the above statement is a conservative one and errs on the side of
caution. But since avoiding a sunburn and getting
adequate sunshine-provided nutrients is the goal, how to get enough
but not too much D-producing sunshine cannot be summed up in a short
How do I know
when enough is enough when sunbathing? I listen to my body, and
I can feel when I've had enough. If you are not at the point yet
where you can do this, I'd err on the side of caution so you don't
as you can see, anyone who gives you definitive amounts of time
or times of day to sunbathe doesn't understand that there are too
many variables to do this with any degree of accuracy, but since
people want this type of advice, this type of advice will be available.
of bathing suits, wear one of these
when sunning yourself to get a more even tan and to make the most
of your sunbathing.
much sunshine - Part 2
You can also
use your daily UV Index to get an idea of how much time to spend
in the sun on each side when sunbathing. The daily UV Index for
your area is available online here,
here and here.
And keep in mind, that eating the diet we're all designed to eat
will lessen the risk of burning (meaning that unhealthy diets increase
the risk of burning, making it more difficult to get enough sun-provided
nutrients, which decreases health).
If you can't get out
in the sun because it isn't strong enough, I'd consider getting a phototherapy
device (artificial sun lamp array) which is the best option.
The other option is supplementing with vitamin D3 (but it only provides
D and not the other equally important essential nutrients that sunshine
provides). D comes in drops, which might be preferable over tablets when
taking 6,000 IUs; just make sure not to get drops that use fish oil (coconut
oil is preferable). The drops you can get here.
And Vitashine's D3 that is claimed to be a vegan D3 is here.
But again, a D supplement is not the best option if you
want optimal health.
A well-designed narrow
band phototherapy device is the SolArc model E720M-UVBNB shown
(Note: I do not sell these items, nor do I make any money
from their sale if you buy them via these links.) This phototherapy
device is a "starter" unit that can be added on to as finances
allow (reducing exposure time requirements). And one benefit it has over
the sun is that it maximizes the nutrient-producing wavelengths and minimizes
the wavelengths that cause burning. Expensive you say? Think of it as
an investment in your future health. Plus, how "costly" is a
diagnosis of a life-threatening disease? Just say'n.
You can also
suspend the SolArc unit from the ceiling so you can lay under it,
but you wouldn't be under it for very long, so I would just use
it as shown. The unit as shown is $1,200. Add a second 2-bulb unit
for better coverage when you can. Speaking of "better coverage",
we were designed to get sunlight on our entire body, so since you're
in your home, try "nude sunbathing".
the US's FDA requires a prescription for a device sold as a "phototherapy
device" you'd need a doctor's
prescription to accompany the order for this Canadian company
if you live in the US. Simply explain that you want to improve your
"vitamin D status" and you don't want to take oral supplements.
If that doc won't write you a prescription for the "E720M-UVBNB
phototherapy device", find one who will.
you can only afford something smaller and less expensive, check out
unit from Sperti for $449. You'll have to sunbathe in sections
because it's only 23" tall, but it's better than getting a D
insufficiency, and way better than a D supplement (which doesn't contain
the other equally important sunshine-provided nutrients). Video here,
but unlike the actors in the video, you shouldn't wear any clothes.
And the recommendation to use it "every other day" is only
in the beginning. After a while, daily use is fine and beneficial.
But as with all phototherapy devices, more is not better.
Although not the best
option, we still must talk about how much supplementary D to take. That
is the million-dollar question. There is some controversy on this issue,
which is why I highly recommend that you monitor your levels until you
discover the dose that gets you in the range you should be in (50-80 ng/ml,
125-200 nmol/L). Unlike water soluble vitamins, like vitamin C, you can
get symptoms of vitamin D toxicity if you take too much (a
list of which I include at the end of this article). Obviously
this is to be avoided, but avoiding it by taking only the dose recommended
on the bottle or by the USDA or some other agency may not yield the amount
of vitamin D that your body needs to effectively prevent disease, both
chronic (like cancer and osteoporosis) and acute (like a cold or the flu).
And emerging research indicates that current mainstream recommendations
are indeed too low. (Same goes for using a phototherapy device; test your
D level after two months of consistent use to see if the amount of time
you're using it brings your D level into the optimal range of 50-80 ng/mL.)
If you're not getting
any meaningful sunshine (sunshine that could burn you if you over-did
it), and you don't have a phototherapy device yet, the current recommendations
by the Vitamin
D Council are "healthy children under the age of one year should
take 1,000 IU per day; over the age of one, 1,000 IU per every 25 pounds
of body weight per day; healthy adults and adolescents should take at
least 5,000 IU per day. Two months later, have a 25-hydroxy-vitamin D
blood test" (to ensure you are in the 50-80 ng/ml range). Those are
the recommendations I follow. But at the other end of the spectrum is
the IOM (Institute of Medicine) recommendation of 600 IUs a day (up from
400 IUs because rickets has made a come-back).
Keep in mind that
sunshine can deliver 10,000 to 40,000 IU per day of vitamin D without
the risk of overdosing. If you feel that supplementing with 5,000-6,000
IU per day sounds too high, being that the vitamin D bottle says 2,000,
it would certainly be prudent to take 2,000 per day and see if that amount
raises your level into the 50-80 ng/ml range. If it doesn't, increase
to 3,000 a day and test again in two months, etc. If you decide to follow
the above recommendations of 5,000 per day for adults and adolescents,
be sure to test no later than two months after starting supplementation.
If you get a reading over 80 ng/ml, adjust your D intake down accordingly
and re-test in two months.
Okay, all that being
said, I will tell you that at doses of 6,000 IU per day, I have never
seen any symptoms of vitamin D toxicity. But if you experience any (see
below), discontinue D supplementation until symptoms disappear,
keeping in mind that the long half-life of vitamin D approximately
30 days would result in the side effects taking a while to disappear
after you stop supplementation. It is not uncommon for side effects to
fade slowly over the course of a few weeks. A standard protocol in the
case of vitamin D overdosing is to not only avoid vitamin D supplements,
but also vitamin D fortified foods, sunshine, and calcium supplements
for a few weeks, while increasing water intake and physical demands (through
vigorous exercise). Remember that healthy, natural foods (fruits and green
leafy vegetables) contain no vitamin D. Also, I'd advise getting an immediate
25-hydroxy-vitamin D test to see just where your levels were when you
started experiencing symptoms. Besides being good data to have in cases
of deficiency and excess, the test is an especially good idea if the symptoms
you are experiencing are not actually being caused by vitamin D
toxicity. This comes under the heading of being an educated consumer,
and when it comes to symptom diagnostics, you don't want to be misdiagnosed,
which happens more often than you might imagine (remember,
some docs believe a reading of 30 is good, and some misdiagnose symptoms
of low D. And also remember, a D supplement only provides D and none of
the other equally important sunshine-provided nutrients... so if you really
care about your health, don't take a D supplement; get a phototherapy
device for your winter months).
Vitamin D's Co-workers
One last word about
over-doing vitamin D supplementation: If you become symptomatic, it may
not be that you are getting too much D, it may be that you are not getting
enough magnesium and other "companion nutrients" of D. There
are other nutrients that need to be present in sufficient quantities for
vitamin D to do its job, like zinc, vitamins C, A, and K2, boron, and
magnesium. Magnesium is the most important of these co-factors where it
concerns D. In fact, it is common for rising vitamin D levels to exacerbate
an underlying magnesium deficiency, increasing "neuromuscular hyperexcitability"
of which its primary cause is the magnesium deficiency, not the increase
in D. So if you're experiencing problems when you start supplementing
with vitamin D, a magnesium deficiency could be the reason why. The best
way to ensure that you are getting enough magnesium (and zinc and boron,
etc) is to take a high quality worthwhile multi. I take this.
Not to put too fine
a point on this, but, a vitamin never works alone; it has various relationships
with other vitamins in order to work properly. And if you're deficient
in magnesium, you could be taking an otherwise "okay" dose of
D but still experience D deficiency symptoms such as headaches, insomnia,
jitteriness, muscle cramps, anxiety, heart palpitations and/or constipation,
and your D level might not improve when taking the D supplement. Those
who are eating a healthy diet that contains lots of uncooked fruits, non-sweet
fruits, and green leafy vegetables may be getting enough magnesium (assuming
enough was in the soil that fed those crops as they grew), but those eating
a Typical Western Diet may not (probably not) be getting enough. As I
said, to ensure an adequate supply of magnesium, and the other D co-factors,
a high quality multivitamin may be a good idea; I am not an advocate of
buying a bottle of magnesium tablets any more than I advocate buying bottles
of chromium (which is vital in the proper regulation of blood sugar metabolism),
but you may have to do this when correcting a very low D level. Why? The
increased D will increase D utilization which will require above normal
amounts of D's companion nutrients for a while... amounts that are higher
than food can normally supply. This unnatural scenario is only because
of the unnatural D deficiency which would have never happened if you had
been living in your natural environment.
D IS RAT POISON"
You may have
heard this, that cholecalciferol (used as D in vitamin D supplements)
is rat poison. Let's be fair and balanced, cholecalciferol is used
in rat poison because it helps kill rats, but it's not "rat
poison". Yes, when ingested in large enough quantities, it
can be unhealthy for humans, and this is what happens when rats
consume it in the quantities they do. But in the amounts used in
D3 supplements, it doesn't have the same effect in humans, unless
you take a high enough amount and if other nutrients
are in short supply (D's companion nutrients as mentioned above).
And as I also mentioned above, a D supplement is not a good thing
to take because it only contains D and none of the other sunshine-provided
nutrients that are equally as important as D. This is why in my
practice I don't recommend a D supplement to those who live far
enough away from equatorial regions, I recommend a phototherapy
device instead because it makes all of the equally important sunshine-provided
nutrients, and it resembles the sun's sunshine from the body's perspective.
D3, and "Vegan D3" UPDATED
For a long time
there have been two types of supplemental D; D2 and D3. This could
be a whole article in itself, but let it suffice to say that D3
is the effective form of supplemental D. The reason D2 is marketed
is because it is the vegan form of supplemental D (D3 is made from
the lanolin from sheep wool), but like a lot of products that are
marketed to the health conscious and vegan crowds, D2 doesn't "do
it"; D2 doesn't raise your D level to where it needs to be
in order to be effective in helping to prevent degenerative disease.
You'd have to consume an impossible amount of D2 to get your blood
level above 50 ng/ml. D2 (ergocalciferol) has lower bioactivity,
poorer stability, and shorter duration of action. So when this information
became better known, there was a demand for a vegan D3, and industry
was only too happy to oblige. The problem is, there has been some
doubt as to whether there can be a truly vegan D3 supplement. D3
products that claim to be vegan are made from mushrooms or lichen,
which would define them as vegan, but when non-vegan D3 is "fed"
to the mushrooms or lichen, the end product may be vegan, but it
is not a 100% vegan product start-to-finish. So "vegan D3"
can be made using a non-vegan source. One company that manufactures
a "vegan D3" supplement even admits this in their product
description, but is of the opinion that their product is "vegan".
While I applaud their honesty, I don't agree with their opinion.
(Note: This company has since removed the text that explained exactly
how their product is made.) Another company who claims their D3
product is vegan states that no animal products are used in the
manufacture of their product, which would make it a truly vegan
D3 product. Their product has the UK Vegan Society's stamp of approval.
While this in and of itself doesn't guarantee that their product
is vegan, there has been some research that suggests that this company
is able to make a truly vegan D3. More on this issue in this video.
line: If you experience "vitamin D winter" (that time
of year when the sun is not strong enough to produce D in your skin)
where your 25(OH)D level would get too low, and you can't purchase
a $1,200 light array box that would also make the other equally
important sun-provided nutrients in your skin, and you can't temporarily
relocate to where the sun is stronger, you have a few choices: take
D3, or allow your body to become insufficient/deficient in D for
a period of time. This is a personal choice. If you're a staunch
vegan (which is a good thing), and you decide, based on D2 information
you've read, that you want to try D2 to raise your 25(OH)D to a
healthy level, after two months of use, do another 25-hydroxy-vitamin-D
test to see if it's working... don't assume that it is. If you trust
the information that says that the Vitashine
D3 is truly vegan, then certainly use that as your D3 supplement.
But I advise follow-up testing after two months of using any D3
product A) to make sure it's working, and B) to make sure you're
if you're wondering why some noted health educators and vitamin
D experts are saying that D2 is just as effective as D3 at raising
blood D levels, it may be because we humans have the ability to
have our judgment colored by our personal biases and philosophies.
And nowhere is there a more fiercely defended philosophy than veganism
(and rightly so, to a certain extent). You should know that I won't
go to zoos, aquariums, or circuses, I don't like the idea of a "pet"
industry, and I don't wear anything made from animals, but I also
don't allow my personal beliefs and values to affect my research.
But I've found that some health educators and researchers do, which
is why they give a thumbs up to things like D2 and soy products.
make the mistake of assuming that as long as the sun is "out"
and the sky is clear, that they can sun themselves if they can tolerate
the cold temps, and they will get some D and the other sun-provided
nutrients. Not so. We're designed to live close to the equator where
the "winter" sun will still be strong enough to make D
in skin. If the temps are getting cold... if you are having to wear
more layers to maintain a tropical environment next to your skin
temp-wise... the sun will be at an angle where it will be shining
through too much atmosphere for its rays to be strong enough to
make meaningful amounts of D in your skin, even at high noon. This
time of year is known as your "vitamin D winter" where
you either have to temporarily relocate, or get your D from another
source like a phototherapy device (or a D3 supplement, which is
If you live
outside the yellow area, you will not get enough meaningful sunshine
all year around, and will need to supplement with a phototherapy
device (best), or D drops (second best). Notice, I didn't say "you
may not". We evolved in that yellow area (right in the middle),
and were never meant to live elsewhere (oops!).
Overdosing by doctors
If you have your 25-hydroxy-vitamin
D test done by a health care professional, and the results are very low,
he or she may prescribe 50,000 IUs once a week. This has been shown to
be a potentially problematic dose, and is ill-advised in my opinion; it
would be better to simply adhere to the dosage recommendations of 5,000-6,000
IUs a day and re-test in two months.
Enough D from Fortified
When it was discovered
that rickets softening of the bones was caused by a severe
vitamin D deficiency, it was mandated that sufficient vitamin D be added
to processed foods to prevent this disease among our population. While
those amounts that are added to processed foods will prevent rickets,
it is now obvious that these amounts are inadequate to help prevent the
more chronic, degenerative diseases that vitamin D insufficiency contributes
to. And if you're like the many people who are discovering that processed
foods are not a healthy part of the human diet, and are avoiding them
mostly or totally, you need to be vigilant regarding the nutrients that
you are now no longer getting from those processed foods, and that do
not come from the healthier foods you are now eating, like vitamins D
and B12. D is supposed to come from sunshine, and a healthy body
is supposed to manufacture all the B12 it requires. These are the two
"problematic" nutrients. (I address the B12 issue in my book.)
And by-the-way, rickets is making a comeback! And you can thank computers
and their social networks, and Game Boys, and Play Stations for this (kids
are spending less time outdoors than ever). The fix? Government is recommending
that the 400 IU amount added to fortified foods be raised to 600 IUs which
may help to eliminate rickets once again but obviously does little to
lower the risks for all the other diseases where insufficient D is a contributing
bother with sunbathing if I can just take a supplement?"
The sun provides
something that can't be put into a pill. HINT: High-end swimming
pool filters have a light bulb that exposes the water to UV rays
as the water runs through the filter; this disinfects the water
(photo below). The sun's UV rays do the same job when they shine
through your skin and bathe your blood and lymph fluids as they
circulate. Obviously UV-blocking sunscreens prevent this, and also
prevent the body's manufacturing of D (but if you need to wear sunscreen
to prevent burning, look into this
one; it's probably the safest one made. Or if you don't want
a store-bought sunscreen, you can try coconut oil or a coconut oil
and shea butter mixture).
sun doesn't just make D in your skin, it also makes D sulfate
and cholesterol sulfate, which aren't in a vitamin D supplement.
And it appears that the health benefits experienced by the immune
system from sunshine may have more to do with D sulfate than with
vitamin D as previously thought (so what does that say about taking
a D supplement). And our sun also makes beta-endorphins in
our skin (a "feel good" hormone), and it makes nitric
oxide too (blood pressure regulator amongst other beneficial things).
This is obviously why I'm an advocate of a phototherapy device (see
above) over a D supplement for those who experience
"vitamin D winters" and want the best health their DNA
UV POOL FILTER,
USED IN CONJUNCTION
WITH A MECHANICAL POOL FILTER
Vitamin D and K2 issue
I know so far about K2. If you're getting enough K1, your body can
convert it to K2. There are two thoughts on this: 1) the MK-7 form
of K2 can be made in the gut (if you refrain from irritants like
garlic, ginger, spicy foods, tea, pepper, alcohol, etc.) but this
form appears to contribute minimally to overall vitamin K status,
and 2) the conversion of K1 into the MK-4 form of K2 (the one that
does the heavy lifting) occurs in the testes, pancreas, and arterial
walls and is independent of the gut (but this doesn't mean it's
okay to eat things like garlic et al because they do
interfere with B12 production).
too much overt fats high in PUFAs could also deplete antioxidants,
including the K vitamins (Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acids).
So far I find
no data that says if you take D3 to maintain your 25(OH)D level,
you must take K2 with it. Yes, one of K's roles is to transfer calcium
from blood and deposit it into bone, and yes, D is needed for bone
health, and that's where the association was assumed, but correlation
is not the same as causation. And by-the-way, the bone health
mechanism is not the same as the enamel health mechanism (because
enamel gets nothing directly from the blood supply). So K2 is needed
by the body, but D has other co-factors (companion nutrients) that
are more problematic, like magnesium, zinc, and boron. And even
sufficient iodine plays a role, and many people have an iodine insufficiency.
And since these minerals and elements are "essential",
meaning the body can't make them and they must come
from the diet, I'd look to these first. And this is why I augment
the foods I eat with barley
grass juice powder to compensate for their minerally sub-par
nature due to the way they're grown (but even a "multi"
type of supplement can't resolve an iodine insufficiency).
And could there
be a downside to taking something like K2 if you don't need it?
It's not like taking in additional minerals, which the body doesn't
make. If you take in more minerals than you require, the body simply
stores what it wants and excretes the rest in sweat, urine, breath,
and feces, which it (hopefully) does even if you don't take a mineral
supplement. But if you take something that is normally produced
by the body, like K2, and the body was making enough of it, one
of two things will happen: 1) there can be a down-regulation effect,
and then if you stop taking it, there will be a deficit for a period
of time until the body (hopefully) up-regulates its own production,
and 2) no down-regulation occurs (because we were never designed
to take in K2 by mouth because we're not carnivores) and now you've
got too much. This happens with cholesterol. This info brought to
you by the department of "all things considered".
BTW, this group
of vitamins got the "K" designation not because K was
the next available letter, but because of the German reference to
it of Koagulationsvitamin because of its contribution to
blood clotting (which occurs even when only K1 is supplied).
If health restoration is the goal, there are many other issues to
explore and deal with first before turning to supplementary K2,
such as "sunshine doesn't just make D in your skin, so a D
supplement will leave you low in other essential
sunshine-provided nutrients", and "are you making sure
to get enough of D's companion nutrients?"
Tidbit About Fructose and D
block the conversion of Vitamin D into the active form that the
body uses. So obviously High Fructose Corn Syrup is to be avoided
like the plague, but other high yield sources should be avoided
too. This does not include fruit even though fruit
contains natural glucose and fructose, because the amounts are tiny,
but orange juice can be a concentrated source of fructose. So, while
eating oranges is fine, drinking the concentrated juice of many
oranges (more than you'd eat at a meal) is not fine, and can affect
the conversion of some of the D that sunshine or a phototherapy
device makes into the form of D your body uses (and OJ has a whole
lotta sugar without the fiber of the orange to control the uptake
of that sugar into the bloodstream which can
cause insulin spikes).
benefits of vitamin D with reducing severe complications and death
from viral infections (Want less risk
of issues from a viral infection? Make sure your D level is in the
tried everything and can't raise my vitamin D level!
Just as a proper
vitamin D level requires companion nutrients, it also requires that
certain organs be working properly, namely the liver, parathyroid
gland, and kidneys. So to have a proper D level, your organs and
glands need to be functioning well too. This is why, when dealing
with ill-health, a whole-body approach is best. And sufficient nutrition
plays a huge role here. And even if you're eating the best diet
(the one all humans are biologically adapted to eat), you still
may not be getting enough of all the nutrients those above organs
require for proper functioning. This is why I stress the importance
of the three "problematic" nutrients, along with all the
others. And don't assume that you'll get enough of all of them simply
by eating the foods of the diet we're best suited to. Here's
show that vegans have more fractures than meat eaters (this has to do with D, so read on)
Yes, there are
such studies that show this. But their conclusions are wrong. They
assume it's because the vegan diet (and raw vegan diet) doesn't
provide enough calcium and protein. But what these studies fail
to take into consideration is that the foods that vegans eat are
not fortified with anything, and their meat-eating counterparts
eat the typical Western diet that contains processed foods fortified
with D (and B12 and iodine), so they can have less fractures than
those vegans who live in regions that don't get strong enough sunshine
during the winter months (which is who they looked at in these studies).
Enough D is needed for strong bones. This is why vegan educators
need to step up their game and teach about the importance of maintaining
a healthy D level (and B12 and iodine) when people stop eating fortified
foods. And BTW, it's laughable that vegans and raw vegans don't
get enough protein. By those study's standards, sure, vegans get
less protein than those eating the typical Western diet, but those
people are getting too much protein! So it's a flawed
comparison. And "not enough calcium"? It's possible if
the vegan is sedentary. Huh? Yep. Less physical activity means less
food eaten which means less calcium consumed, especially considering
agri-industry growers only add back to their soils potassium and
phosphorous but not any calcium, so sedentary vegans may not be
getting enough calcium, and with no physical activity,
their bones will be at risk of being weak from that insufficiency,
especially with not enough D. (Wow! This sidebar was very enlightening,
Get your vitamin D
from sunshine when you can, and when you can't, keep your levels in the
This doctor sums it
vitamin D is so cheap and so clearly reduces all-cause mortality,
I can say this with great certainty: Vitamin D represents the single
most cost-effective medical intervention in the United States."
Dr. Greg Plotnikoff, Medical Director, Penny George Institute
for Health and Healing, Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis.
It is understandable
that a doctor would see vitamin D as a "medical intervention".
I see adequate D as simply a necessary part of normal human existence,
and if we as a population would recognize adequate D, B12, and all the
other nutrients as an important part of a healthy lifestyle (and would
pay equal attention to all the other basics of health), the need
for medical facilities would be primarily for emergency, poison, burn,
and trauma care because the incidence of chronic, degenerative disease
would reduce dramatically. And this starts by dramatically reducing
the risk factors for you. Invest now for your future health!
Along with two
other "problematic" nutrients, vitamin D is one of the things
I test my clients for, and it's a mandatory test in my practice. You
can use this vitamin D DIY "guide" to self-diagnose and
self-correct, and if you wish to utilize my services for a more comprehensive
check of the other problematic nutrients, and for going over your
vitamin D situation, along with some insightful counseling, see Health101.org/counseling
(articles I've written in the past have not included this paragraph,
but today there is simply way too much misinformation that is causing
people to travel down a path that will ultimately not allow them to
be successful with their health restoration and maintenance goals,
and only allow them to survive and not thrive, thus my motivation
for mentioning my counseling practice).
P.S. I did think it
ironic that the first video sports a photo of a woman drinking a glass
of milk in the opening and closing graphics, because dairy products are
a poor source for adequate vitamin D and they are a rocket-fuel for the
very cancers that this research is hoping to prevent. More on milk's role
in cancer here.
* Watch Bill Moyers Journal
"Profits over People" where former insurance insider Wendell
Potter speaks candidly about health care reform. A must-see video!
Symptoms of Overdose
from a D supplement (you can't make too much D from sunshine, but you can get a sunburn)
vitamin D overdose symptoms can include headache, nausea, fatigue, and/or
red areas on the face. What follows is a more comprehensive list. If you
experience any of these symptoms after starting vitamin D3 supplementation,
follow the recommendations above.
Early symptoms of
overdose (emerge within days or weeks of starting vitamin D supplementation)
Mild sensitivity in
teeth to hot or cold substances
Wheezing when breathing
Over-sensitivity to light in the evening
Constipation (especially in children or adolescents) *
Dryness of mouth
Headache (continuing) *
Increase in frequency of urination, especially at night, or in amount
Irregular heartbeat *
Red swollen splotches on the face
Loss of appetite
Muscle pain *
Nausea or vomiting (especially in children or adolescents)
Unusual tiredness or weakness
* Remember, this could be due to insufficient magnesium as mentioned above.
Late symptoms of overdose
(emerge within weeks or months of starting supplementation)
Calcium deposits (hard lumps) in tissues outside of the bone
Increased sensitivity of eyes to light or irritation of eyes
Itching of skin
Loss of appetite
Loss of sex drive
Mood or mental changes
Nausea or vomiting
Protein in the urine
Redness or discharge of the eye, eyelid, or lining of the eyelid
Late symptoms of severe
overdose (emerge after months or years of starting supplementation)
High blood pressure
Stomach pain (severe)