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“D” Whole Truth...and Nothing But

An Important Vitamin

Vitamin D is one of the vitamins critical for good overall health. For many years it has been well known for its vital role in keeping bones healthy and strong. Scientific research has shown that Vitamin D serves as a key component in numerous functions throughout your body on a daily basis. Vitamin D is a required factor in ensuring your muscles, heart, lungs, nerves, brain and immune system can function properly. Additionally, Vitamin D plays a key role in helping your body fight off degenerative diseases.

You can get the vitamin D you need in three ways: through your skin, from your diet, and from supplements.

The most natural way to get vitamin D is by exposing your bare skin to direct sunlight (ultraviolet B rays). This can happen very quickly, particularly in the summer. However, getting adequate sunlight, but not too much sun exposure (which can lead to skin aging and skin cancer) is tricky. Most people don’t know that you don’t need to burn or even tan to get vitamin D. A good rule of thumb is to expose a good portion of your skin to direct sunlight for half the time it takes for your skin to begin to burn. How much vitamin D you produce from the sunlight depends on the time of day, the intensity of the sunlight, where you live and the colour of your skin. The more skin you expose, the more vitamin D is produced. In the summer, when sunlight is most intense, it is tricky to find the right balance of exposure. The rest of the year, here in Canada, it is virtually impossible to get enough sunlight for your body to produce meaningful amounts of Vitamin D. For example, in Southern Ontario (where we live) there are only 2-4 weeks each year where it is realistic to obtain the Vitamin D you need strictly from exposure to sunlight. In other places such as Vancouver and Montreal, the window is even smaller. This is why most people try to get their vitamin D from other sources.

Your body gets most of the vitamins and minerals it needs from the foods that you eat. However, there are only a few foods that naturally contain any vitamin D.  They include egg yolks, saltwater fish (such as mackerel, salmon, sardines, herring), and liver. Some other foods, like milk and breakfast cereals, often have added vitamin D. Most of these foods have small amounts, so it’s almost impossible to get what your body needs just from food.

The vast majority of people choose to supplement the Vitamin D their bodies make from sunshine with Vitamin D supplements. These supplements are available in many forms (liquids, tablets, capsules, powders and sprays) and are relatively inexpensive.  Since it doesn’t matter what form you take, or what time of the day you take it, there is virtually no reason for anyone, at any age to not supplement with Vitamin D

Vitamin D is not one vitamin, but actually a family of similar vitamins.  Two forms are important in humans: vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Vitamin D2 is synthesized by plants, whereas Vitamin D3 is the form synthesized in your (and other animal) skin in the presence of ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Both Vitamin D2 and Vitamin D3 are actually biologically inactive forms of Vitamin D. Before they can become active in your body, they must be converted to active forms in your liver and kidneys.

Vitamin D supplements may contain vitamins D2, D3 or a combination of both. Vitamin D2 is derived primarily from mushrooms, bacteria or yeast. It was first produced in the 1920’s by exposing foods to ultraviolet light. This process was then patented, and licensed to pharmaceutical companies. Vitamin D3 is usually made from one of 2 sources - sheep (the fat from their wool) and fish livers.

Most supplements use D3 as it is less expensive than D2. However, the vast majority of scientific studies on Vitamin D safety and efficacy have been performed on D2. Additionally, D2 is acceptable for vegetarians and vegans.

There is a great deal of debate regarding just how much Vitamin D people should supplement with. Currently Health Canada recommends up to 1000 IU. In 2009, the US government, working with the Canadian Government, undertook a review of Vitamin D and Calcium requirements. They came up with requirements for each age range, but used only bone health as their desired outcome. Here are their conclusions:

Age group

Minimum

Maximum

Infants 0-6 months

400 IU  (10 mcg)

1000 IU (25 mcg)

Infants 7-12 months

400 IU  (10 mcg) 

1500 IU (38 mcg)

Children 1-3 years

600 IU (15 mcg)

2500 IU (63 mcg)

Children 4-8 years

600 IU (15 mcg)

3000 IU (75 mcg)

Children and Adults 9-70 years

600 IU (15 mcg)

4000 IU (100 mcg)

Adults > 70 years

800 IU (20 mcg)

4000 IU (100 mcg)

Pregnancy & Lactation

600 IU (15 mcg)

4000 IU (100 mcg)

 

If you are interested in obtaining the other health benefits of Vitamin D, you should look to doses higher than these. I use 5000IU Vegan Vitamin D (D2) drops daily. This is 1.25 times the maximum dose recommended in the chart above.

Vitamin D is a very simple, easy and effective way to improve your health in multiple ways. Help protect your immune system, nervous system, cardiovascular system and skeletal system with one supplement.  I choose vegan drops for my family. My whole family takes it. With simple pure ingredients (Vitamin D, extra virgin olive oil and safflower oil) no GMOs, no taste, and being so easy to dose (1000IU per drop) there is no reason not to take it every day.

Joel Thuna, MH, is a master herbalist with over 30 years of experience. Dr. Claude Gallant holds a PhD in Microbiology.