Daily Dose of D ~ Rachel

*I am not a doctor and you should not consider this to be medical advice from me. If you’re interested in vitamin D for your own health, please talk to your doctor*

A couple of summers ago, I was having major gastrointestinal problems and pelvic pain. Well, my doctors decided to run every blood test under the sun…which only led to more blood tests because let’s face it, when you test for a bunch of stuff, something is bound to show up. Amongst other levels, my vitamin D level was low so my doctor told me to take a supplement. In the end, after being poked and prodded (hello sigmoidoscopy!) it turned out that I have IBS made worse by acute colitis.  My vitamin D levels had nothing to do with my stomach…the doctor thought I might have had bone issues with the pelvic pain which is why she tested for it. Anyways, between my own experience and all of the hoopla on vitamin D in the news in the past year, I figured I better investigate.

Did you know vitamin D isn’t a vitamin? It’s a hormone! Vitamins can’t be made by your body but hormones can…hence the distinction. Vitamin D is the only source of calcitrol, the most potent steroid hormone in the body and is important for bone health, of course, but also has anti-inflammatory properties and boosts the immune system. There is a lot of research out there to suggest that vitamin D might go a long way in reducing the risk of breast, prostate and other cancers as well as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and depression (and other conditions). I think the verdict is still out on all of that but I also think it’s something to explore with your doctors, because guess what? A very large portion of the population is deficient in vitamin D.

The best source of vitamin D is the sun. Our body produces vitamin D in response to the sun’s UV radiation…up to 20,000 IUs for only 20 minutes in the sun without sunblock! That is some efficient vitamin D making! Since people don’t spend as much time outdoors as they used to…and since when they do, they are hopefully covered in sunblock…they don’t get their vitamin D from the sun. You can get vitamin D from some foods (e.g., oily fish, fortified cereals/milk/yogurt, egg yolks, dried shitake mushrooms) but nowhere near enough to make any kind of difference.  That leaves us with supplements.

There are two main types of vitamin D:

(1) D2 (ergocalciferol) is made by fungi, plants and invertebrates in response to UV radiation. It is not made by humans, is not biologically active and is not as effective as D3. Check your multivitamins and vitamin D pills if you’ve got them. If the vitamin D is ergocalciferol, I would consider getting rid of it. I think it’s probably rare to find D2 in supplements these days but you never know.

(2) D3 (cholecalciferol) is the active form of vitamin D and is much more effective in our bodies. The recommended dose is somewhere between 200 and 600 IUs/day but there are a lot of people advocating for people to take at least 1000-2000IUs/day. It doesn’t appear that you’ll overdose on vitamin D since our body makes so much of it when we’re in the sun, unprotected, but I wouldn’t start taking a high dose without talking to your doctor first.

There is so much more I could ramble on about with regards to vitamin D. Instead, if you’re interested, you can check out this article on the Huffington Post website. I don’t know who the doctor is but everything he wrote was reasonable and matched up with a lot of other sources I read.

I’ve got an appointment next week with my doctor and will be requesting some blood work (cholesterol, glucose, triglycerides, vitamin D levels). I’ll keep you all posted. I probably should’ve done this before I lost almost 20lbs but oh well. I’m also taking a vitamin D supplement…2000 IUs/day. We’ll see if the doc wants me to decrease or increase that. My guess is that I am probably still vitamin D deficient and she’ll want me to leave it as is or increase it.

Remember…a little bit of sun is a good thing. If you are going to get more than a little bit of sun, please protect yourself. This PSA brought to you by a budding cancer epidemiologist.

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  • Barbara A  On February 24, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    Don’t forget that while we need sun exposure for Vitamin D, there are also supplements such as Pomegranate Extract that can help boost your skin’s natural defenses against sun damage. : )


  • By Rachel by the Numbers ~ Rachel « Losing it! on March 9, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    […] vitamin D level was insufficient at 19.1 (as suspected)  so my doctor prescribed 50,000 IUs per week for 6-8 weeks…we’ll test again in a […]

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