YOU Magazine - December 2010 - Vitamin D: The Key to Good Health What Deficiencies Could Mean to You By Dr. Linda Mundorff, MPH, MSN, ND, RN, CNC, CTN
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Vitamin D: The Key to Good Health
What Deficiencies Could Mean to You
By Dr. Linda Mundorff, MPH, MSN, ND, RN, CNC, CTN

Vitamin D: The Key to Good Health - What Deficiencies Could Mean to You - By Dr. Linda Mundorff, MPH, MSN, ND, RN, CNC, CTN

The news is out: Vitamin D is a hormone (not a vitamin) that targets more than 2,000 genes in the body. That's 10 percent of the total number of genes in the human body! But that is not all. Deficiencies have been implicated in at least 17 different cancer types, cardiovascular disease, ankylosing spondylitis, birth defects, and more.

Research into the health benefits of vitamin D started in England's early 1600s when one of the earliest causes of Rickets – the softening of bone resulting in deformity and fractures – was discovered. By the 1900s, the condition had reached epidemic proportions with at least 80 percent of all children showing signs of the disease. It was not until much later when it was discovered that fortifying milk with concentrations of vitamin D could actually prevent all forms of Rickets.

Close to one hundred years later, further research found additional medicinal benefits of vitamin D in the prevention or treatment of serious diseases. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic found that deficiencies were linked to autoimmune conditions (such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes). Nevertheless, vitamin D does not just play a role in specific diseases and disorders – it affects the body in a variety of ways. Individuals suffering from vitamin D deficiency have a more difficult time with pain management, and deficiencies have been linked to cancer, Parkinson's disease, depression, and other health issues. One other study found a relationship between vitamin D deficiency and increases in serum blood levels of Alkaline Phosphatase, a group of enzymes important for liver and bone health.

Vitamin D Deficiency Today
Twenty years ago, vitamin D deficiency was rare because even with minimal sun exposure, the body was able to produce sufficient amounts of the substance. Today however, vitamin D levels among most people are lower due to increased use of sunscreen and the manufacturing of specialized clothing designed to block the sun's UVB rays. Moreover, certain regions of the country carry an increased risk of deficiency due to limited sun exposure. For example, in the city of Boston, adequate sun exposure is limited to March through October.

Categorically, certain groups are more susceptible to deficiencies even with adequate sun exposure. For example, people who have darker skin tones have a greater concentration of the pigment melanin in their skin, and this acts as a natural sunscreen.

The elderly are also at greater risk of vitamin D deficiency, and both biology and lifestyle play a part. As the body ages, it has a harder time synthesizing vitamin D, and the average elderly person also has a low calcium diet – and calcium is vital to the absorption of vitamin D. Babies may also need vitamin D supplementation. Breast milk contains inadequate amounts of the vitamin, infants on a strict breast milk regimen must supplement.

Vitamin D deficiencies can also occur when people have absorption difficulties, such as with malabsorption syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease (IBS). Other medical problems like hypercalcemia, hyperphosphatemia, and kidney or liver disease for example, can pose problems related to vitamin D absorption.

Treating Vitamin D Deficiency
Deficiencies are treated with both dietary changes and supplementation. The most nutrient-dense sources are found in fatty fish such as sardines, salmon, and eel, or in eggs and fortified milk. Over-the-counter vitamin D may be necessary in cases where dietary changes are insufficient or when a physician prescribes additional supplementation.

Conflicting data exists regarding the proper dosing of vitamin D supplementation, especially when mitigated by calcium needs. Since its initial recommended daily allowance (RDA) of 400 IU (10 ug) back in 1941, practitioners have attempted to use much higher doses. Today, however, the recommended daily dose hovers around 600 IU with increasing doses dependent upon ability to metabolize vitamin D. The American Cancer Society recommends people stay below 2000 IU daily.

Vitamin D should not be taken with certain medications, as it can interfere with proper absorption of magnesium containing antacids, corticosteroids, Thiazide diuretics, and cardiac glycosides for example. Lastly, those individuals who are allergic to ergocalciferol or any derivative of the vitamin should refrain from supplementation.

Remember, vitamin D is important, not just for developing and maintaining strong bones, but also for combating diseases, and pain management. Speak to your health care provider about supplementing your diet with vitamin D.

Linda Mundorff is not a medical doctor. She is a Retired RN/Board Certified Traditional Naturopath and the author of Take Control: A Guide to Holistic Living; Medical Terminology: A Student Workbook; and Memories of My Sister: Dealing with Sudden Death. Contact her at,

Total Lending Concepts NMLS #1043976 (Corporate) #2348348 (KS Branch) 6900 College Blvd., Suite 800, Overland Park, KS, 66211 (KS Office) 219 E Broadway, Columbia, MO. 65203 (MO Office)

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