Vitamin D - The Keystone of Good Health?
Is it possible, as some people claim, that supplementing Vitamin D is the single most important thing you can do to protect your health? There are studies in circulation claiming that a billion people (or up to 80% of the population, depending on which study you believe) have a Vitamin D deficiency. We have a sense that this is true on some level, because as we age, our ability to produce the vitamin through sun exposure decreases. But what are the implications of that deficiency, really?
We already know that Vitamin D is an important precursor to testosterone production in our system as well as playing a part in a whole host of other functions, like cardiovascular health, anti-inflammatory responses, autoimmune conditions, bone health, and even depression, but it is especially crucial for the health of your gut. And gut health, as we are just starting to understand, is the foundation for virtually every aspect of a long and healthy life. Here’s how it works: Vitamin D3 activates the stem cells in your gut, which keep the lining healthy and thick – which in turn ensures that your body can absorb all the nutrients it needs to function properly. When the gut lining is degraded by lack of Vitamin D3 (and various other culprits working in concert) it shrinks, and this in effect causes malnutrition: when the lining is too small or damaged, you cannot absorb enough of the nutrients you need, no matter how much you eat. Put another way, without appropriate levels of Vitamin D, our gut basically “leaks” critical nutrients through the intestinal lining. This kicks off a number of concerning health issues:
Higher C-reactive protein levels in the blood, which is a key marker for inflammation
Greater resistance to insulin and higher blood sugar overall, both conditions that lead to diabetes
Increased risks of certain cancers, especially breast, prostate, colon, ovarian, and melanoma
Increased risk of cardiovascular death, heart attack and heart failure
Certain autoimmune conditions
Osteoporosis and bone fractures
Think about that for a minute: we spend so much time and money trying to flood our bodies with all the food and supplements it needs to thrive, but if we lack appropriate levels of just this one seemingly simple vitamin, we could be setting ourselves up for a lifetime of hospital visits and prescription drugs despite all our efforts.
Luckily, the fix is easy. I’m a big fan of Dr. William Davis, of “Wheat Belly” fame – he considers correcting Vitamin D deficiency to be one of the most powerful strategies to restoring health out there - it’s easy, inexpensive, and extremely difficult to overdo, as toxicity is rare. But not impossible! One study does show a possible link between too much Vitamin D and atrial fibrillation, so as with everything, do your research and listen to your body.
It is generally agreed that most people can take (and may need) 4,000 – 8,000 I.U. of Vitamin D per day to heal the intestinal lining; it’s worth monitoring your blood level with your doctor. The best way to supplement is with D3 or cholecalciferol, the form that naturally occurs in the human body and is widely available, not D2 or ergocalciferol. I take just 2,000 I.U. per day and my levels have been steadily increasing since I began supplementing.
I can’t say that I’ve noticed a huge change in the way I feel since I’ve gotten my Vitamin D closer to an optimum level (at least not that I can attribute specifically to D3), but my blood panels indicate that the higher Vitamin D levels seem to correspond to lower CRP and blood sugar, and my TSH has risen a little bit as well. So my body is definitely functioning better. And if guarding against so many of the conditions that plague us as we age is as easy as supplementing Vitamin D3, I am all for it!
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