Vitamin D is a very important nutrient in the body that has multiple different actions. Most commonly, Vitamin D is known for its effect on bone development. Severe Vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteomalacia (softening of the bone) in adults, or rickets in children. Vitamin D plays many other roles in the body, some of which are often overlooked. Vitamin D is essential for immune function, liver detoxification, blood sugar regulation, osteoporosis prevention, dental cavity prevention, neurological health and mood regulation. With all these different functions, Vitamin D is a key hormone to consider optimizing in all patients. Naturopathic doctors can determine specific supplementation of Vitamin D based on current symptoms and lab testing/analysis to optimize Vitamin D status.
With winter upon us, Vitamin D levels are no longer being fulfilled by UVB rays from the sun. Our primary source of vitamin D in the summer months (May-September) comes from the sun’s UVB light. However, at our latitude in the winter (October-April) the sun sits at an angle that is not suitable for proper exposure of UVB light and conversion of vitamin D to its active form in the skin. As such, vitamin D deficiency is extremely common in the winter. Also, as we age our bodies ability to convert vitamin D from sunlight to its active form decreases which can lead to deficiencies year round.
Vitamin D has two different forms in the body, D2 and D3. Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is primarily converted in the skin from sunlight exposure and can also be obtained from animal sources. Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) is primarily obtained from plant sources. Vitamin D3/D2 are then converted in the liver to 25-hydroxyvitamin D and after converted in the kidney to the active form 1,25-hydroxyvitamin D. By testing Vitamin D levels in the blood naturopathic doctors can assess Vitamin D status and recommend appropriate supplementation.
With an accurate representation of Vitamin D levels in the body naturopathic doctors are able to determine appropriate supplementation in conjunction with a diet rich in Vitamin D sources. Vitamin D rich foods include fatty fish such as cod liver, egg yolks and mushrooms. However, the human diet rarely provides sufficient amounts of Vitamin D as the amount in these foods sources is not high enough to achieve optimal levels. In order to maintain optimal levels, naturopathic doctors recommend supplementation on top of diet.
When it comes to Vitamin D supplementation, naturopathic doctors consider the form of Vitamin D important. Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is better absorbed in the small intestine than Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol). Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin and so it is often suspended in an oil based liquid to promote absorption. A dose of vitamin D higher than 1,000IU per day should be monitored by your naturopathic doctor. Consider having your Vitamin D levels tested with a naturopathic doctor in order to determine the appropriate supplementation for you.