Understanding the function of vitamin D in the body and why you should be striving for an optimal level, not just “normal”.
Vitamin D has long been referred to as the sunshine vitamin, since it is made in the body when the skin is exposed to UV rays. Or as important for people at risk for osteoporosis and weak bones. However, vitamin D is related to many functions in the body and our functional and integrative medicine doctors are recommending more and more that you be at an optimal range, not just in the “normal range”.
Why do I need Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is critical for a healthy immune system by helping fight off viruses, bacteria, and growth of cancer cells. Additionally, it behaves like a hormone in the body and is essential for proper thyroid function, bone density and strength, and cardiovascular health.
You get vitamin D through exposure to sunlight and from foods including cod liver oil, certain fish (salmon, swordfish, tuna and sardines), beef liver, egg yolks, and foods fortified with vitamin D such as milk, juice and cereals.
However, much of the American population has been found to be low or insufficient in vitamin D suggesting that food and sunshine alone are not providing the optimal levels you need. Vitamin D deficiency and can lead to long-term illness including hypertension, type I diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and autoimmune conditions.
The Difference Between Sufficient and Optimal Vitamin D Levels
Vitamin D levels are measured via blood test, specifically measuring the concentration level of 25-hydroxy-vitamin D at nanograms per milliliter. This number (ng/mL) of 25(OH)D indicates your current level of vitamin D in your body on your lab report and is interpreted by your provider.
Past studies suggested that vitamin D levels of 30 ng/mL were sufficient, however, because of how vitamin D works in the body recommendations have increased to be between 40 and 60ng/mL, according to the Endocrine Society.
At Forum Health, our providers are constantly striving for optimal health and the prevention of disease. Both by addressing the root cause and by providing care personalized to you, which includes risk factors, personal history, sensitivities, and more.
When it comes to vitamin D, its function in the body, and hormone health, Dr. Montalvo of Forum Health Wheaton is one of our leading experts.
“I recommend everyone strive for a minimum vitamin D level of 50ng/mL,” said Dr. Jessica Montalvo, MD, IFMCP of Forum Health Wheaton. “This is the level where vitamin D starts to decrease the risk of developing autoimmune diseases. For people who already have autoimmune disease, I say strive for 60-80ng/mL.”
Certain conditions and individuals may be more at risk for vitamin D deficiency:
- Anorexia Nervosa
- Gastric Bypass Surgery
- Celiac Sprue
- People with Dark Skin
- Perimenopausal Women
- Skeletal Disorders
- Pregnant and Lactating Women
Testing for Vitamin D and Reaching Optimal Levels
Testing for vitamin D is typically included in a yearly blood panel, but can be tested more often and is recommended if you are supplementing to achieve an optimal range. Quick and convenient at-home vitamin D tests are a great option to track your progress in achieving your optimal vitamin D levels. Learn more.
With so many supplements available, it is important to get the proper dosage for you and in the most bioavailable form for maximum absorption. Supplement guidelines are made for the general population and dosing is most effective when advised by your healthcare provider.
A recent study has also shown that vitamin D3 is more effective at raising blood levels to an optimum range when compared to vitamin D2. Natural vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is four times more potent than the common synthetic vitamin D2 supplement.
Don’t Forget About Vitamin K2
When it comes to taking supplements, it’s important to know how they work and which ones work together. Vitamin D3 increases calcium in the blood, but if you can’t absorb it or send it where it needs to go, it can be absorbed into the arteries causing buildup or into soft tissue and may lead to heart disease.
When supplementing with vitamin D3, vitamin K2 is crucial because it acts as a transporter of calcium from the bloodstream to the rest of the body. Vitamin K2 + D3 enhances the utilization of calcium in the bloodstream, has a protective effect on the arteries, and ensures that the calcium goes to your bones where it is needed. Combining vitamins D3 and K2 supports the prevention of bone loss, promotes bone integrity, reduces the incidence of arterial calcification, and promotes optimal cardiovascular function.
At Forum Health, we offer a Vitamin D injection that contains 50,000 IU of Vitamin D3 that we suggest getting once per week to elevate energy levels, boost mood, and improve immune function. The Vitamin D injection is not to be combined with a daily Vitamin D supplement as too much Vitamin D can lead to toxicity and cause nausea, vomiting, weakness, frequent urination, and other serious conditions.
To learn more about your hormone health and how to optimize your wellbeing, schedule your next appointment with your Forum Health provider.