Vitamin D – The Master Hormone
Apr 14, 2011 10:59AM
By Deepti Sadhwani, M.D.
Although it is called “vitamin” D, it is not a really a vitamin, It is a master hormone that controls the actions of other hormones in the body. It is best known for bone health, but vitamin D also plays a big part in our cardiovascular health, emotional health and immune functions.
Research is now showing the importance of maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency has been shown to be a major factor in the development of over a dozen varieties of cancer, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, depression, chronic pain, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, muscle wasting, birth defects, periodontal disease, and more.
A study from Oxford University has shown that vitamin D deficiency is being linked to autoimmune diseases and cancer. The study may show why vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor for illnesses such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and even multiple sclerosis.
Just how vitamin D affects these diseases is still unknown, but it is thought that vitamin D binds to certain receptors on the human gene. In the Oxford study, the researchers mapped the sites on the genome where the vitamin D was binding. It turned out that it was in the same area that affects a multitude of diseases, leading scientists to think that the diseases might be influenced by vitamin D.
Vitamin D has a well established track record in maintaining calcium levels in the body. It was a proven fact that vitamin D was necessary for strong bones and instrumental in fighting rickets. Vitamin D is found in certain foods, such as fish, cheese, egg yolks and fortified milk and breakfast cereals.
How much vitamin D should we be taking? According to a U.S. Institute of Medicine guideline, we should consume between 200 and 600 international units of vitamin D each day. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 400 international units daily. Currently the recommended amount is being reviewed, and there are calls that it should be higher. Some experts are claiming 1000 to 2000 IU of vitamin D per day as a standard dosage.
The body produces its own supply of vitamin when exposed to the sunlight; however as we age the conversion factor begins to drop off. Here in central Florida we have ample sunlight throughout the year, but you only have to go as far north as Atlanta before the winter months begin to affect the amount of vitamin D produced by the body. In the winter time, those who live in the north should be using supplements to maintain their Vitamin D levels.
A 30 minute full exposure to sun will cause the body to produce approximately 10,000 IU of Vitamin D. If we are told to take between 200 and 600 IU of vitamin D a day, what are we doing to ourselves if we are in the sun for a half hour. Are we over medicating ourselves via the sunlight? There is a danger of consuming to much Vitamin D and causing toxicity. However, the dosage levels would have to be extremely high for an extended period of time. What doctors are seeing, for the most part, are patients who suffer from being hypersensitive to vitamin D. Experiments are taking place with subjects consuming as much as 50,000 IU a week with no ill effects. These large dosage levels are given in order to get the Vitamin D blood levels up to a normal range and then reduced.
Not everyone produces the same amount of vitamin D. There are several groups of people at risk for vitamin D deficiency, the elderly, dark-skinned individuals, obese individuals, and those who avoid the sun.
In order for Vitamin D to be used effectively by our body, there are several other vitamins and minerals that are needed: magnesium, zinc, vitamin K2, boron, and vitamin A. Magnesium is the most important of these co-factors. It is common for rising vitamin D levels to exacerbate an underlying magnesium deficiency. If one is having problems supplementing with vitamin D, a magnesium deficiency could be the reason why.
Vitamin D's influence on our overall health demands that it must be considered as a key component with anyone trying to achieve good health and wellness.
Deepti Sadhwani, M.D. is located at Quality Health Care in Sebastian. She specializes in fighting obesity, aging and helping people reduce and eliminate the need for medication. For more information call Dr. Sadhwani at 772-581-2373.