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What is vitamin D
Vitamin D is a steroid hormone. Every tissue in our bodies need vitamin D. It is needed for overall health including bone and muscle health, heart health, immunity, metabolism, brain development, cell communication, and more.
Vitamin D proves helpful in disease prevention and treatment
Studies have show that adequate vitamin D levels can cut our cancer risk by as much as 60%. Adequate vitamin D levels have also shown promise in the prevention and treatment of a number of disease conditions including: eye and bowel diseases, chronic inflammation diseases, immune dysfunction, diabetes, heart attack, stroke, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), chronic inflammation such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Studies have also shown vitamin D is helpful in reducing HIV replication and in alleviating symptoms of depression. Deficiency in pregnancy has been linked to childhood asthma, allergies, dental cavities, diabetes and more.
We just don’t get enough
Here in the rainy Pacific North West, we don’t get enough vitamin D from sun exposure in the Fall through the Spring. But we’re not the only ones. Modern people the world over, even in equatorial regions are not getting enough vitamin D. Always being fully covered in clothes, spending the majority of our time indoors, skin cancer fears and sunscreen use, all play in to our collective vitamin D deficiency.
How to get what we need
We can get vitamin D from a number of sources including safe,sensible sun exposure, vitamin D3 supplementation, and animal foods such as fatty fish like salmon and tuna, fish liver oil and eggs. Some health experts even recommend using safe, UVB tanning beds (with electronic ballast). We should try to reach a daily vitamin D dose, from all sources combined of between 5000-6000 IU.
Take care with the sun
When exposing our skin to the sun, we never want to overdue it and we never want to burn. It is interesting however, that our ancestors, although spending most of their time out of doors in the sun, were not all suffering from melanoma. In fact, it seems the more time we spend indoors, the higher the levels of cancer rise. Clearly something other than exposure to the sun has changed to create the levels of skin cancer we are seeing today.
When supplementing with vitamin D, we should also balance the supplementation with vitamin K2 and magnesium. Symptoms of vitamin D overdose are the very same as symptoms of vitamin K2 deficiency as the two work together. Vitamin K2 moves calcium where it needs to go (bones and teeth)and removes it from where it is not needed (arteries and soft tissue).
Test for vitamin D levels
Without testing, it is impossible to know what our total vitamin D levels from all of these sources are . We can ask our doctors to test our vitamin D levels with a 25(OH)D (25-hydroxyvitaminD) test.
Supporting bone health is more than just eating dairy products or taking a calcium supplement. In fact, calcium supplements, unless properly balanced with other vitamins and minerals can cause calcification where we don’t want it.
Whole Foods Diet to the Rescue!
Below is a list of vitamins and minerals that will help build strong bones and prevent osteoporosis.
Vitamin D3 helps the body absorb calcium. The best source of vitamin D3 is appropriate sunlight exposure. In areas further away from the equator, which experience cold winters, a vitamin D3 supplement might be necessary.
Calcium is best if it comes from food as it is better absorbed and utilized. Some good sources of calcium are: raw milk cheese from grass-fed cows, leafy greens, carob, sesame seeds, molasses, tahini, almonds, almond butter, canned salmon (with the bones), sardines and dried figs.
Vitamin K2 directs calcium to the skeleton, moving calcium into bones and teeth preventing it from being deposited where we don’t want it (organs, joints, arteries), and removes calcium from arteries and soft tissues. Vitamin K protects blood vessels from calcifying and building up in coronary arteries. Some good sources of vitamin K2 are: leafy greens, lacto-fermented foods (fermented vegetables, natto), eggs and butter from pasture-fed animals, vitamin K2 supplements. A deficiency of vitamin K2 can produce vitamin D supplement toxicity.
Magnesium and calcium should be in a ratio of 1:1. Some good sources of magnesium are: raw cacao, chlorophyll rich foods, seaweed, leafy greens, spinach, chard, pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds. Magnesium can also be absorbed in an Epsom salt bath.
Phosphorus- some good sources of phosphorus are: pumpkin seeds, salmon, brazil nuts, lean beef and lentils.
Silica- some good sources of silica are: leeks, green beans, garbanzo beans, strawberries, cucumber, mango, celery, asparagus and rhubarb.
Trace Minerals-some good sources of trace minerals are: unrefined Himalayan crystal salt and sea salt.
Vitamin C-some good sources of vitamin C are: peppers, brassicas (cabbage family plants), guava, papaya, kiwi,orange and strawberries.
Vitamin A- some good sources of vitamin A are: sweet potato, with skin, pumpkin, carrot juice, carrots, squash, butternut and Swiss chard.
Vitamin E- some good sources of vitamin E are: dark leafy greens, spinach, almonds, sunflower seeds and avocados.
Decrease mineral binding phytic acid in grains and legumes. If including grains and legumes in the diet, make sure they are soaked or fermented and properly prepared for proper digestion.
Weight-bearing and strength training exercise help to keep bones strong as we age.
Avoid processed foods which are devoid of many vitamins and minerals necessary for strong bones and teeth. Processed foods may fulfill our caloric needs but often leave us overfed and undernourished because of their lack of nutrients.