Vitamin D is vastly becoming the #1 important vitamin for your body. It is the only vitamin that is produced by your body. That is because it is actually a hormone. The multitude of health benefits it offers is rapidly growing weekly as new research is being done.
It has long since been called the sunshine vitamin since the body naturally produces it when the skin is exposed to UVB rays from the sun. However, depending on where you live in the world you might not get enough sun exposure.
It is also very hard to get enough vitamin D from food sources. With the exception of oily fish, Vitamin D does not naturally occur in food. Milk and other dairy products, orange juice and breakfast cereals have been fortified with vitamin D but in small amounts. It really is impossible to get adequate amounts through your diet. It would take:
5 cans of tuna, 10 eggs, 10 glasses of milk, or up to 17 cups of breakfast cereal to get 1000 IU of vitamin D.
The only practical solution is taking a vitamin supplement.
Vitamin D Deficiency
As it turns out it is not only rickets, as originally thought, was a danger from a vitamin D deficiency.
Following is an excerpt from ProHealth.com article titled: ‘D-ficient? Health Risks You Need To Know About‘ by Karen Lee Richards September 29th,2010
In more recent years scientists have discovered that a vitamin D deficiency may contribute to an even wider variety of health problems. Michael F. Holick, PhD, MD, in a 2006 report in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, stated, “Many lines of research support the concept that inadequate vitamin D may be involved in the pathogenesis and/or progression of several disorders, including cancer, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, neuromuscular diseases, osteoarthritis, diabetes, and other autoimmune diseases.”(1)
Who is at Risk for Vitamin D Deficiency?
As it turns out, almost everyone is at risk of having a vitamin D deficiency. A 2009 epidemiological study found that an astounding 77% of Americans have insufficient levels of vitamin D. The numbers are even higher in Europe and higher still in the Middle East, where women especially tend to stay covered when outdoors.(2)
Although virtually everyone has some risk, following are specific groups who have an especially high risk for vitamin D deficiency:
• Adults over 50 – As we age, the skin cannot synthesize vitamin D as efficiently and the kidney is less able to convert it to its active hormone form.
• People with limited sun exposure – If you’re homebound, wear clothing that covers most of your skin, or live in northern latitudes that get little sunlight part of the year, it’s unlikely that you get adequate amounts of vitamin D.
• People with dark skin – The pigment melanin, which results in darker skin, also reduces the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D from exposure to sunlight.
• People who have fat mal-absorption problems – Vitamin D is fat soluble and therefore requires some dietary fat in the gut for absorption. Some medical conditions associated with fat mal-absorption include some forms of liver disease, cystic fibrosis and Crohn’s disease.
• Tobacco smokers – Tobacco smoking is associated with significantly reduced vitamin D levels.
• People who are obese – Greater amounts of subcutaneous fat sequester more of the vitamin D and alter its release into the circulation.
• People who have had gastric bypass surgery – Part of the upper small intestine where vitamin D is absorbed is bypassed, which may lead to inadequate levels.
Vitamin D’s Role in Chronic Pain, Fibromyalgia and ME/CFS
An important vitamin D connection that has only recently begun to be recognized and emphasized is the link between low vitamin D and chronic pain. Although a number of experts have recommended that vitamin D deficiency be considered in the differential diagnosis of patients with musculoskeletal pain, fibromyalgia, and ME/CFS, this is still not known – or ignored – by many healthcare professionals.(4)
Following are just a few examples of research examining the role of vitamin D in a variety of pain conditions:
Fibromyalgia: A 2009 study looked at 139 patients with fibromyalgia and/or non-specific musculoskeletal pain. Three-quarters of them were deficient in vitamin D. Following vitamin D supplementation, clinical improvements were observed in 90% of the patients.(5)
Neuropathy (Nerve Pain/Damage): A 2008 study examined 51 patients with diabetic neuropathy. After supplementing with approximately 2000 IU of vitamin D each day for three months, there was a 50% decrease in pain scores.(6)
Migraines: Case reports have shown that two months of supplementation with vitamin D combined with calcium dramatically reduced both the frequency and intensity of migraines in post- and pre-menopausal women.(7-8)
Chronic Back Pain: In 2003 researchers studied 360 patients with chronic back pain. After three months of vitamin D supplementation, symptom improvement was seen in 95% of all subjects and in 100% of those who were severely deficient in vitamin D at the start of the study.(9)
Vitamin D Impacts a Wide Range of Illnesses
In addition to chronic pain conditions, a deficiency in vitamin D has been linked to many other illnesses, such as:
Autoimmune Diseases and Cancer: Researchers have recently found that insufficient vitamin D may be a significant risk factor for a wide range of diseases – particularly autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease, and cancers such as leukemia and colorectal cancer.
One of the most surprising things the researchers discovered was that the vitamin D receptors are particularly concentrated around the genes associated with autoimmune diseases and certain types of cancer.
Lead researcher, Sreeram Ramagopalan ……….went on to stress, “Considerations of vitamin D supplementation as a preventative measure for these diseases are strongly warranted.”
Bone Disease (Osteopenia, Osteoporosis and Osteomalacia): It is widely known that a combination of Vitamin D and calcium supplements can help decrease postmenopausal bone loss and prevent osteoporosis. A major function of vitamin D is to maintain serum calcium concentrations. When vitamin D levels are low, calcium concentrations are inadequate, resulting in bone disease.
Colds, Flu and Other Respiratory Tract Infections: Because of reduced sunshine in fall and winter months, a study was undertaken to determine if low vitamin D levels correlated with the incidence of acute viral respiratory tract infections. The researchers found that individuals …….… were three times more likely to become ill….(12)
Asthma: In reviewing 60 years of research relating to asthma and vitamin D, scientists at Creighton University in Nebraska found that vitamin D deficiency has been associated with epidemiologic patterns observed in the asthma epidemic. They observed that insufficient vitamin D was associated with:
• Increased airway hyper-responsiveness
• Lower pulmonary functions
• Worse asthma control
• Possibly steroid resistance.
Type 2 Diabetes: According to a new study, vitamin D deficiency is highly prevalent in patients with Type 2 diabetes and may be associated with poor blood sugar control. The study, which looked at 124 patients with Type 2 diabetes, found that 91% had a vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency..…(14)
Rheumatic Conditions (Rheumatoid Arthritis, Osteoporosis, Osteoarthritis, etc.): Two new studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency is common in patients with a range of rheumatic diseases.
• A UK study showed that 58% of individuals with a rheumatic condition had low vitamin D levels,
• An Italian study reported that 85% of rheumatic patients not taking vitamin D supplements had insufficient levels – as did 60% of those who were taking recommended doses of vitamin D.
Cardiovascular Disease: ……..New Zealand researchers found that people who had suffered heart attacks had significantly lower vitamin D levels than controls who had no heart attacks. (16)
A few years later, UK researchers conducted an exhaustive worldwide study that demonstrated a consistent relationship between sunlight exposure and heart disease. The further north people lived, the more frequently they experienced heart attacks, suggesting that vitamin D, which is activated by sunlight, reduces the risk of heart disease.(17)
• Vitamin D insufficiency doubled the risk of death from heart failure.
• Vitamin D deficiency increased the odds of dying from heart failure by 3.4 times.
Multiple Sclerosis: ……. It is thought that the white matter of the brain affected by MS contains vitamin D receptors, and that inadequate vitamin D in the early years of life may predispose these cells to an early death.(19)
A new 2010 retrospective study also found that lower vitamin D levels are associated with a substantially increased relapse rate in pediatric-onset multiple sclerosis.(20)
What Kind of Vitamin D Should You Take?
The best supplement to take is vitamin D3 because it is the form that also is produced naturally in the skin from sun exposure.
* Karen Lee Richards is Lead Expert specializing in Fibromyalgia and ME/CFS for HealthCentral’s ChronicPainConnection (www.chronicpainconnection.com). Karen is co-founder of the National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA) and was Executive Editor of Fibromyalgia AWARE magazine for four years.
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DonnaNote: This information has not been evaluated by the FDA. It is general and is not intended to prevent, diagnose, treat or cure any illness, condition, or disease. It is very important that you make no change in your healthcare plan or health support regimen without researching and discussing it in collaboration with your professional healthcare team.