Vitamin D's Many Benefits & Vitamin D Deficiency Symptoms

Dr. Craige Golding
September 6, 2022

More and more studies show the many ways that Vitamin D, also known as calciferol, impacts our health. As a result, Vitamin D has seen an increasing amount of attention.

Vitamin D Deficiency

One of the main causes of Vitamin D deficiency is the use of sunscreen. People spending less time outdoors is also a contributing factor.

Additionally, Vitamin D absorption tends to decrease as we age. Darker skin and living at higher latitudes also increases the risk.

People at Risk of Vitamin D Deficiency

People with a higher risk of low vitamin D levels include:

  • House or office-bound people
  • Those with renal disease
  • Persistent musculoskeletal pain
  • Osteoporotic people
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Celiac disease
  • People who are on anticonvulsants.

How to Know if You Have Vitamin D Deficiency

The best measure of vitamin D levels is 25 hydroxy vitamin D. To be specific, deficiency is less than 20 ng/ml while normal levels are above 32 ng/ml.

In contrast, optimal levels of Vitamin D are in the range of 60 ng/ml. Unfortunately, the old daily recommended intake of 400 IU/day is not sufficient to prevent fractures in the elderly.

Doses of above 1000 IU (especially if older than 50) prevent deficiency. Fortunately, up to 2000IU can be safely taken. For good measure, remember that you can check and monitor your levels.

Functions of Vitamin D

Vitamin D is important for:

  • calcium absorption
  • immunity
  • avoidance of autoimmune reactions
  • maintenance of weight and blood pressure
  • prevention of arterial calcifications
  • prevention of cancer.

Michael Holick of Boston University says “sensible sun exposure (usually 5-10 minutes of exposure of the arms and legs or the hands, arms, and face, 2 or 3 times per week) and increased dietary and supplemental vitamin D intakes are reasonable approaches to guarantee vitamin D sufficiency.”

Robert Heaney of Creighton University claims that it would require 2600 international units of oral vitamin D3 to ensure that 97.5% of older women achieve optimal levels.

Vitamin D Deficiency Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of deficiency in adults might include:

Sunscreen Use and Vitamin D Absorption

The UV-B ray-blocking properties of sunscreen can lead to Vitamin D deficiency
The use of too much sunscreen can block the production of UV-B rays and lead to Vitamin D deficiency.

Sunscreen lotions block the vitamin D producing UV-B rays. Furthermore, it allows the deeper penetrating UV-A rays to reach the skin. In the 1970s, campaigns ran to promote the use of sunscreen blockers.

Incidentally, mortality rates due to malignant melanoma increased. One possible reason is the skin needs UV-B sun rays. This helps the production of the vitamin naturally. However, sunscreen lotions applied to the face will protect from premature wrinkling.

Safer ways to protect the skin from sun damage and skin cancer include topical or oral antioxidant supplements.

Natural Ways to Protect the Skin from Damage

Topical Vitamin C and E combined with green tea extract, ferulic acid or other antioxidants may be an option to prevent skin ageing and skin cancer.

Health Benefits of Vitamin D

Higher levels are associated with a lower risk of dying from many causes over a 7 year period. This was especially noteworthy with regards to cardiovascular disease.

“This prospective cohort study demonstrates for the first time, to our knowledge, that low 25- hydroxyvitamin D and 1.25-dihydroxy vitamin D levels are associated with increased risk in all-cause mortality compared with patients with higher vitamin D levels”

Breast Cancer Protection

The conclusion of this pooled analysis the link between the vitamin and the prevention of breast cancer was that the intake of 2000 IU/d of Vitamin D3. In addition to that, very moderate exposure to sunlight could raise serum 25(OH)D to 52 ng/ml. This level is associated with reduction by 50% in the incidence of breast cancer, according to observational studies.

For women already diagnosed with breast cancer, it may slow the progression of the disease. Researchers at the Imperial College of London found out in 2006 that the levels of the vitamin were significantly higher in the women with early-stage disease. This was in comparison to women whose breast cancer had progressed to a more advanced stage.

Meanwhile, researchers at the University of California reported in 2007 that about 250,000 cancers of the colon can be prevented each year with vitamin D supplementation.

Similarly, about 350 000 breast cancer cases can be prevented using the same method. They recommended doses of 2000 IU/d for a meaningful reduction in breast cancer.

Multiple Sclerosis Links

Children later diagnosed with multiple sclerosis had far lower levels than other youngsters. Canadian researchers reported this in studies showing more links between low levels of the vitamin and disease. As an example, other studies show that adults who live in northern latitudes, who get less sun exposure, may have a higher risk of multiple sclerosis.

They also support a growing body of studies that link low levels of the vitamin with diseases. This includes breast and colon cancer, heart disease, diabetes and tuberculosis.

Evidence suggests that the vitamin helps lower blood pressure, reduces inflammation and boosts the immune system. Not only that, it also acts as an immune modulator. In multiple sclerosis, lines of evidence show that immune cells are not properly regulated.

One of the things that influence that balance is vitamin D. Interestingly, Canadians have one of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis in the world. For example, for 6 months of the year, the sun in Canada is not intense enough to manufacture the vitamin in the skin.

Cardiovascular Challenges

Furthermore, a new study found there is an increased incidence of peripheral arterial disease in individuals who have low levels of the vitamin. After examining the data, the study authors found that peripheral arterial disease are more prevalent in subjects with the lowest levels of the vitamin. In contrast, subjects with the highest levels saw lower prevalence.

For each 10 ng/ml decrease, the risk for peripheral arterial disease increased by 29%.

Anti-ageing effects

New evidence suggests that high levels of the vitamin have a strong correlation with increased leukocyte telomere length. This is important for one’s health and longevity. Leukocytes (white blood cells) are the backbone of the body’s immune system.

Like all cells, leukocytes contain our chromosomes, which consist of DNA and associated proteins. Telomeres are tiny terminal segments at each end of the DNA molecule. They serve a vital role by protecting DNA from damage during cell division.

Telomeres also prevent the ends of DNA molecules from joining to each other to form loops. Likewise, they prevent the latter from joining end-to-end with the DNA in other chromosomes. Both are disastrous scenarios.

By extending the length of the DNA strands with their genetically blank material, they give the enzymes enough space to work with. This is done by replicating the genetically useful material all the way to its end. As a consequence, every last gene is preserved.

Were it not for this protective action, some of that material would be lost in each replication, resulting in deterioration of cell function, and of one’s health.

Telomere length decreases in cells as we age, ultimately resulting in ageing of the cell. Eventually, no further cell division happens because of this. A ribonucleoprotein telomerase functions to extend the length of telomeres. They are only found in appreciable amounts in sex cells, stem cells and UNFORTUNATELY cancer cells.

Extending telomere length has huge potential as an antiaging tool in preserving the cellular and DNA health

Vitamin D and Pregnancy

Pre-eclampsia (proteinuria, high blood pressure and odema in pregnancy) can cause huge health problems for both mother and fetus.

A study carried out at the University of Pittsburgh found that the vitamin’s deficiency early in gestation is associated with a five-fold increase risk of developing pre-eclampsia.

Vitamin D and Diabetes

Recent research demonstrated that those who receive high amounts of the vitamin during childhood have a lower risk of developing type 1 diabetes later on in life, the greater the amount of the vitamin, the greater the benefit.

Type 1 diabetes comes about when our own immune system destroys insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas. This can happen starting early in childhood.

Vitamin D and Depression

The brain contains receptors of the vitamin. It plays a very important role in maintaining and achieving a healthy mind. It is also known that low levels of the vitamin have been implicated to increase depression in the elderly.

This information is useful because it’s possible that depression can be treated in the future with the vitamin rather than with dangerous psychotropic medications.

Vitamin D – a new pain killer?

Women who get the right amount of vitamin D are less likely to suffer from chronic widespread pain, according to a new study in the annals of rheumatic diseases. Vitamin D is a hormone that is intimately involved with bone and immune system health.

In addition to promoting normal bone development, there is evidence that getting enough vitamin D helps protect against multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, and certain cancers. Studies have shown that many people suffering from chronic pain have low vitamin D levels and that supplementing with vitamin D can relieve certain types of pain.

Can I Get Vitamin D from Food?

Egg yolks, salmon and soy are great examples of foods that are rich in Vitamin D
Natural sources of vitamin D

There are indeed food sources of vitamin D that you can incorporate into your life.

Food Sources of Vitamin D

  • Egg yolks
  • Fortified foods
  • Oils from fish such as salmon and herring
  • Mushrooms such as portabella and morel (if exposed to UV light)
  • Whole milk
  • Soy milk
  • Yoghurt

Sunshine Mushroom Soup

Mushrooms are other examples of Vitamin D rich foods.
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • 1kg sliced portabella mushrooms (exposed to UV light)
  • 1 diced onion
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of all-purpose flour
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 4 cups chicken broth or three stock cubes
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • salt and black pepper to
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves for garnish, or to taste

Melt the butter in a large pot of medium heat and cook the mushrooms with a pinch of salt until juicy. Reduce heat to low and stir often until the mushrooms are golden brown. Add the onion to the mix and cook until soft and translucent.

Stir the flour into the mix and cook for two minutes. Add the thyme and garlic cloves. Pour the chicken stock and water into the pot, bring to a simmer and cook for 1 hour. Remove the thyme.

Put the soup into a blender in small batches. Blend until you have a smooth and thick consistency

Return the soup to the pot and stir in the cream

Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and serve in bowls.

Do I really need to supplement?

Personally, I am finding in my practice that more than 70% of my clients are deficient in the sunlight vitamin and require supplementation.

For most people supplementing though with 1000-2000 IU is the way to go. Suggested is to check your levels.

I believe that this critical vitamin can no longer be overlooked or underestimated!

Your Wellbeing Vitamin D3

Your Wellbeing offers several Vitamin D supplements including ones that contain Vitamin D3 -- one of the several forms of Vitamin D. Vitamin D can help boost the immune system while providing cellular support, especially to breast and prostate tissue.

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