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‘Sunshine vitamin’ foundational for good health

Not all vitamins come just from food that we eat; some our body manufactures. Vitamin D is one of those, while there are dietary sources for this essential nutrient, like cod and portobello mushrooms. Youll also find milk and cereals fortified with Vitamin D.

Our bodies use the sun to make it. Through a process triggered by sunlight on skin, our body produces Vitamin D from cholesterol, eventually turning Vitamin D into a hormone.

I consider Vitamin D foundational for optimal health, just like good gut bacteria and omega 3s. Theres no doubt that it is an incredible asset to your health in so many ways.

Cells all over our body use this hormone to communicate with each other, sending messages that regulate and control genes. It helps our body fight infections and maintain healthy muscle action. Its used in brain development and for healthy lungs. We also need Vitamin D for our digestive system to absorb minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc.

A lack of Vitamin D has been linked to conditions that cause soft, thin, and brittle bones. Deficiencies are also associated with diabetes, high blood pressure, seasonal depression, Alzheimers, fibromyalgia, and autoimmune diseases like Crohns. Vitamin D inhibits cancer by reducing cellular growth and helping cells move into an anti-cancer state.

On the other hand, too much Vitamin D can be toxic. You could end up having too much calcium in your blood and feel week, nauseous or lack appetite. Though uncommon, you could develop kidney or heart problems. When our body is making Vitamin D there is a feedback loop that lowers production as we get enough so we cant get too much from the sun. But you can over do it from supplements.

I take a moderate dose every day and take more for a short time when I start feeling sick in order to support my immune system. Im pretty busy as a pharmacist, so even on sunny days I often find myself inside.

Odds are if you live here in Sandpoint year round where its cloudy, you could be deficient. Covering up with clothes or sunscreen in order to lower your risk of skin cancer will affect your D levels. So will getting older or being over weight.

Determining if you are getting enough Vitamin D can be done through a blood test. Opinions vary on how much you need and this changes by age. So definitely work with a physician when trying to raise levels.

I recently saw a report that said 600 to 800 IUs was recommended. You need this much to prevent rickets, yes, but I consider it low. For optimal health, others in functional medicine are saying we need more than we think. This means 2,000 to 4,000 IUs a day of Vitamin D3 if we consider 100 to 160 nmol/L or 40 to 65 ng/ml an optimal level.

Get enough, but dont take too much. And dont forget about adding Vitamin K.

Please, stop in with any questions.

Scott Porter is a functional medicine pharmacist at Sandpoint Super Drug.

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