Teresa Fuller MD, PhD
Vitamin D is critical to health
Winter season is an important time to think about your (and your child's) vitamin D levels because vitamin D deficiency is especially prevalent during this time of the year. Vitamin D is a crucial nutrient for your health at every age. In fact, the illnesses associated with vitamin D deficiency are numerous. Consider the following recent studies:
- Vitamin D deficiency is associated with greater cancer risk.
- Vitamin D has been shown to be an effective treatment for psoriasis.
- Vitamin D supplementation reduces incidence of autoimmune diseases, specifically multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes (when taken during infancy).
- Vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased incidence and severity of asthma and wheezing disorders.
- Vitamin D enhances the immune response and provides protection against upper respiratory infections, influenza, and middle ear infections.
- Vitamin D deficiency affects the cardiovascular system. Deficiency of vitamin D increases the risk for heart attack, hypertension, peripheral vascular disease, metabolic syndrome, coronary artery disease, and heart failure.
Vitamin D deficiency is very common
Given the importance of Vitamin D to the function of so many different bodily systems, we need to ensure that our levels are within a healthy range. The recommended blood level for vitamin D is 30 to 80, but rarely do I find a patient in the healthy range.
Here are 3 ways to optimize your vitamin D level:
Outdoor Time: First of all, vitamin D is a misnomer. It’s not a vitamin, but actually a hormone that is produced in your own body. Vitamin D production requires sunlight. So inadequate exposure to the sun, which occurs frequently in our indoor-prone, sedentary society, is a big factor in vitamin D deficiency. The best way to improve your vitamin D level is to make it yourself. Just ten to fifteen minutes of sunlight exposure can generate 10,000 to 20,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D. (People with darker skin may require five to ten times that length of time for the same resulting levels.) Make sure that you avoid excessive sun intensity resulting in sunburn.
Supplements: You can start vitamin D supplementation from infancy. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that breastfed babies be given vitamin D supplementation. The best form of Vitamin D supplementation is vitamin D3. Concerning amounts of vitamin D: Infants, especially breast-fed infants, should take 400 IU of vitamin D3 per day. Children over age one may take 400 to 1,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day. Adults should take 2,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day. These are general guidelines; you should see your physician for your specific recommendations.
Vitamin D fortified foods: You probably think of milk for vitamin D fortification. But milk isn’t the choice I would recommend. Many people have cow’s milk allergies or intolerances. In addition, cow’s milk is a risk factor for a number of illnesses, including autoimmune diseases, cancer, asthma and allergies. Moreover, today’s cow’s milk produced on factory dairy farms may be downright toxic. Good food sources of vitamin D are limited, but they include fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, or sardines. Cod liver oil is a good source. Vitamin D can also be obtained from fortified foods, such as cereals and some brands of orange juice.
So, make sure you check with your doctor to find out your vitamin D status with a simple blood test. It is a critical factor in your overall health.
Scheimberg, Irene and Perry, Leslie. Does Low Vitamin D Have a Role in Pediatric Morbidity and Mortality? An Observational Study of Vitamin D in a Cohort of 52 Postmortem Examinations. Pediatric and Developmental Pathology: November/December 2014, Vol. 17, No. 6, pp. 455-464.
Vanga, S., Good, M., Howard, P., Vacek, J. Role of Vitamin D in Cardiovascular Health. Am J Cardiol 2010;106:798–805
Searing, D., Leung, D. Vitamin D in Atopic Dermatitis, Asthma and Allergic Diseases
Immunol Allergy Clin N Am 30 (2010) 397–409
Catherine F. Casey, Md; David C. Slawson, Md; And Lindsey R. Neal, Md Vitamin D Supplementation in Infants,Children, and AdolescentsAm Fam Physician. 2010;81(6):745-748, 750
Michael F. Holick, Vitamin D: Extraskeletal Health Endocrinol Metab Clin N Am 39 (2010) 381–400
Teresa Fuller MD, PhD, is a holistic pediatrician at National Integrated Health Associates, NIHA, serving Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia. She is double board-certified in pediatrics and integrative, holistic medicine with a doctorate in physiology. Dr. Fuller is in a unique position to impact the health of children by identifying and correcting the underlying contributors of imbalance such as deficiencies, toxicities, infection and stresses, in order to restore your child’s health. Her focus is prevention of chronic illness and obesity in children and young adults, ADHD, asthma and allergies.