By Carie Connell

Significance to Overall Health

No longer linked only to bones as popularly believed, Vitamin D supports a wealth of body functions.  Resiliency of the immune system, muscle strength, heart health, and regulation of blood pressure and brain activity are among the vital functions affected by Vitamin D.  This essential vitamin is also connected to regulation of genes, skin health, proper digestion, and secretion of insulin by pancreas.  Emerging evidence links proper amounts of Vitamin D to lowering risk of cancer, including breast cancer, as it helps to reduce the reproduction of cancer cells.  Deficiency of Vitamin D can negatively impact all 36 organs to a certain degree.

A 2009 study revealed the strong correlation between newborn infants with acute respiratory infections and the mother’s level of Vitamin D.  Safeguarding a plentiful Vitamin D reserve is especially important for expectant mothers as it directly affects the health of the baby both before and after birth.  Similarly, adequate Vitamin D levels for pregnant women also demonstrate 50% fewer premature births than those with D deficiencies.

Vitamin D levels are directly related to your body’s susceptibility to contracting flu, colds, and other infections in your respiratory tract.  Protecting Vitamin D levels for infants and children throughout all seasons of the year will ensure that seasons of high risk will not find their bodies vulnerable to infection.  Widespread vaccinations against the flu have unfortunately not been proven to protect you and your children against the flu, yet are advertised to be a cure-all.  In fact, these popular vaccines contain dangerous chemical additives that can have as yet unexplored negative side effects for both child and adult bodies.

Sources of Vitamin D

Balanced and regular exposure of your skin to sunlight is the best source of Vitamin D for your body.  Your body naturally produces D3 (the correct form of the vitamin) in the presence of the sun.  Optimal levels of Vitamin D can be achieved and maintained through 10-15 minutes of exposing about 40% of your skin to sun each day.  Though this is not always possible depending on geography and weather, it is the most natural way to attain balanced levels.

It is important to emphasize optimal sun exposure, not excessive sun exposure.  The type of UV rays (UV-B) is extremely important, as only this type can produce Vitamin D.  Your body has natural inhibitors to regulate Vitamin D obtained from sun and naturally prevent excess.  Sunburn is never advocated!  Well timed, short levels of regular exposure in proper rays are part of overall health and Vitamin D regulation.

12580808_sFrom September to mid-April the majority of the United States does not receive adequate amounts of the proper UV-B rays necessary to replenish your Vitamin D levels.  In order to combat this, taking a high-quality Vitamin D supplement is another option.  The most important thing to remember here is that you need Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), the most natural form of Vitamin D.  Be careful to avoid the very popular and highly synthetic Vitamin D2.  Regular use of a safe tanning bed that uses only UV-B rays is another possible way to maintain adequate Vitamin D levels.  Another alternative is a recently developed spray, such as Sunshine Mist Vitamin D Spray by Mercola Advanced Nutrition, which delivers the proper Vitamin D3 in a form your body can use quickly and effectively.

Recommended Intake

The general guidelines recommended by nutrionally-oriented physicians are given according to daily amounts for each age:

Below 5 years old        35 units per pound per day

Ages 5-10                      2500 units

Pregnant women         5000 units

Women and children tend to be more lacking in adequate Vitamin D levels than other groups, and mothers who are breastfeeding demand special consideration as they need at least between 6000 and 6400 units a day. (As a side note, a unit means an “International Unit (IU),” which translates to 0.025 milligrams of Vitamin D3.)  It is incredibly important to understand that daily amounts are highly individual – you must test your blood levels to safely and accurately determine if your levels are in alignment and what amount of Vitamin D you need each day.

Daily recommended amount for young children has increased in past years as educators and health experts gain new insight to how pervasive its effects are. Vitamin D is particularly important for young children because their early health builds the foundation for development and healthy body functions throughout life span.  Though vital to many healthy body functions, Vitamin D can be toxic if levels become dangerously high (another reason accurate testing is so important!).

Importance of Testing

The importance of testing cannot be overstated: it is the only way to know your personal levels.  Before taking any oral supplements or pursuing other measures to alter your levels, you need to know exactly what your Vitamin D level is and how much it needs to be changed to reach optimal level.  The optimal level of Vitamin D to aim for is 50-65 ng/ml.  Testing is important – the correct test is even more important.  The best test to ask for is the 25(OH)D, also known as 25-hydroxyvitamin D.  Take care to ensure that your nutionally-oriented physician orders and performs the correct test.  DiaSorin is the most ideal company to use for reading your test.  An improper or inflated reading of the Vitamin D levels can cause you to misinterpret how much your body needs.  You will typically need to keep from eating for four hours before the test, but your physician should give you more specific information to prepare for testing.