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Get Me Some Vitamin D

I went for a bunch of blood tests about a week ago. Again, nothing serious. Just a check up. The doctor’s office called this morning. Everything was normal except my Vitamin D levels. I was stunned. Well…maybe not.

Vitamin D comes from two main sources: Sun exposure and certain foods like milk and fish. Most days I am locked up like a veal in front of this computer or slathered with sunscreen so I’m not getting my recommended daily allowance of rays. Meanwhile, I don’t drink milk or eat fish. This means my body probably isn’t keeping my bones as strong as they should be. It also means I am compromising my health unnecessarily since, recently, researchers discovered that Vitamin D helps the immune system ward off disease — little sniffles as well as the big C. (Cancer to you and me.)

When our bodies don’t have enough Vitamin D, our T-cells — the body’s big guns when it comes to fighting infection — can’t react the way they should, according to a March 2010 study out of the University of Copenhagen. From the press release: “…when a T cell is exposed to a foreign pathogen, it extends a signaling device or ‘antenna’ known as a vitamin D receptor, with which it searches for vitamin D. This means that the T cell must have vitamin D or activation of the cell will cease. If the T cells cannot find enough vitamin D in the blood, they won’t even begin to mobilize.”

Other studies from this year separately link low levels of Vitamin D to skin cancer, increased body fat and low muscle strength, and heart- and stroke-related death.

The USDA’s 2005 Nutritional Guidelines suggest that women get about 1000IU of Vitamin D daily. (This is a LONG guide, but if you search ‘Vitamin D’ the chart showing the recommendation is the second instance of the term.) One cup of milk provides 38 percent of your daily needs. As I mentioned, I don’t drink milk. Strike one. And milk is really the best option for me since I flat out don’t eat fish.

I’m going to go to the drug store later on and get some Vitamin D supplements. I’m also going to call my dermatologist and ask him what he thinks about the risk/reward ratio when it comes to sunshine. I am so fair I glow. I’m not kidding. Add in the fact that, as a child, my skin took a beating, and I’m not sure it’s worth it to go out sunscreen-free to get my Vitamin D. But I’m also not sure store-bought supplements are enough. So while I’m figuring this all out I’m going to drink a glass of milk. My T-cells and bones, I’m sure, will thank me, but my poor family, who has to deal with my lactose intolerance, will not. (TMI, I know!)

4 Responses to “Get Me Some Vitamin D”

  1. Lori says:

    I also had blood work done for a routine check up and since I have hypothyroidism, to check my thyroid levels and I found out that I am lacking in vitamin D. My level was 24 and the goal should be >30. But I am also deficient in B12 and I have low iron stores. My GP wants me to take a daily iron tablet for 2 months and vitamin D 2000 units daily. I didn’t rush to the pharmacy like I might have several years ago. I want to find natural ways to increase my iron and vitamin D levels. I don’t eat much meat, but lots of leafy greens and since I work in an office all day, I am rarely in the sun, except for about an hour or two on the weekends. I do drink a splash of milk in my coffee every day, but that is really all the milk I consume.

    Let me know what you find out about supplements. Thanks!

  2. Matt says:

    The vitamin D in milk isn’t natural, it’s supplement. You are just as well off taking a pill. The best way to get Vitamin D is the natural way … a few minutes (10-15) of sunlight with no sunscreen. Our bodies are made to synthesize D that way … it’s really somewhat unclear how well the synthesis occurs when obtained via food or supplement sources. That’s really all it takes in the summer in most latitudes. Then in the off-season, supplement. For every 1000 IU of Vitamin D you take as supplement, you should see your blood level rise about 10 ng/ml but that’s a swag … also your blood level will take a few months to go up (or come down if you stop supplementing) – it’s the sort of thing that builds over time.

    Check out http://www.grassrootshealth.org for some more info, good luck!

  3. Matt says:

    Sorry, I was reading the first commenter’s post about drinking milk and eating fish and forgot that you don’t do either! I think sunlight is really your best route, and you should go and get your blood level checked … you can actually do it at home yourself with a mail-in test through that organization, or I think the Vitamin D Council.

    One caveat — so far the studies on D are not the controlled/double-blind scientific standard types. One is in progress, due to complete in 2014. Until then I believe supplementing in offseason and taking in as much unprotected sun as I can without burning is my best strategy.

  4. MarthaandMe says:

    My Dr recommends 4000 IUs a day and says the gov’t recommendations are behind the curve on this. I’ve been dosing the family with this all winter and we were the healthiest we’ve ever been this winter, so I think it made a big difference for us.

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