• Dr. Caroline Ricker

The Dish on D: top 3 things to know about the sunshine vitamin

So everyone is talking about Vitamin D. Most people have heard that “you need more Vitamin D”…but what does that mean? Any Vitamin D? How do I get Vitamin D? Why do I need more? Does everyone need more Vitamin D??

These are all really valid questions and frankly, many of them aren’t being answered by the recent push to get people into more vitamin D. In fact, nearly 50% of the population has insufficient levels of vitamin D!

First, let’s talk about what Vitamin D does for us. Vitamin D will help your body in many ways. Instead of a vitamin, vitamin D is more like a hormone and is a precursor to many bodily processes. It is critical in the formation and preservation of bone, and plays a much larger role in osteoporosis than most people imagine. Deficiency in vitamin D has also been linked to heart disease, certain types of cancers, decreased immunity, depression, aches and pains, fatigue and more.

If vitamin D is so important, than why are so many people deficient in it? There are many reasons for this problem. The first is sun exposure. Exposure to the sun’s UV rays is the main way that our body can synthesize vitamin D3. These days however, people are so frightened of exposure to the sun and its possible cancer connections that we slather ourselves in sunscreen. The problem is that a 30 protective factor sunscreen eliminates 95% of the suns vitamin D producing rays. To compound this issue, people are spending more and more time inside watching screens than they do outdoors getting exposure to sun. Another reason that vitamin D is deficient is so many people may also be following popular low-fat diets. Vitamin D is what is known as a fat soluble vitamin, meaning it needs to be absorbed with fat. If we are severely limiting our dietary fat intake, there is less chance of absorption occurring.

One other often unexplored reason for vitamin D deficiency is poor liver function. Vitamin D must be processed in the liver in order for it to be useful to all of the cells. If the liver is bogged down by toxins, as so many peoples are these days, there will be much less ability for this process to occur. These two things go so hand in hand that some studies show that vitamin D deficiency can also cause fatty liver disease.

But I go to my doctor’s office regularly and they say that I’m fine, how could I be deficient? Herein lies a huge can of worms. And we’re about to open it. The real problem is the difference between deficiency and insufficiency. You see, if your blood tests say you are deficient, then you are under 20ng. This is also the level under which severe conditions like rickets occur. So let’s say you’re at 21ng. Then your bloodwork comes back normal. But you’re THIS close to rickets!!! That’s too close. Most functional research shows that levels for optimal human body function should be more like 65-70ng. This means that anything between 65ng and 20ng is what we would call insufficient. Meaning it might not immediately cause disease, but it will cause your body to function at less than optimal, and the more time that you spend functioning less than optimal, the more likely you are to have disease popping up.

Let’s follow that up by talking about dosage. While everyone has different needs, most functional physicians agree that the RDA (recommended daily allowance) of 400IU is not nearly enough to create optimal health. A single session sitting in the sun with arms and legs exposed for just 30 minutes could generate up to 10,000-20,000IU. If that’s true, it’s hard to believe our bodies would make that much if we really only needed 400IU. The truth is that the 400IU recommendation is based on avoiding deficiency and is what keeps us from becoming deficient, but will not keep us from being insufficient. Yet again, it really does nothing to keep us in optimal health, and this applies to many of the vitamins and minerals we need. As each person is different, I highly recommend that you work with a skilled practitioner to assess your personal needs for vitamin D dosage.

As we touched on earlier, the main reasons that people may end up insufficient, or even deficient, are due to a lack of sun exposure and not eating foods that naturally contain vitamin D, which we’ll talk about later. But what if I am doing these things and I’m still not feeling right? You may be experiencing poor liver function or poor gut health. As discussed above, if the body is unable to process the vitamin D correctly then even though we may be taking it in, it is not getting into our cells and therefore not being utilized. Finding a way to get your gut and liver health right will really increase your chances of getting in as much vitamin D as possible.

Whew! What a load of info! Let’s take stock.

Top 3 Things To Know About Vitamin D

1. Vitamin D is one of the most crucial substances that the body requires. It is a necessity to carry out immune function, bone health and much more!

2. There is a huge difference between deficiency and insufficiency. Insufficiency is then the gap between optimal health and the road to illness. Knowing this means we can supplement for optimal health and head off problems before they start

3. Having a proper functioning body is crucial to being able to properly use vitamins and minerals. If you have been taking supplements but your levels are still low, seek out a functional doctor who can help you find out which systems might be bogging you down!

I hope that you learned a lot here! There is so much to know about vitamins and so many resources available that it’s hard to know where to start. IF you’ve still got questions, please give us a shout and we’ll get you some answers!! I also want to note that while sunlight is the easiest and most efficient way to get vitamin D, there are also supplements and food sources. I recommend talking to your functional doctor about the best supplement for you, but below are the best sources from food.

Food Sources of Vitamin D3

  • Oily fish and fish oil

  • Liver

  • Egg yolk

  • Grass Fed Butter

So let's all get out and enjoy some sunshine and health!

Dr. Caroline Ricker has been passionately helping people avoid unnecessary medications and surgeries since 2009. She combines a very logical functional medicine approach to digestive disorders and more using a more alternative holistic approach, utilizing standard lab tests and in-office evaluations as well as nutrition, acupuncture and homeopathy.

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