If I had read the above headline 35 years ago during my training I would have been surprised. For decades health professionals of all types have been taught that Vitamin D is primarily important for its role in bone health — and nothing more.
Severe Vitamin D deficiency in children can lead to a condition known as rickets, resulting in bones that are unable to be strong enough to do their job. In later life deficiency of Vitamin D can lead to another bone disorder, osteopenia or osteoporosis.
Vitamin D is important in bone development and maintenance. In order to accomplish its role in producing healthy bones a daily intake of 400-600 international units is generally recognized as appropriate.
Based on the above amount, for decades the primary recommendation for supplementing Vitamin D has been when there was concern about bone health, and then a supplement of 600 i.u. would often be prescribed.
Now, research is popping up frequently indicating that Vitamin D is actually much more versatile in the body and supplementation of higher amounts can be helpful for a wide range of disorders. Recommendations can range from 1,000 to over 10,000 i.u.
Research has shown that insufficient Vitamin D is linked to cancer in the breast, colon and prostate. Heart disease has been found to be associated with inadequate Vitamin D. Studies have shown that people with higher levels of Vitamin D have lower incidences of these conditions.
Vitamin D plays a role in preventing and alleviating depression. Some experts are linking low levels of Vitamin D to the condition known as S.A.D. (seasonal affective disorder). Depression and mood disorders are often worse during the winter months, which coincide with when Vitamin D is lowest in many people.
The Vitamin D Council is a group of scientists and researchers focused on determining the complete role of Vitamin D in the body and promoting awareness of the concerns of deficiency has recognized even more links to the vitamin. This group has called attention to the connection between Vitamin D and autism, blood pressure, neuromuscular disease, autoimmune disease, chronic pain and more recently, preventing flu and colds.
Vitamin D is found in cells throughout the body. Muscles need it to function. Nerves need it to transmit signals. The immune system requires Vitamin D to protect us from bacteria and viruses. Low levels have been associated with developing weakness, poor nerve function and low resistance to infection.
Vitamin D has even been found to be essential to healthy weight loss. Increased levels of Vitamin D are helpful in shedding fat.
A 2006 study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association discussed Vitamin D’s role in preventing multiple sclerosis.
Circulation journals have discussed the role it plays in heart disease and blood vessel health.
Recently Vitamin D made news when it was linked to being possibly more effective in preventing flu than the influenza vaccine.
Some medical conditions can lead to Vitamin D deficiency. Kidney and liver disorders impair conversion of Vitamin D into an active form within the body. Disorders such as Crohn’s and celiac disease impair absorption of Vitamin D. People that have had gastric bypass surgery may also be impaired. Even obesity has been shown to predispose a person to Vitamin D deficiency.
Certain medications can affect Vitamin D levels. Laxatives, steroids, cholesterol drugs and others can impact Vitamin D levels.
As people age, the levels of Vitamin D drop. Persons with limited mobility and darker skin also tend to have lower levels of Vitamin D.
Of all the concerns about how low levels of Vitamin D affect a person, in our office we are most often concerned with the link between Vitamin D levels and chronic pain. We work with patients suffering with chronic pain daily and are constantly seeking ways to improve their condition.
We have found that patients often respond well to supplementing their levels of Vitamin D with specifically selected products.
I don’t recommend people simply choosing to start taking Vitamin D supplements on their own without the guidance of a qualified health care professional. It may be necessary to obtain a blood test to measure levels of Vitamin D.
There are various kinds of Vitamin D supplements. It is important to select the right supplement. It is also possible to take too much Vitamin D and this can create problems. To learn more, discuss this with your health care provider.
Dr. Mark Kestner is a licensed chiropractic physician in Murfreesboro. His office is at 1435 NW Broad St. Contact him at mkestner@DrKestner.com