Vitamin D Deficiency
Rates of some types of cancer, autoimmune diseases (like multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes), depression, weight gain, fibromyalgia, and osteoporosis are much more common in the Northern hemisphere than they are in equatorial regions. A recent hypothesis (and volumes of research) indicates vitamin D deficiency could be the common thread resulting in these health conditions. As a Vancouverite, it is difficult if near impossible to maintain adequate levels of vitamin D year round, unless you head south on a regular basis.
Vitamin D, or the sunshine vitamin, is one of Canada’s most under recognized nutrient deficiencies despite its recent media attention courtesy of the Canadian government and Vancouver Coastal Health. During summer months, healthy individuals are capable of producing in excess of 10, 000 IUs of vitamin D in 30 minutes of sun exposure. The use of broad-spectrum sunscreen unfortunately diminishes the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D by approximately 90% – pair that with our inability to produce the vitamin during winter months, especially in cloudy cities, and we are left with a widespread deficit and the need to supplement. Although some foods, fatty fish, egg whites and liver in particular, are sources of vitamin D, none have levels adequate to correct winter (or year-round) deficiencies if eaten in moderate amounts.
The Canadian government considers vitamin D levels above 50 nmol/L sufficient for the maintenance of healthy bones. However, much higher levels are considered safe, and many functional medicine experts suggest aiming for blood levels ranging from 100-160 nmol/L. In order to achieve this range, supplementation of 5000-10,000 IUs D3/day may be necessary, depending on your current blood levels. It is important to have regular blood tests and be medically supervised while taking high doses of vitamin D, however supplementing at high levels for up to 6 months is generally considered safe, if a state of deficiency exists. To maintain optimal levels of vitamin D supplementing at a dose of 2000-4000 IU of D3/day is considered safe indefinitely, or until the sun returns!
Keep in mind that supplements should indicate D3, and are most often offered in 1000 IU capsules or drops. Vitamin D2 is still available, but is less potent, and is often the preferred choice of vegetarians, as D3 is typically made from sheep’s wool.
Have a great day,
Dr. Kaleigh Anstett