No, we’re not talking about a World War II European invasion. We’re talking about vitamin D, a critical but still underappreciated factor in achieving good health. According to a recent article in the New York Times, as recently as 2008 half of all adults and children may have had less than optimum vitamin D levels and as many as 10 percent of children may have been highly deficient (article here). Research is only beginning to appreciate the broad array of symptoms and conditions related at least in part to vitamin D deficiency, which include type II diabetes, asthma, chronic musculoskeletal pain and osteoporosis, to name a few. While these health conditions typically require more than just vitamin D to resolve, it’s fair to say that none of them will resolve satisfactorily if vitamin D levels aren’t optimized. Management of your vitamin D level is one simple and highly effective way for you to take action towards radiant health.
We’ve known for a long time about vitamin D’s role in precisely regulating the calcium level in our blood. Simply put, if even a minor blood calcium deficiency occurs and the deficiency isn’t fully compensated from dietary sources, calcium will be extracted from our bones to make up the difference. Without sufficient vitamin D, which helps replace “borrowed” calcium, we may slide towards osteoporosis. More recently we’ve become aware of vitamin D’s functions in regulating the immune system and supporting healthy cell differentiation. Cell differentiation is the process of genetic expression through which a cell develops the particular features it requires to fulfill its function. It’s what makes skin cells function as skin cells and not like liver cells, intestinal cells, or cells of any other type. Under unfavorable circumstances cells may fail to differentiate properly, over time forming a colony of dysfunctional cells which may develop into cancer. Since vitamin D promotes healthy cell differentiation, optimizing your vitamin D level is one measure you can take to reduce your risk of many common cancers, particularly cancers of the breast, colon and prostate. If you’ve already been diagnosed with cancer, optimization of D levels to support proper cell differentiation may be an important facet of your treatment.
Our bodies produce a precursor molecule to vitamin D, which requires activation by sunlight on bare skin to convert to the active form of the vitamin. It’s no surprise that in the Pacific Northwest, our lack of sunlight exposure during this time of year results in inadequate vitamin D levels. No matter where you live, winter is an optimal time to take the important step of measuring and optimizing your vitamin D level. Measurement entails a simple blood test available through your physician. If you’re ready to take charge of this important task, visit www.GrassRootsHealth.net . This organization, whose goal is to prevent chronic disease by supporting vitamin D-related research and empowering people to manage their vitamin D levels, will send you kits to measure your D-level from the comfort of home every six months, for a fee less than the copayment required under some insurance plans. You can also register for their newsletter to stay updated on new vitamin D discoveries.
Once you know your present D level, you’ll need a physician’s advice to determine and maintain an optimal D level for you. This entails balancing sun exposure with supplementation, knowing what form of vitamin D to supplement and assuring optimal absorption of D supplements, as well as screening for any physiological issues that may affect vitamin D metabolism. There’s no better time than now to devise your personal “Plan D”. Let me know how I can support you.