WHAT DOES VITAMIN D DO?
Vitamin D or the ‘sunshine vitamin’ is pretty extraordinary! This little nutritious gem has anti-inflammatory and immune boosting properties and is a hormone precursor and helps control the absorption of calcium.1 More on this later, but long story short; a Vitamin D deficiency can lead to a hormone imbalance.2
Despite its incredible benefits, over half the population is deficient!2 “An estimated 1 billion people worldwide, across all ethnicities and age groups, have a vitamin D deficiency.”2
Vitamin D deficiency; also referred to as VDD or Hypovitaminosis D in the medical community, has grown to extreme rates in the past 50 years or so.3 There are a number of theories behind this deficiency crisis. Working 40+ hours a week in covered areas takes us out of the outdoors and away from the sun, and air pollution actually reduces the amount of outdoor exposure many people get.
Additionally, Vitamin D deficiencies also depend on one’s geographic location. According to research out of Harvard University, those living in the Northern Hemisphere likely don’t receive adequate UVB energy from the sun to make the vitamin D they need.4 Given this information, it’s safe to say most people living in darker, colder climates are Vitamin D deficient.
Whatever the reasons may be, Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a higher risk of chronic illness, mortality and autoimmune diseases.1 Fortunately, there are ways to beat this deficiency!
The basics of Vitamin D
To ensure one is gaining adequate amounts of this vitamin, it’s important to know how it works in the body.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it can be stored! Unlike B Vitamins and Vitamin C which need to be replenished daily because they are water soluble.
To learn more about B vitamins read ‘What does Vitamin B do?’
Vitamin D exists in 2 forms; to learn more about the difference between Vitamin D2 and D3, read our article Magic mushrooms for vegan Vitamin D.
Vitamin D plays an integral role in bone metabolism, has anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties and because this vitamin is present in most cells and tissues in the body, a deficiency will affect the body on a cellular level.1
A vital task that Vitamin D helps run in the body, is acting as the precursor to calcium absorption. This means Vitamin D actually controls calcium absorption. It also engages with the parathyroid hormone to balance calcium levels in the body.1 So, what happens when you’re Vitamin D deficient? You become calcium deficient too, as Vitamin D is the precursor for calcium to be released in the small intestine.1
Many people attribute bone loss issues with lack of calcium in the diet or in the body, when in fact they should also be checking their Vitamin D stores!
Vitamin D Deficiency linked to poor health
One scientific review of Vitamin D and the deficiency of Vitamin D found that “Low vitamin D levels are associated with increased overall and cardiovascular mortality, cancer incidence and mortality, and autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis.”1,5
Another study stated that Vitamin D deficiency is an independent risk factor for mortality in the general population, and current studies suggest humans today need more Vitamin D than previously thought, to help prevent chronic illness.2
Vitamin D deficiency posing as a calcium deficiency
“Get outta here ya poser!” We’ve tried yelling at Vitamin D deficiencies to stop posing as calcium insufficiencies, but it turns out our society has this thing for pushing dairy on people.. So, when folks have a calcium deficiency, many practitioners will presumably get them on an isolated calcium supplement, and tell them to eat more calcium-rich foods.
Then in come the mass dairy corporations with their ads, sponsored studies and messaging to convince these unknowing vitamin D deficient folks their solution lies in cheese, milk, butter and yogurt.
Learn more about the debunking of dairy by reading our article Is dairy bad for you? The little white lie we’ve been drinking.
The link between Vitamin D deficiency and calcium absorption
Studies suggest vitamin D deficiency can lead to the body absorbing less calcium, or not absorbing any calcium at all, depending on how bad the deficiency is.1,2
Vitamin D deficiency not only affects calcium absorption, but it also affects your body on a hormonal level. You see, the parathyroid glands are responsible for increasing or decreasing the release of calcium in the body.6
The parathyroid glands produce more or less parathyroid hormone (PTH) in response to the level of calcium in the blood. When the calcium in our blood gets too low, perhaps from a Vitamin D deficiency, the parathyroid gland makes more PTH.7 Increased production of PTH causes the body to release more calcium into the blood.7
To recap: Vitamin D deficiencies often lead to an excess of PTH being produced, which leads to an increase of calcium into the bloodstream.
The chain reaction of a Vitamin D deficiency which leads to excess calcium in the blood is cause for a bone-weakening condition called hypercalcemia. It is well-known information that hypercalcemia is usually a result of overactive parathyroid glands.8 Increased production of PTH also causes general bone weakness and a decrease in bone mineral density (BMD) which can result in osteopenia and osteoporosis.2
Bone weakening disorders happen as a result of poor calcium stores because when the body is deficient in calcium, the parathyroid glands will break down pieces of bone to cause a calcium release.6 So, a vitamin D deficiency could very well be responsible for the degeneration of your bones.
As far as lifestyle choices go for building strong bones, weight and stress training is necessary to prevent or slow down bone loss activity.9
Unfortunately, the link between vitamin D deficiencies and bone degeneration disease is rarely made, or if it is, people are prescribed synthetically isolated versions of Vitamin D which can make matters worse.
Oftentimes people are actually told their hypercalcemia or osteoporosis is due to a calcium deficiency, and not the deeper rooted issue; a vitamin D deficiency. And because many people associate calcium with dairy products, they then begin to eat more dairy, and, as we know, calcium from dairy products is not in a form we humans can absorb and use, and it can actually lead to bone degeneration (osteoporosis).11,12
Vitamin D and the Sun
A major source of vitamin D for most people is created in the body from exposing our skin to sunlight.2 Vitamin D produced in the skin is said to last twice as long as ingested forms of Vitamin D.12 The sad truth is that with most people in westernized cultures working occupations that limit their sun exposure, more and more people are unlikely to obtain adequate vitamin D from sunlight alone.13
Getting more exposure to sunlight would solve Vitamin D deficiencies for many people, but not everyone can quit their job and live on a tropical beach!
So, what are your options then? Go outside when you can, eat Vitamin D rich foods and take a proper, whole food supplement.
Foods rich in Vitamin D include mushrooms, but only when their gills are exposed to sunlight. This is because the form of Vitamin D that exists naturally in most mushrooms isn’t bioavailable for human use unless the mushroom’s gills are exposed to sunlight.14,15
Lucky for you, the Portobello mushrooms used in our foundational PureFood A to Z powder have had their gills exposed to the sun, so the Vitamin D content in our foundational multi powder is bioavailable!
Every serving of our foundational PureFood A to Z gives you 120% of your daily value of Vitamin D! Perfect for those who are deficient. Not to mention
Help!! How do I find the best Vitamin D supplement?!
With so many vitamin supplements to pick from, it’s hard to know which one is best for you. Here are the best things to consider when selecting the supplement that’s best for you:
1. Make sure your supplement is all food. Why? Studies show nutrients from food absorb 200 to 1500 times better than synthetically derived nutrients in pill form.18,19
2. Pick an organic supplement. Organic food DOES make a difference. Despite what your angry uncle Bob says about “organic food being a farce” there is mounting evidence that shows organically grown food, on average, contains more antioxidants, anthocyanins and flavonols than foods grown using conventional methods. Antioxidants, anthocyanins and flavonols are all healing compounds associated with health and preventative wellness.16,17
Organically grown food contains significantly fewer pesticides and herbicides as they are enforced to grow crops without using chemical sprays.20 However, it’s impossible to eliminate all pesticides as wind and rain carry these chemicals from conventionally grown farms to organic ones.
If organic food is healthier and better for the environment, why don’t we just switch entirely over to organic farming? Well, unfortunately with the global food supply being so high, studies suggest organic farming can’t match the food being produced conventionally.20
Learn more about organic farming methods here.
3. Choose a sustainable and ethical brand. Many vitamin and mineral brands use polluting practices and are owned by billion dollar
conglomerates that have no compassion or empathy for humans or the planet. Many nutritional supplements come in plastic packages and contain isolated nutrients that sometimes give customers side effects. To make matters worse, these large corporations use questionable production materials and methods, as many of them are owned by nutraceutical companies.
Remember to follow the money trail and see who really makes your supplements and food. The app Buycott can help you learn about a company’s practices so you can spend your money according to your values.
Reminder: By taking an isolated vitamin pill instead of getting your vitamins from food, you don’t get any of the antioxidants, enzymes, fibre, minerals or other healing compounds found in food!
Our Foundational PureFood A to Z checks all the boxes! Start getting your Vitamin D levels up so you can feel the difference good nutrition makes.
5 J https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3738984/
7 I http://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/parathyroid-hormone/K Vinson JA, Bose P. Bioavailability of Synthetic Ascorbic Acid and a Citrus Extract. Ann New York Academy of Sciences, 1987;498:525-526
8 – https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypercalcemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355523
9 – https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/strength-training-builds-more-than-muscles
10 – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Bone Health and Osteoporosis: A Report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General; 2004.
11 – Feskanich D, Willett WC, Colditz GA. Calcium, vitamin D, milk consumption, and hip fractures: a prospective study among postmenopausal women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003;77:504-511.
13 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2839537/L Vinson JA. Human Supplementation with Different Forms of Vitamin C. University of Scranton, Scranton (PA)
16 – https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/02/18/467136329/is-organic-more-nutritious-new-study-adds-to-the-evidence
17 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24968103
18 – Vinson JA, Bose P. Bioavailability of Synthetic Ascorbic Acid and a Citrus Extract. Ann New York Academy of Sciences, 1987;498:525-526
19 – Vinson JA. Human Supplementation with Different Forms of Vitamin C. University of Scranton, Scranton (PA)