Is taking Vitamin D enough? Or do you need to be taking other things to get the most from it?
Well…Vitamin D is not actually a vitamin. It's a hormone.
It is involved with promoting bone growth, its involved with immune system regulation (i.e. autoimmunity) breast cancer, heart disease, depression, weight gain, and lung function to just name a few. Vitamin/Hormone D is one of those things that is involved with just about everything in the body. So making sure you have enough is pretty critical.
Sufficient vitamin D levels requires more than a healthy diet and taking supplements—good vitamin D levels need the right cofactors too. Cofactors are things that help you absorb or utilize vitamin D in a better or more efficient way.
A shocking three-quarters (thats 75%) of the US population has too little vitamin D, even in sunny locales such as where my practice is in Southern California. Vitamin D is necessary to dampen inflammation and tame autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto's, Multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, etc.
Some people with autoimmunity may even need extra vitamin D due to a genetic variation that affects the ability of their cells to absorb adequate vitamin D.
I've talked about this before in a previous post but a good goal for most people is 70-90 on a blood test. And remember vit D fat soluble. This means that you can get too much and it can become toxic. So before you go take a bunch thinking you are being healthy, it's probably a good idea to get your levels measured first.
And to put a little perspective on this goal of 70-90. In all my years of testing vit D. I have only ever had 2 patients (yes 2!) have optimal vitamin D levels and not be supplementing with vitamin D.
In addition to supplementing with fat-soluble vitamin D (cholecalciferol), make sure you are getting the right cofactors, or "helper molecules" that assist in the biochemical transformations required by vitamin D.
These include fat-soluble vitamin A, magnesium, and K2, which make vitamin D more bioavailable and help prevent D overload. And, not everyone needs all of these, but its a good idea to at least be aware that taking "Vitamin" D may not be enough. Specially if you have other co-morbidities, ie health issues.
Vitamin A and vitamin D work together to make sure your genetic code functions appropriately. There are two main types of vitamin A:
- Beta-carotene - primarily found in brightly colored fruits and vegetables such as apricots, mango, red peppers, sweet potatoes, carrots and leafy green veggies. So eat lots of these.
- Retinol, found in organ meats and dairy products.
You can take vitamin A in supplement form as both beta-carotene and retinol, however retinol is the more active form. Remember, it’s also possible to take too much retinol. Your body can’t get rid of it easily so it can build up over time and cause toxicity just like all the other fat soluble vitamins - A, E, D, and K.
Magnesium. You can obtain sufficient magnesium through food, but its pretty hard with the diet most Americans have. And, high doses of vitamin D3 can deplete magnesium levels.
If you are already low in magnesium and supplement with vitamin D, supplementing with magnesium may avoid headaches, cramping, nausea, numbness and other symptoms that may accompany high doses of D3.
The Vitamin D Council recommends 500–700mg of magnesium per day. Supplement sources include magnesium glycinate, magnesium citrate, and magnesium malate. Each has unique effects, so consult with my office to learn which is right for your needs.
Or, in the mean time.
My favorite Magnesium is a powdered form of magnesium. Of course it's my own brand and I'm biased but I really do find its the best. Sorry other guys. It's called Mag Neuro 3 and is great for sleep, muscle cramps, and nervous system health. See the link in the description. It has a pretty darn good flavor and it is actually all 3 forms of magnesium so that you get the benefits of all 3 and dont get the side effects that you can get with taking high doses of just one form of magnesium. It is also in a chelated form which means you absorb and utilize more of it.
I will discuss the different forms of magnesium in another blog. So dont forget to click the little button and subscribe to our channel.
Magnesium-rich foods include dark leafy greens, potato, beans, lentils, avocado, bananas, figs, strawberries, blackberries, nuts, seeds, brown rice, and dark chocolate. Yum yum!
Vitamin K2. Vitamin D toxicity can cause soft tissue to accumulate calcium and calcify like bone. In contrast, having optimal vitamin D may protect against calcium deposits in arteries.
Vitamin K2 is an important cofactor for vitamin D to help the body deposit calcium in appropriate locations such as the bones and teeth. It also helps in preventing calcium from depositing where it doesn't belong, such as the soft tissues, arterial walls, joints and organs. This can contribute to the development of heart disease, atherosclerosis, and painful osteophytes.
This also bring up the topic of supplementing with calcium. Not everyone should and it may even contribute to developing certain issues or making them worse. This will be discussed in another blog though. Stay tuned!
Healthy gut bacteria are necessary in converting vitamin K1 to the more active form K2.
However, we can supply our K1 needs through eating cabbage, kale, spinach, chard, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels’ sprouts, and sauerkraut.
These foods will also promote healthy gut bacteria. But then again, if we are having gut issues and not getting enough vitamin K1 and we start eating foods that have vitamin K1. Do you think that maybe even though we are eating those foods maybe we aren't really digesting and absorbing all the nutrients out of it?
Yeah, you're right, we aren't. Supplementing can, help but you probably need to fix your gut issues.
The National Academy of Sciences recommends 90mcg of K2 for women and 120mcg for men.
However, Osteoporosis International recommends 180 mcg a day of K2 as MK-7.
WARNING! If you take blood thinning medicines such as Warfarin or Coumadin, vitamin K supplements can affect how well your blood clots, so please talk to your doctor / Functional doctor. This can also apply to Turmeric, ginger, vitamin E, ginkgo and even fish oil.
Checking your vitamin D level periodically can help you improve your health if you suffer from chronic illness.
In functional medicine we measure vitamin D levels with a serum 25-hydroxy vitamin D test. Standard "Normal" levels are considered to be between 20 - 100. Which is pretty dismal. I shoot for high standards. See my blog on standard vs. functional blood testing. Anyway, optimal levels are ideally between 70 and 90 ng/mL.
If you suffer from leaky gut or autoimmunity, you may be more prone to a genetic vitamin D deficiency, so make sure to pay attention to this vital vitamin.
If this is all seeming a little overwhelming, don't worry. We are here to help. Just give us a call and set up an appointment. I do in person visits in my office and also online appointments via Skype or Zoom.
Until Next time.
I'm Dr. Craig Mortensen
Be healthy, be happy!