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!
How to know if you are getting good quality supplements
The United States enjoys liberal access to nutritional supplements. This can be a good thing and a bad thing.
Some would say we are a little too lenient. But, As long as you are educated on how to pick good products, I say it’s a good thing. In my humble opinion, big pharma and the government often overreach when it comes to certain things. Such as when big pharma can’t make money off of supplements and try to shut them down because of competition.
As an example, do a little research on Red yeast rice or Kratom, and most recently the use of Intravenous vitamin C, which the FDA just banned. Thank you very much!
We can buy virtually any supplement from multiple sources either at the local grocery store or online. Other countries can be more stringent when it comes to access and don’t enjoy near the wide range of variety.
However, the freedom around nutritional supplements in the United States means consumers must be wary of shoddy, fraudulent, and even unsafe supplements with misleading claims.
It’s important to learn how to be a smart supplement shopper to make the most of our supplement-shopping freedom. You may be surprised to learn the worst supplements aren’t from some shadowy corner of the internet, but rather usually from your local drug or grocery store.
I am a huge believer in the saying “you get what you pay for” and in the case of supplements it couldn’t be more true. I’ll be honest. I am a supplement snob. I generally recommend staying away from costco, the grocery store, Trader Joes, and GNC.
At the same time, it’s also important to protect consumer access to supplements. The FDA’s approach to the industry is often viewed as unnecessarily aggressive due, it is widely believed by myself and I would say most alternative healthcare doctors, to the influence of the pharmaceutical industry. If they can’t make money off of some sort of “pill” that possibly competes or helps prevent a condition that one of their drugs is supposed to treat, then they will try to get is banned. They don’t like competition. Again, just look at what happened with Red Yeast Rice and more specifically Kratom.
As the rates of “untreatable” or “mysterious” chronic diseases and dementia continue to skyrocket, people increasingly turn to alternative health care and nutritional supplements to address their health concerns. This has turned the supplement industry into one worth many billions of dollars. But still nowhere near the level of pharmaceutical companies.
The supplement industry has created its own standards of quality that manufacturers can choose to comply with in order to reassure their buyers only the purest ingredients are used.
Avoid cheap, mass marketed supplements comprised of synthetic or inflammatory fillers (such as wheat and corn), poor quality ingredients, inactive ingredients, and artificial colors. There is also no way of knowing how shipping and storing has affected the ingredients.
What to look for in quality supplements
For starters, avoid fillers that use wheat, corn, starches, and magnesium stearate. Also, research the origin of the ingredients. Herbal ingredients can come from heavily polluted areas in other countries and be loaded with toxins. Good companies test their ingredients for toxins. This is still no guarantee but its a start.
Research the brand. Are they formulated with a health-care professional and a scientific advisory board? Are there peer-reviewed studies to back up the ingredients? Does the company test purity?
What is their marketing like?
Do they use sleazy snake-oil selling tactics? Or do they cater to licensed practitioners and provide educational seminars to teach about the products and how best to incorporate them into a health care plan?
Also, look for supplement companies that send their products out to independent labs to test for quality and purity.
NSF International, an independent organization, certifies supplements on three levels of quality:
Certified Good manufacturing practices (CGMPs): These are guidelines that assure a product conforms with what’s listed its label.
American National Standard for dietary supplement products: Testing that ensures products contain what is on the label and not undeclared contaminants. This is an all too common issue in the supplement industry.
NSF Certified for Sport: Screens for athletic banned substances.
2 of the most common issues in the supplement industry are:
#1 - the product does not contain what it says it contains. There have been numerous tests on various products finding that the actual amount of the claimed ingredient was at less than 10% of what was claimed.
#2 - Number two is actually to opposite of number 1. This is when the quality or the purity of the supplement may contain the actual dosage of the listed supplement but is also has toxins or other often harmful ingredients in the supplement that is not listed.
So there you have some little things that you can do to help insure you are getting what you pay for. Again, check out my previous post and the best place to buy your supplements.
Until next time, happy shopping!
I’m Dr. Craig Mortensen
Be Health, be happy.
How to save money
on vitamins and supplements
Cold sores are caused by the herpes virus. This is in the same family of virus’s that causes chicken pox and shingles. Once we get these viruses they then go into the nerves and become dormant just waiting to rear their ugly heads.
Some common things that trigger outbreaks include hormonal changes, weak immune system, surgery, stress, as well as eating certain foods in high amounts such as seeds, nuts, including coconut, orange juice, wheat products, caffeine and some other foods.
For those that get cold sores many of you are aware that taking high doses of lysine can be very helpful in stopping the spread and increasing the healing time for these often unsightly outbreaks. Lysine helps prevent the replication and growth of the virus.
So that brings us to the supplement that you should never, ok almost never or only take in low doses. This ingredient is often included in many supplements for heart health, cholesterol, anti-inflammatory, and exercising enhancing supplements. It is touted as increasing nitric oxide - which gives you that pumped feeling when you work out. The ingredient you need to watch out for is L-arginine. It’s an amino acid found in many of these supplements.
The problem with L-arginine and cold sores or any virus for that matter is that L-arginine and Lysine share similar pathways in the body. They tend to compete with one another. So as arginine levels go up it pushes out the amount of lysine we get. Lysine inhibits the virus and arginine stimulates the virus. Now the research is not 100% conclusive, what research is anyway. But if you get cold sores, shingles or herpes outbreaks Im sure you will do anything to avoid these in the future. So avoid high arginine foods, decrease stress, live healthy, exercise, and take some Lysine. A good daily dose is 1000 milligrams 2 times per day.
It just may prevent that next outbreak.
Oh and by the way, for a current outbreak of any virus. I recommend 2-3 thousand milligrams 3 times per day until its gone.
Until next time. I’m Dr. Craig Mortensen
Be healthy be happy.
An Integrative and Functional Medicine approach to Lithium and your mental health.
Lithium deficiency is becoming more and more common. In fact, so far, when I suspect that a patient may need supplementation with lithium and run a blood test on their levels, I have not had a single patient come back with normal levels. In fact most have them have come back with “non detectable levels”, which essentially means NON. Maybe I should just start testing everyone just in case. I don't know yet. Anyway, that is a discussion for another time.
So what is lithium? Lithium is actually a metal that our bodies need in order to perform some critical functions. Most notably when it comes to mental health. For those that have heard of lithium or know someone on it they generally think of either batteries or someone that has been diagnosed with bipolar, but they aren't the only ones that can benefit from proper lithium supplementation. Let me be clear this is NOT something everyone should take. Lithium is only something you should take if you are being monitored by a trained physician regularly. High levels of lithium can be toxic.
Patients in my practice that I will test for lithium levels include anyone that has any degree of “mental issues”. This can be as small and simple as something from slight anxiety to depression, ocd, sleep disturbances, heart palpitations, adrenal fatigue, or any other condition that might have a “mental’ aspect to it. Which when you think about it can actually be a lot of thinks. There is the whole ming body connection after all.
A few of the ways that lithium is thought to work is by decreasing norepinephrine release, which is the excitatory or adrenalin hormone, and by increasing release of serotonin, which is the neurotransmitter that makes us feel happy, relaxed, and self-confident. It also plays an important role in our sleep, sex drive, and digestive health. This is along the lines of how SSRI’s (slective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) work. They don't make more serotonin they just make it “hang out” for a longer period, which by the way, can have multiple detrimental long term side effects, but that is for another video.
It also reduces excitatory dopamine and glutamate while at the same time increasing levels of inhibitory GABA, which gives us the calm relaxed feeling.
Another benefit of lithium is that is can help with your circadian rhythm, or how you sleep. By increasing serotonin that we mentioned earlier, serotonin is converted to melatonin at night, which triggers our sleep cycle. Viola = sleep.
There are some exciting studies that are being done regarding lithiums use in Alzheimers and other neurodegeneration diseases. So keep tuned in.
Generally we can and should try to get most of our lithium from our foods, but sometimes it just doesn't or cant happen, again that is for another video/blog. Grains and veggies are the best sources. We also get some from water and animal protein. Dairy products, sugarcane, seaweed, potatoes, lemons, eggs and Natural mineral water is also said to have a good source of lithium.
So what about lithium supplements? Do I use them in my practice? Absolutely. Should everyone take lithium supplements? Definitely not! In fact lithium can be toxic and many patients note that when they first start on lithium supplements it might make them feel a little loopy at first. We often have to start with really low doses and work our way up. This is the type of supplement that you have to be put on gradually and your levels need to be monitored. Too much of a good thing here can be really bad!
So until next time,
Be happy, be healthy.
For those that are looking for a good quality Lithium orotate, I highly recommend and routinely use this one in my private practice. Lithium Orotate.
I will stress again, it’s always best to get your levels tested first.
Generally this is a specialty test and can only be done with the recommendation from a physician.
You might want to try our test page to see if its available or give us a call to set up a virtual visit.
Vitamin D levels still suck? This may be why.
I get a ton of patients whose vitamin D levels just plain stink (below 50nmol/L). In the toilet, and they can’t get it up.
I’ve got a quick check you can perform on your own to see if this little know fact can help you get your vitamin D levels back into the optimal range again. Which by the way, should be around 70-80nmol/L.
BTW. If you haven’t had your vitamin D levels checked, you should. You can ask you doctor to run it as part of a routine blood lab or you can get it done with a simple pin prick test here or check out our Functional test page for discounts on lab testing. CAUTION: Vitamin D is fat soluble vitamin (meaning you can overdose), its best to have a doctor supervise you and your levels.
Most people know the importance of healthy levels of vitamin D. If not, here is a short list of the reasons why you should care. This list is by no means comprehensive, there are simply too many too list all of them here.
- Fights disease - including multiple sclerosis, other autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular disease and even the common flu.
- It help fight depression and fibromyalgia
- It boosts weight loss, partially by acting as an appetite suppressant.
- Helps with bone health and bone density
- Decreases the risk of diabetes
- Decreases the risk of developing cancer - particularly breast, colon, prostate, ovary, esophagus and of the lymphatic system.
- Decreases the risk of certain issues in pregnancy such as preeclampsia, cesarean section, bacterial vaginosis and even food allergies.
Most vitamin D supplements or multivitamins have around 400IU, sometimes up to 1000IU if you are lucky.
(Please stay away from grocery store brands - save your money). The dosage of 400IU per day is the bare minimum to prevent a disease called rickets, it does not promote optimum wellness nor provide any of the health benefits as those listed above.
It’s fairly standard in todays day and age to routinely take up to 5000IU per day, sometimes even up to 10,000IU per day. That is about the minimum I use in my practice for my patients. Just about anything less just doesn’t do the trick.
After treating thousands of patients, when I can’t get a patients vitamin D levels to go up…….Wait for it……..Wait for it………
I check Magnesium levels.
This can also be done with an easy blood or urine test. If your INTRACELLULAR magnesium (not serum magnesium) is low, then it may be helpful for your vitamin D levels if you increase your magnesium intake as well.
Here is a magnesium hair elemental test you can get on Amazon.
Hair Mineral Analysis
A possibly cheaper and quicker way to get the testing done is to check out our Functional testing page for lab discounts mailed directly to you with no shipping or lab orders emailed within 48 hours you can take to any labcorp location around the world.
We will thoroughly cover which type of magnesium is best for you in a later blog. For now, check out this link for some of the magnesium supplements I use in my practice.
Get out, get some sun, enjoy life, and be healthy.
Dr. Craig Mortensen
If you or someone you know could use some guidance to better health please don’t hesitate to contact me.
It won't be back! Terminating depression and the need for anti-depressants, anti-psychotics and other mind and mood altering drugs has been our focus for the past few weeks. This is part 3 in series of blogs dealing with an alternative routes to dealing with depression, anxiety and other mood disorders. Read More…
The next part in our short series of dealing with depression, anxiety and other mood disorders has to do with the wonderful world of co-factors.
While being healthy has a huge impact on what we take into our bodies, that is only half the battle. Health is also affected by what our bodies do with those nurtients. Thus co-factors.
Co factors are those little things, often vitamins or minerals… Read More…
So I will get right down to the good stuff.
First off let me state that Garlic makes a wonderful health supplement for many people, but the so-called "garlic cure" is no substitute for the basics: sensible eating, appropriate exercise, taking your vitamins and living a healthy lifestyle.
Garlic should be seen as part of a healthy lifestyle - not as an alternative to it.
After you read why garlic is good for you I think you will be able to figure out why it keeps vampires away.
Personally I eat garlic because I like the taste; any potential health benefits are simply a bonus!
Garlic has long been touted as a health booster, but it’s never been clear why the herb might be good for you. Now new research is beginning to unlock the secrets of the odoriferous bulb.
In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers show that eating garlic appears to boost our natural supply of hydrogen sulfide. Hydrogen sulfide is actually poisonous at high concentrations — it’s the same noxious byproduct of oil refining that smells like rotten eggs. But the body makes its own supply of the stuff, which acts as an antioxidant and transmits cellular signals that relax blood vessels and increase blood flow.
In the latest study, performed at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, researchers extracted juice from supermarket garlic and added small amounts to human red blood cells. The cells immediately began emitting hydrogen sulfide, the scientists found.
The power to boost hydrogen sulfide production may help explain why a garlic-rich diet appears to protect against various cancers, including breast, prostate and colon cancer, say the study authors. Higher hydrogen sulfide might also protect the heart, according to other experts.
Although garlic has not consistently been shown to lower cholesterol levels, researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine earlier this year found that injecting hydrogen sulfide into mice almost completely prevented the damage to heart muscle caused by a heart attack.
“People have known garlic was important and has health benefits for centuries,” said Dr. David W. Kraus, associate professor of environmental science and biology at the University of Alabama. “Even the Greeks would feed garlic to their athletes before they competed in the Olympic games.”
Now, the downside.
The concentration of garlic extract used in the latest study was equivalent to an adult eating about two medium-sized cloves per day. I don’t see that as a downside. Just an excuse to eat more. In such countries as Italy, Korea and China, where a garlic-rich diet seems to be protective against disease, per capita consumption is as high as eight to 12 cloves per day.
While that may sound like a lot of garlic, Dr. Kraus noted that increasing your consumption to five or more cloves a day isn’t hard if you use it every time you cook. Dr. Kraus also makes a habit of snacking on garlicky dishes like hummus with vegetables.
Many home chefs mistakenly cook garlic immediately after crushing or chopping it, added Dr. Kraus. To maximize the health benefits, you should crush the garlic at room temperature and allow it to sit for about 15 minutes. That triggers an enzyme reaction that boosts the healthy compounds in garlic.
Garlic can cause indigestion, but for many, the bigger concern is that it can make your breath and sweat smell like…garlic.
While individual reactions to garlic vary, eating fennel seeds like those served at Indian restaurants helps to neutralize the smell.
Some of the other benefits of garlic, which is primarily due to the allicin contained in garlic. If you just can’t seem to get enough garlic in you diet, here are a couple of recommendations that I personally give to my patients.
Vitanica Professional - CandidaStat Yeast Balance Support - 120 Vegetarian Capsules
Pure Encapsulations - GarliActive 120's (Premium Packaging)
Vital Nutrients - Garlic 6000 650 mg 60 caps
Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract Liquid Vegetarian Cardiovascular 4 fl oz (120 ml)
Eating garlic or taking supplements containing high levels and good quality allicin also acts as an antibacterial. In fact, that antibacterial property works great against yeast (candida albicans) infections. Part of the reason this is so great, is that garlic (or the allicin) appears to spare the good bacteria in our bodies, leaving the good stuff to build back our immune systems once the infection is gone. Garlic also acts as a great detox or chelating agent for lead, binding to excess levels of lead in our system(no, its not just from paint chips) and excreting it.
So stock up on some GOOD QUALITY garlic and keep those vampires away while living healthier.
SO WHY DOES GARLIC KEEP VAMPIRES AWAY?
The basic premise is that garlic has been know for centuries for it's healing abilities and is also believed to be an ANTI-VIRAL. Becoming a vampire was believed to be a viral infection of the blood. So by being exposed or eating garlic it would essentially kill the virus thus killing the vampire.
Dr. Craig Mortensen
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