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Vitamin D and How Does it Affect My Health?

Vitamin D, also called “the sunshine vitamin”, is a nutrient made in the body from exposure to the sun but also from some foods and supplements. While it is called a vitamin, it is actually a “pro-hormone” because it effects the health of so many parts of the body including bone, brain, thyroid, immune, intestinal, kidney, liver, nerves, pancreas, parathyroid, prostate, and skin tissue. Adequate Vitamin D levels can help to prevent heart disease, diabetes, depression, chronic pain, osteoporosis, muscle wasting, birth defects and periodontal disease, and a recent study found that it was protective against breast cancer in women over 60. That’s one powerful vitamin!

 

How do I know if I have enough vitamin D?

Getting adequate sun exposure every day is one way, but this is only possible during the summer months in most of North America, so the only way to be absolutely sure you are not vitamin D deficient is to have your blood levels tested.
Determining your vitamin D status is important, especially for people who spend much of their time indoors or who live in colder climates, and for those already supplementing to correct a deficiency, testing can tell you if the amount you are taking is the right amount.

How can I test my vitamin D levels?

Our easy to use, blood spot test kit allows you to collect vitamin D samples in the privacy of your own home. The test involves nicking your finger with a tiny needle and dripping a few drops of blood on to the special filter card contained in the kit. Once dried, the blood spot sample card can be returned to the lab for processing by regular mail. The results are sent back to you directly within 3-5 days.

If test results show that I have a deficiency, what steps can I take to correct it?

Get more Vitamin D from the sun

When we spend time in the sun, a molecule in our skin is transformed into vitamin D3, the active component. By exposing both arms and legs to the sun for 10 minutes in the summer, one can absorb enough vitamin D per day but this is generally only possible during the summer months. If we use sunscreen or have a dark complexion, we will need more time in the sun. Likewise, if we live in the northern latitudes (like most of North America), the sun is at such an angle during the winter months that we cannot get enough sun exposure even if we stand outside all day in a bikini!

Get Vitamin D from certain foods

Although food sources of vitamin D cannot adequately supply your body with enough in one day, eating the following foods regularly can help maintain your levels within normal range in combination with sun exposure or supplementation.

• Egg yolk
• Shitake mushrooms
• Tuna, sardines, salmon and mackerel
• Cod liver oil
• Fortified dairy, orange juice and cereals

Supplement with Vitamin D
• 1,000- 2,000 IU of Vitamin D3 a day can be enough to maintain adequate levels
• If you are deficient talk with your doctor about how much you need to take each day
• Vitamin D3 is the kind that our body makes. Vitamin D2 is a type that is made from plant sources and is not naturally occurring in the body. Recent research shows that supplementing with D3 may be more effective than D2 at raising and maintaining overall Vitamin D levels.

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The Canary Club is an educational advisory group with a team of medical advisors headed by Richard Shames, M.D.