Vitamin D-3: The Other Powerful Hormone
Originally published - October 2012
By Terri Suresh, RN, MSN, ACNP - Hormonal Health & Wellness Clinic
I have two favorite hormones that all men and women should make sure they have a full tank of: Testosterone (yes ladies, our bodies make and need testosterone, it is THE brain hormone) and Vitamin D3.
Vitamin D3, the primary source of which is the sun, is in chemical structure and the way it works in the body actually a hormone. Many people do not realize or understand how important this hormone is for ALL of our body processes. Fear of sun exposure combined with an overall trend in our country of spending more time indoors during work and play has been the greatest contributing factor to the current widespread deficiency of vitamin D3.
Historically, D3 was thought to primarily function as preventative for bone diseases such as rickets and osteoporosis. We now know that D3 levels below 50ng/ml have been shown in countless studies to increase cancer risk five-fold; and in one major study heart disease risk increased by over 160% in people who’s D3 levels fell in the lower end of the “reference range”, or under 50ng/ml. The links between low D3 levels and asthma and allergies is astounding. More and more research is showing links between D3 deficiency in pregnancy and infancy and higher rates of autism.
Most recently, however, studies are showing vitamin D status can even affect your weight loss goals! According to research studies taken from: Surprise! Vitamin D can Help or Hinder Your Weight Management by Dr. Joseph Mercola: Women age 65 and older with low vitamin D levels experienced mild weight gain, and overweight individuals tended to have lower vitamin D levels. Women who had insufficient (below 30mg/dl) levels of vitamin D gained more weight on average compared to those with adequate (above 30mg/dl) blood levels of vitamin D3. A second study found that more than half of overweight adolescents are deficient in vitamin D3. Eight percent were found to have severe deficiencies, and teens with the highest body mass index (BMI) were the most likely to be vitamin D deficient.
So how much D3 is enough?
Optimal blood levels of D3 have been shown to be ABOVE 50ng/ml, and the higher the number towards 80ng/ml, the more protection against a host of cancers and other disease states. Understand this important concept: Lab values of D3 show the “reference range” to be between 30-100. If you get your levels tested, be sure and ask what the results are, I mean an actual number, don’t settle for: “your lab results are normal.” “Normal” is not always optimal when we are talking about hormones. Vitamin D3, testosterone, estrogen and thyroid should be treated to OPTIMAL ranges, not within the lab “reference range”.
Where should we get D3 from?
Well, natural sun exposure is the BEST way to get this important hormone, however many people either cannot or have been advised not to spend time in the sun without sunscreen- everything in moderation here! I’m not talking about getting outside and baking and causing major damage to the skin. Twenty minutes a day of early afternoon sun exposure without burning is adequate. According to D experts, full body exposure to the sun for 20 minutes can produce about 20,000 IU of vitamin D3; 5,000 IU can be acquired with 50 percent of your body exposed, and up to 1,000 IU with 10 percent of your body exposed.
There are no adequate dietary sources of D3, so if sun exposure is not an option for you, and in the winter months when sun exposure is less, oral supplementation is recommended. The amount of oral supplementation really depends on what your blood levels reveal, however a great rule of thumb, according to the Vitamin D Council, is 5000iu/day for adults and 1000-2000iu/day for children. Often adults and children may need higher doses, especially when levels fall below 20ng/ml of a lab value. This is considered a CRITICAL range, increasing your risk of at least 16 different cancers. Another important concept: the FDA recommendations of D3 you see on supplement bottles are reflecting the minimum D required to prevent rickets!
Where can I get more information and how can I get tested?
ASK your healthcare provider to test you! OR, join a major campaign bringing awareness of Vitamin D deficiency called the Grassroots Health D*Action Project; a worldwide public health campaign aiming to solve the vitamin D deficiency epidemic through education, testing, and word of mouth.
Please visit their website at Grassroots Health for more information about D3, recommended doses, research studies and much more.
Terri Suresh is a Board Certified, Adult Acute Care Nurse Practitioner and a Principal at Hormonal Health & Wellness Center of Southlake. Terri's passion is educating people about the aging process and the belief at Hormonal Health & Wellness is that people can experience relief from the symptoms and stressors of aging through hormonal balance, internal and external nutrient supplementation, and therapeutic massage. See more at Hormonal Health and Wellness Center.