Woman enjoying beach relaxing joyful in summer by tropical ocean

There has been a lot of buzz lately about our need for the “sunshine vitamin” D3. But truly, how many of you are supplementing in high enough doses to make a health difference? I am writing this to urge and encourage you to do at least one thing for you health that will bring dramatic changes to your overall wellbeing, and that is supplementing with a high quality plant based D3. (I have my favorite brand on my Favorite’s Page). But first, let’s take a look at what D3 actually is. For one thing, it is NOT a vitamin. It is a hormone. It is created when our sun is exposed to the sunshine. Most people do not get enough throughout the year, even in summer due to the use of sunscreens. In winter, most people do not live close enough to the equator to have strong enough UVB rays that can make a difference. In order for your body to produce D3, you must get 30 minutes or more of DIRECT sunlight on bare skin on the majority of your upper body. Then, you need to give it adequate time to absorb before showering it off your skin.

Deficiencies in D3 can contribute to:

  • Insomnia and Poor Sleep
  • Weight Gain
  • Inability to Lose Weight
  • Reduction in Healthy Gut Bacteria
  • Gallstones
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Cavities

D3 and Sleep Disorders

D3 deficiency risk is especially high in winter where there is no UVB light, so our body uses the D3 we made and stored in sum­mer. As it gets used up the blood level of D3 falls, which causes our meta­bolic rate to drop, which in turn leads to thy­roid hor­mone levels going down. Our bodies interpret that as a signal to sleep and rest more, use less energy, and store fat for spring. Essentially, we are animals in “hibernation” although our bodies continue to go-go-go in our daily lives.

Our bodies may want us to sleep longer,  but a D3 hormone deficiency can actually contribute to sleep problems like sleep apnea, REM related apnea, unex­plained awak­en­ings, and light sleep, all of which keep us from heal­ing our bod­ies dur­ing the night. This lack of proper deep sleep can result in headaches, back pain, bal­ance dif­fi­cul­ties, depres­sion, mem­ory loss, and more.

D3 and Weight Gain, Diabetes, Cavities and Gallstones

Deficiency in D3 also affects the entire GI tract, including the bac­te­ria levels in our intes­tine. Lowered levels of important gut bacteria can result in an increased appetite and consumption of more calories. D3 levels also determine whether we store these added calories as fat or put them into mus­cle. This is one reason why many people gain weight during the winter season.

There are D recep­tors in our sali­vary glands, our teeth (amazing, right?), our esophageal sphinc­ter, and the stom­ach cells that make acid.  The D3 we make on our skin goes to the liver, then into the bile, it keeps the bile acids dis­solved, pre­vent­ing gall stones from form­ing. Because there are D recep­tors in the islet cells of the pan­creas that make insulin, not enough D3 can also con­tribute to the devel­op­ment of dia­betes.

And, about our teeth? Dental cavities have been shown to be inversely related to hours of sunlight per year! People living in sunny locations are found to have approximately half as many cavities as those in  less sunny areas! Vitamin D beneficially affects calcium metabolism, and induces cathelicidin, a natural antimicrobial that attacks oral bacteria linked to dental cavities.

Low D3 lev­els are also connected to inefficient stom­ach emp­ty­ing as well as bloat­ing and con­sti­pa­tion or “irri­ta­ble bowel”. The irri­ta­ble bowel may result from depletion of our bac­te­ria in the lower GI tract.

Low D3 and Autoimmune Disease and Cancer

There are D hor­mone recep­tors on our red and white blood cells, and when the white blood cells don’t get enough D3, they begin attack­ing our body. Autoim­mune dis­eases such as  mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis, lupus, rheuma­toid arthri­tis, pso­ri­a­sis, and ulcer­a­tive col­i­tis, may all be related to low D3 hor­mone levels. White blood cells are also vital in protecting our bodies against cancer, and these cells travel throughout our bod­ies to help destroy potential or existing can­cer cells. Thus, increases in breast, colon and prostate can­cer are also believed to be related on some level to low D3.

Recommended Amounts

The FDA recommended a dose of vit­a­min D, 400800 IU/day, that is incredibly low. Each per­son must find out what dose they need by mea­sur­ing their blood level, it is truly the only way to see what you are absorbing from your supplements. Personally, living in Hawaii where I spend a large amount of my time all year in the sun and do not block it with sunscreen, I still supplement with 5000iu on days where I am not in the sun, and 10,000iu during rainy, cloudy, “winter” days because it is vital to optimum health. Of course, always check with your own healthcare provider regarding supplementation.