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
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.
The FDA recommended a dose of vitamin D, 400–800 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.