SUPERSTAR D! Learning the benefits of a crucial nutrient By Lindy Ford, RD, LDN

And the winner of the Nutritional Nutrient Academy Award is … drumroll, please …Vitamin D! Unfortunately, 80 percent of my patients are living with suboptimal or deficient levels of vitamin D. In fact, the crisis is plaguing the entire country.
For many years D played a supporting role to calcium’s leading-actor status in the body. It is because D helps our bodies absorb calcium. Due to recent medical research, D’s performance has skyrocketed to the A-list. It really deserves an Academy Award-winning status for so many reasons. Let’s look at why.

WHY IS VITAMIN D SO IMPORTANT?
“There is a vitamin D receptor on every one of our cells,” says Michael F. Holick, Ph.D, MD, author of “The Vitamin D Solution.” “And those receptors are there for a reason—actually, many reasons. All of our bodily functions seem to rely on the nutrient, and studies show that it’s key to helping prevent everything from migraines to cancer.”
HIGH LEVELS OF VITAMIN D ARE LINKED TO:
• Less cancer risk
• Greater resistance to viruses
• Reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease
LOW LEVELS OF VITAMIN D ARE LINKED TO:
• Diabetes I and II
• Obesity
• Depression & mood disorders
• Heart disease
• Chronic pain
WHY ARE WE SO DEFICIENT?
I’m finding, even for some of my patients who are exposed to the sun, D levels can be low. The reasons for this are poor gut health, too much body fat, sunscreen overload and an overburden of toxins and chemicals.
The best possible way to get Vitamin D is to expose your skin to the sun. (Please, don’t write me admonishing emails about sun exposure and skin cancer—I know the risks.) Appropriate sun exposure is crucial!
“Slathering skin with sunscreen with an SPF of 30 will reduce exposure to ultraviolet-B rays by 95 to 98 percent. But if you make enough vitamin D in your skin in summer, it can meet the body’s needs for the rest of the year,” Dr. Holick says. Optimum D levels will help to protect the skin from many different cancers.
“The rising incidence of Type 1 diabetes may be due, in part, to the current practice of protecting the young from sun exposure,” he explains. “When newborn infants in Finland were given 2,000 international units a day, Type 1 diabetes fell by 88 percent.”
Certainly, the doctor is not saying to avoid protecting kids, but we should allow them to get some unprotected sun exposure.
I am not crazy about the chemical-laden sunscreens we are slathering all over ourselves and our families (the skin is the largest organ and absorbs everything we put on it). Try a natural brand (like Alba), which can be found at a health-food store. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Safer Sunscreens online before buying.
Many factors influence the rate of vitamin D formation in skin, so it is difficult to establish a universal public-health recommendation. Asked for a general recommendation, Dr. Holick suggests going outside in summer, unprotected by sunscreen (except for the face, which should always be protected), wearing minimal clothing from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. two or three times a week for 5 to 10 minutes. I personally say 15 minutes is better.

SHOULD I BE SUPPLEMENTING WITH VITAMIN D AS WELL?
It’s wise to have vitamin D levels checked via blood twice a year. Supplementation is necessary for some of us to get to optimal levels. Because of the many protective benefits of D, practitioners (like me) prefer D levels in an optimum range. It’s difficult to overdose on D, but, please, consult a health-care professional. Healthy adults have taken 10,000 IU a day for six months or longer with no adverse effects.
The National Institutes of Health sets the normal D range at 16-74 ng/ml. Still, leading vitamin D experts are calling for the low end of the range to increase. Traditional labs suggest blood levels under 30 ng/ml denotes deficiency. I like my patients to maintain a level over 60 ng/ml for optimal disease prevention.

HOW MUCH D SHOULD I TAKE?
Again, consult a health-care practitioner and obtain blood work—ask for the 25(OH)D test. After meeting optimal levels, I suggest most individuals continue to take 1,000-2,000 IUs daily all year long. Those who are deficient should take significantly more.

IS THERE A CERTAIN KIND OF VITAMIN D I SHOULD TAKE?
Some practitioners will put D-deficient patients on a weekly dose of 50,000 IUs. Unfortunately, it is usually D2, which is a synthetic version of the nutrient. I believe a far superior form of D is D3—the natural form.
Perfectly adequate forms of D3 can be found at a local drugstore. Higher-quality supplements can be found at a health-food store.

THE STAR OF THE SHOW
Vitamin D really has stolen the show. It’s important to get out in the sun, have your blood tested, and supplement as necessary. Then, put on your designer clothes, walk the red carpet, and give a standing ovation for vitamin D! It does a lot for you and deserves your accolades.

TESTIMONIALS
“I’ve suffered with GI issues for 7 years, receiving ‘band-aid’ medical treatments, which helped my symptoms for a while but lacked actual long-term improvement. Lindy’s goal for me from the beginning was to heal my gut instead of treating the symptoms. Before working with Lindy I couldn’t imagine a scenario where I’d be symptom free and enjoying more energy, but I’m almost there.” -Blair S.

To learn more about vitamin D, please view “HOW VITAMIN D BENEFITS YOU & HOW YOUR LAB “NORMAL” MAY BE SUBOPTIMAL: YouTube, Lindy Ford Nutrition & Wellness. PLEASE SUBSCRIBE.
Lindy Ford, RD, LDN is a registered dietitian and licensed nutritionist in private practice in Wilmington, NC. 910.899.7954 or Email: [email protected]; Website: lindyfordwellness.com
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