Vitamin D

With Elaine Hollingsworth

If you do not provide your body with sufficient vitamin D, you might as well kiss your bones goodbye. If you live in a part of the world where UV-B rays are plentiful all year round (and there are precious few), and if you get adequate sun throughout the year, without sunscreen, your skin will synthesise your vitamin D from sunlight.  Nature, in her infinite wisdom, knows when to stop: if you are getting your vitamin D from the sun, synthesis in your skin provides its own brakes against D toxicity.  But, if you are obliged to depend upon supplementation for this crucial vitamin, you will need to ensure you are not overdosing by having your levels tested.   

In Australia, if you live north of Coff’s Harbour, the sun will provide you with sufficient vitamin D for maintaining and building your bones all year long.  That is, provided you do full body sunning (as much as modesty permits, and don’t neglect your tummy) for 10 to 15 minutes on each side three to four times a week, between 10am and 3pm. Yes, that’s right – just the opposite from government recommendations.  You will not be able to soak up beneficial rays on overcast or polluted days, and you will need to avoid the scorching summer sun.  Do not allow your skin to burn, or even tan.  If it does, you are getting too much sun for your skin type. 

For overseas readers, the rule of thumb is this: check your atlas and find yourself in relation to the latitude lines. If you are living between 30° and the Equator, your year-round sun will be superb. If not, you will have to supplement.

There has been a great deal of research recently on the benefits of vitamin D, and the amounts we need.   Governments claim we don’t need much at all, but when have you known them to be right about anything?  I prefer to put my faith in Dr John Cannell, of The Vitamin D Council, a non-government, non-profit foundation, located at 9100 San Gregorio Road, Atascadero, California, ( They are doing cutting-edge research, and I recommend them, and their free newsletter highly. The following life-saving information has been taken directly from their newsletter:
“ How much vitamin D you need varies with age, body weight, percent of body fat, latitude, skin coloration, season of the year, use of sun block, individual variation in sun exposure, and - probably - how ill your are.  As a general rule, old people need more than young people, big people need more that little people, fat people need more than skinny people, northern people need more than southern people, dark-skinned people need more than fair skinned people, winter people need more than summer people, sun block lovers need more than sun block haters, sun-phobes need more than sun worshipers, and ill people may need more than well people.

“Regular readers should understand the reasons behind all these statements except for the last one.  However, don't feel bad, no one understands it.  Vitamin D is used by the body, metabolically cleared, both to maintain wellness and to treat disease.  If you get an infection, how much vitamin D does your body use up fighting the infection?  Nobody knows.  If you have cancer, how much vitamin D does your body use up fighting the cancer?  Nobody knows.  If you have heart disease, how much vitamin D does your body use up fighting the heart disease?  Nobody knows.  If you are a child with autism, how much vitamin D does your brain need to turn on the genes that autism has turned off?  Nobody knows.  If you are an athlete, how much vitamin D does your body use up making you stronger and quicker?  Nobody knows.

“This is what I'd do.  If you live in Florida and sunbathe once a week, year around, do nothing.  If you use suntan parlors once a week, do nothing.  However, if you have little UVB exposure, my advice is as follows.  Well children under the age of two should take 1,000 IU per day, over the age of two, 2,000 IU per day.  Well adults and adolescents between 80 pounds and 130 pounds should start with 3,000 IU per day, over 130 pounds but less than 170 pounds, 4,000 IU per day and over 170 pounds, 5,000 IU per day. 

Get The Right Test

 “Two months later have your doctor order your first 25-hydroxy-vitamin D blood test.  Yes, start the vitamin D before you have the blood test.  Then adjust your dose so your 25(OH)D level is between 50 and 70 ng/ml, summer and winter.  These are conservative dosage recommendations.  Most people who avoid the sun - and virtually all dark-skinned people - will have to increase their dose once they find their blood level is still low, even after two months of the above dosage, especially in the winter.
“The only blood test that can diagnose vitamin D deficiency is a 25-hydroxy-vitamin D [25(OH)D].  Get your levels above 50 ng/ml, year around.  Unfortunately, about 10-20% of the doctors in the USA order the wrong test.  They order a 1,25-dihydroxy-vitamin D, thinking that by measuring the most potent steroid in the system, they are getting useful information.  They are not.  1,25-dihydroxy-vitamin D is an adaptive hormone; it goes up and down with calcium intake.  Furthermore, as 25(OH)D is a weak steroid, when 25(OH)D levels are low, the body compensates by increasing the amount of the potent steroid, 1,25-dihydroxy-vitamin D.  Thus, a common cause of high 1,25-dihydroxy-vitamin D is low 25(OH)D or vitamin D deficiency.  So these doctors see the 1,25-dihydroxy-vitamin D is normal or high and tell their patients that they are OK when they are vitamin D deficient, advice that may prove fatal.  Furthermore, the reference labs in this country know this is occurring but, to date, have not taken steps to educate the doctors ordering the test because the reference labs make more money off a 1,25-dihydroxy-vitamin D than they do from a 25-hydroxy-vitamin D.  Although the misdiagnosis of vitamin D deficiency may prove fatal, the doctors, and the reference labs, are ordering and processing the wrong test.”

Vitamin D is Tricky

The action of vitamin D, whether it is from sunlight, food or supplements, is not the same as the action of a conventional vitamin, because it is actually a pro-hormone, and has to be treated accordingly.  There are no symptoms of chronic marginal overdose, which can be serious and irreversible. Too much or too little vitamin D will cause calcium to be diverted from your bones into your soft tissues, where you do not want it. Acute overdose causes death rapidly!  This is the reason sunlight is such a good source. Nature knows how to apply the brakes, but Man doesn’t, and the latest craze of vitamin D injections – “One shot a year, to get all the D you need!” – can cause irreversible damage to soft tissues and premature aging of arteries.  D injections send the vitamin/hormone levels way above normal, then way below, in a dangerous yo-yo.

After testing, if your physician approves, and recommends a dosage of vitamin D, it will be necessary for you to be tested again in six months for your follow-up 25 hydroxyvitamin D level.  This way, you and your physician will be able to make sure that the supplements are having the desired effect, and will not cause an overdose.  But do not take any vitamin D at all if you suffer from Sarcoidosis, or any other disease associated with D toxicity.  Taking vitamin D when it is not needed is dangerous!

Once your 25(OH)D result is in, get a copy for yourself, or at least write down your level for your records.  This test should be available in all countries, but the technicalities differ.  In Australia, and in many other countries, the levels are measured in nmol/l, as opposed to the US measurement of ng/ml.  In this instance, the desirable range is no lower than 75nmol/l, and no higher than 150nmol/l.  The optimal is still being determined, and is probably 100-150nmol/l. With a level below 75nmol/l, you would be wise to take steps to improve your levels of vitamin D, whether by sunlight or food/supplements.  If your level is below 75nmol/l, there is a likelihood of bone loss.

If you are unable to get sufficient sun exposure all year, or if your skin does not synthesise vitamin D well, due to advanced age or genetics, you will need to take special care to eat foods that contain vitamin D several times each week, or supplement with vitamin D3.   (Make sure it is D3, not any other kind!)

Mature skin does not absorb vitamin D from the sun efficiently.  So, it is doubly important for seniors to use supplemental sources, because vitamin D is crucial for strengthening muscles, thus preventing the falls that cause hip fractures.   There is an added bonus:  vitamin D is one of our best defences against contracting cancer. 

Supplementation can be a bit tricky because, before it is started, you need to be sure that your calcium intake is equal to, or greater than, 1000mg per day (from supplements and food combined). You have already learned about inorganic calcium, so derive your calcium from the recommended raw vegetables, nuts, sardines, etc., and from Maca, which is a fine source. The reason for this reliance on calcium intake is due to the way low calcium can mask as low vitamin D. If you are uncomfortable with this, bear in mind that my friends and I all place great emphasis on raw vegetables and Maca, and no calcium supplements, and all of us test high in calcium.

Egg yolks are a potent source of vitamin D, but only in free range eggs.  If you raise chickens, remember that they need sun, too.  So, see to it that they get plenty, and give them the best food possible.  That means lots of veggies, no soy and the opportunity to dash about eating insects, as chickens are meant to do.  

We all know about cod liver oil. Many of us were given it as children, some have given it to their own children, and it has the reputation of a benign, effective product, providing both vitamins D and A.   Unfortunately, it isn’t, according to new research.  It contains toxic amounts of vitamin A, which can antagonize the action of vitamin D.   It goes rancid easily and, worse, most fish now are contaminated with mercury.  I prefer food sources.   

Cod liver oil is recommended by the majority of alternative health professionals.  It is popular, it is used a great deal, and it does have certain advantages.  Should you opt to take it, however, please be aware of the following:  it can raise the blood sugar of diabetics, it must not be taken by people on Warfarin, as it is a natural anti-coagulant, it is toxic to anyone with liver problems, people who take drugs, including aspirin, or other NSAIDs, and those who take multi-vitamins containing vitamin A, or beta-carotine.

Experts have widely differing opinions about vitamin A toxicity. Studies have shown A to be toxic in large doses, but synthetic A, in the form of the toxic retinol (which can cause birth defects) was used in the studies, so this skewed the results. To further complicate this subject, many fabricated foods and most vitamin products contain this unnatural form of vitamin A. This means that, if you eat manufactured food and take vitamins, you could possibly get an overdose, if you then add cod liver oil, which contains lots of vitamin A.   My recommendation – never eat ‘fortified’ food.  They are useless nutritionally, and worse -- toxic vitamins are used and it’s impossible to measure intake.

Excerpt from Chapter 8 – “Take Control of Your Health and Escape the Sickness Industry” by Elaine Hollingsworth. 


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