One of the 24 essential nutrients the human body needs, everyone knows about vitamin D and its importance. A fat-soluble vitamin, vitamin D is often called the “sunny” or “sunshine” vitamin. Like we said, it’s an essential nutrient, but the catch with vitamin D is that it is a steroid hormone that can be produced by your body only through sun exposure, which helps to induce vitamin D synthesis.
If vitamin D is so vital, then it is indeed surprising that over one billion people worldwide are deficient in the vitamin! However, given the fact that sunlight is the main source of vitamin D (apart from a few foods like fatty fish and mushrooms), and given the lifestyles that we lead, maybe it isn’t all that surprising. Majority of the human population spends its life in the great indoors, hunched over systems and cell phones. When we do step out on the rare occasion, we make sure to slather ourselves with sunscreen, pull out the shades, and cover every bit of the body that could be exposed to sunlight. How, then, do we get our vitamin D?
Deficiency of vitamin D is associated with a higher risk of disease such as hypertension, depression, diabetes, osteoporosis, neurodegenerative diseases, and even cancer. Attempting to solve this huge problem of vitamin D deficiency and its ensuing diseases, pharmacies struck gold by inventing and marketing vitamin D supplements! Touted as a great way to boost vitamin D levels in the body, supplements soon became the new “sunshine”! Many people sing their praises, but not enough tell you about what could go wrong with these supplements. Surprised? Well, read on.
The Risks of Vitamin D Supplements
Yep, you read that right. Doesn’t the saying go that if something looks too good to be true, then it probably is? Well, this couldn’t be truer in the case of vitamin D supplements. These supplements may boost the nutrient’s level in your body, but in doing so, may do you more harm than good!
More Isn’t Better!
A lot of people may tell you to stock up on vitamin D to make up for the lack of it in your body, but more isn’t necessarily better. Excessive amounts of vitamin D supplementation (anything above 50 ng/ml) can cause vitamin D toxicity, which, in turn, gives rise to a number of health issues such as heart attacks, strokes, and kidney stones.
Increases the Risk of Autism in Infants
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disease that develops in a child within the first three years of its life. While it may be common knowledge that vitamin D deficiency in the mother during pregnancy and vitamin D deficiency during the child’s initial growth stages could lead to autism, what isn’t common knowledge is that even an excess of vitamin D supplementation could cause autism in infants, especially in the United States where all infants are fed with oral doses of vitamin D supplements and vitamin D fortified food. Studies show that countries, where infants are not fed the supplements, show lesser cases of autism, giving rise to the possibility that vitamin D supplements are indeed a risk factor for autism in infants.
Supplemental Vitamin D Can Be Immunosuppressive
Vitamin D affects the human immune system in many ways and at many levels. While they are claimed to be highly beneficial for health, vitamin D supplements can actually be immunosuppressive, reducing the strength and effectiveness of the immune system.
Hypercalcemia and Metastatic Calcification
Vitamin D supplements can be a cause of hypercalcemia and metastatic calcification. The former is a condition where the calcium level in your bones is way above normal, causing weak bones, kidney stones and wrecking your cardiovascular system, while the latter is a condition where calcium salts are deposited in normal tissues, causing health problems such as calciphylaxis.
Vitamin D Induces Renal Potassium Wasting
A condition where your kidneys excrete excess potassium, renal potassium wasting can be harmful, leading to potassium deficiency or imbalance and its related diseases. Studies have shown that vitamin D supplements can induce this condition.
Vitamin D May Cause Brain Lesions in the Elderly
Vitamin D supplements, along with calcium, can cause brain lesions in both depressed as well as non-depressed elders, causing symptoms such as headaches, nausea, fever, affected speech and vision, memory loss, and seizures.
Changes in Mineral Levels
Vitamin D supplementation also has a dramatic impact on your mineral levels, namely calcium, potassium and boron which drastically alters your metabolic rate, but that is rarely talked about or acknowledged.
How to Get Vitamin D without Supplements
Now that we’ve seen exactly how harmful vitamin D supplements can be, many of you might be at a loss as to what to do. Like we said, given the current lifestyles that we lead, it isn’t exactly practical to sunbathe every day to get the required vitamin D! Luckily, there are still numerous ways in which you can get your daily dose of vitamin D, such as:
Understanding the Link between Magnesium and Vitamin D
Studies show that raising your magnesium supplementation can increase the levels of vitamin D in your body. It does this by reversing your body’s resistance to vitamin D absorption, making it easier to absorb and synthesize it. Increasing your intake of dietary magnesium can also alter the risk of mortality. Apart from this, studies also show that magnesium deficiency can also be an overlooked cause of vitamin D deficiency, as magnesium is vital in vitamin D metabolism.
You can check in on your magnesium levels with a simple and non-invasive hair analysis test.
Ascorbic Acid and Vitamin D Metabolism
Like magnesium, ascorbic acid is vital to vitamin D metabolism. This acid, also popularly known as vitamin C, helps restore the functional efficiency of vitamin D, especially in those with a deficit, thus proving its importance to vitamin D in several studies that were conducted.
Learn all about some of the best ways to bump up your vitamin C levels here.
Vitamin D and Calcium
Ever heard of 25(OH)D? Also known as “calcifediol”, this compound is produced by the liver from vitamin D. Why is this important? Because calcifediol is an important indicator of vitamin D deficiency, both being directly proportional. This means that low calcifediol means low vitamin D. However, upping your calcium intake can set right this problem. Increased calcium intake has shown to increase calcifediol, which, in turn, helps increase the level of vitamin D in the body.
UV Lights for Vitamin D Deficiency
Studies have shown that using UV lights as a substitute for sunlight can help increase vitamin D levels in people with malabsorption. Patients with cystic fibrosis and short bowel syndrome generally have severe vitamin D deficiency. Using an indoor tanning lamp was found to mimic the effect of sunlight by helping increase the levels of 25(OH)D, thereby helping such people increase their vitamin D levels. Additionally, vitamin D deficiencies can also be helped with specific vitamin D lamps, which are UV lamps built for the specific purpose of helping prevent vitamin D deficiency.
Boron and Vitamin D
Boron is a multifaceted micronutrient with various beneficial properties. One such property is its ability to affect the body’s use of vitamin D by increasing levels of calcifediol and decreasing calcium intake, both important factors in the prevention of vitamin D deficiency. It also increases the bioavailability of vitamin D, which means that it helps the body better absorb and use vitamin D.
You can easily find out your current boron levels with hair analysis.
Keep Away the Sunburn!
If you’re someone who prefers the sun to be your best source of vitamin D, chances are you’ve suffered tans or even sunburns. However, a combination of vitamin C and vitamin E can help prevent or reduce the risk of sunburn. As an added bonus, we know vitamin C is vital for vitamin D metabolism, so it’s really like getting the best of both worlds! Vitamins C and E can also help protect against UV rays, especially in the case of vitamin D lamps and UV lamps.
The Final Word
It may have come as a surprise to many of us that something that is touted to be good for health could actually have these many adverse effects. Vitamin D is indeed a vital vitamin, and as we saw, vitamin D deficiency is a widespread and serious problem. However, vitamin D supplements may not be the answer to this problem. Instead, opt for any of given methods to increase your vitamin D levels in a safe and healthy way. Even better, get out and feel the sun on your face, and go home healthier for it. But remember, if you take supplements, be an informed user of all the risks!
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- Vitamin D: More Is Not Better
- Infant Exposure to Excessive Vitamin D: A Risk Factor for Autism
- Supplemental vitamin D tends to be immunosuppressive
- Hypercalcemia and metastatic calcification
- RENAL POTASSIUM-WASTING INDUCED BY VITAMIN D *
- Calcium and vitamin D intakes may be positively associated with brain lesions in depressed and nondepressed elders.
- Magnesium, vitamin D status and mortality: results from US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001 to 2006 and NHANES III
- Ascorbic acid effects on vitamin D hormone metabolism and binding in guinea pigs.
- Magnesium deficit ? overlooked cause of low vitamin D status?
- An Ancestral Perspective on Vitamin D Status, Part 2: Why Low 25(OH)D Could Indicate a Deficiency of Calcium Instead of Vitamin http://web.archive.org/web/20160819000355/http://www.westonaprice.org/our-blogs/cmasterjohn/an-ancestral-perspective-on-vitamin-d-status-part-2-why-low-25ohd-could-indicate-a-deficiency-of-calcium-instead-of-vitamin-d/
- Nothing Boring About Boron
- Analysis of The Vitamin D Lamp
- Treatment of vitamin D deficiency with UV light in patients with malabsorption syndromes: a case series
- Protective effect against sunburn of combined systemic ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and d-alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E).