Worried about your immune system? Well, it is vitally critical that we all get tested right now, but perhaps not for what you think. As we enter into the fall and winter seasons, it’s time to get your Vitamin D levels checked. These levels may be one of the best predictors of your health for the next year. Vitamin D, which is actually a hormone and not a vitamin, is critical to a number of different functions in your body, including immune function, bone health, and mineral absorption. On the immune system side, deficiency of Vitamin D has been linked to increased severity of symptoms from viral infections.

Why hasn’t Vitamin D testing been more widely discussed?

Vitamin D testing has been pushed to the wayside for years, but this year most healthcare practitioners would agree that it is more important. In the past, it has not been as much of a priority because once they started to test for Vitamin D levels, they found it was low in virtually EVERYONE they were testing.  Why waste money on a test when you might as well just start on a Vitamin D supplement anyway?

Obviously, this year is different for a lot of reasons; we know it is critical to focus on everything we can do to improve our immune system functions. A simple place to start is with Vitamin D. But as with an journey, we need to know where we are starting, and a Vitamin D test is a great place to start.

Some things to remember:

  1. You can boost your body’s natural production of Vitamin D by being outside. The sun’s UV-B rays can help to naturally boost your Vitamin D levels. Exposing your skin to sunlight for 15-20 minutes a day can be very helpful! Although it is UV-A rays that can cause damage, sunscreens block both types of rays, so ideally you would spend time outside without sunscreen.
  2. A few foods are naturally high in Vitamin D. Fatty fish (tuna and salmon), organ meats, and egg yolks are all natural sources of Vitamin D.
  3. Many foods are supplemented with Vitamin D, including milk (both dairy and some non-dairy), cheese, orange juice and cereals.)

The darker your skin, the less sun will impact vitamin D production

Remember that peak times for Vitamin D right now are still between 11 AM to 3 PM.  Get some sun during that time…just don’t get burned.

For those people who have darker skin, there is even more reason to get tested this year. I, for example, have a complexion that tans well where we live, which probably translates to 20,000 IU of vitamin D in about an 15 minutes of sun exposure. But for people of African, Latino or Indian descent were to get the same amount of sun exposure, they will get much less Vitamin D production than I would.

(Here’s a short list of all of the benefits of sun exposure!)

Vitamin D supplements and the Immune System

Taking a Vitamin D supplement is critical for all of us as we enter into the fall and winter months, when our activity level will decrease, our exposure to the sun will also decrease, and our access to sweets during the holidays increase. All of these things suppress our immune response.

As to how much Vitamin D you need, every person needs different. A study in Brazil gave 50,000 IU to over 100 patients with vitiligo & psoriasis for 6 months without any adverse side effects.  Regardless of how much vitamin D you need, your goal for your vitamin D blood levels should minimally be 50 nmol/L, although 60 would be better.  70-90 is good too, but it’s hard to say whether levels of 100 or more are good or not, as there’s not a lot of research into that high a level. There are some studies in the functional medicine world that suggest there are benefits as we approach a blood level of 100, but that the body will likely self-regulate to that level.

Quick case study

I worked with an individual who had very low Vitamin D levels and, as the result of a fall, broke her arm.  It was a bad fracture due to osteoporosis & low Vitamin D levels. We put her on a Vitamin D and calcium/phosphorus regimen for bone health back in February. Subsequent blood work suggested she was doing great, and her primary physician recommended she keep taking it. We moved her Vitamin D levels from 30 to 50!! Although we still have some work to do to get her to the optimal level, she’s been feeling great, and has been very active around her house, garden and business!

IU vs mcg?

One last thing.  Recently there was a change in how Vitamin D is dosed out.  They switched from IU’s (International Units) to micrograms (µg or mcg; the latter is what I see on supplement bottles); 1 IU = 0.025 mcg.  I just had all the math figured out for my daily winter Vitamin D IU needs at 30,000 IU, and now I have to think of it as 750 mcg. If you took JUST the RDA of Vitamin D of 400 IU, it would be equivalent to 10 mcg.  Since that may not be enough for you, let’s sit down to examine your vitamin D levels and discuss what supplements you may need to get your Vitamin D levels up to par for optimal health.

About Keystone Chiropractic

Dr. Schurger’s practice, Keystone Chiropractic, is located at 450 S. Durkin Drive, Suite B in Springfield. Call 217-698-7900 or email drschurger@mac.com to arrange a consultation. Visit www.keystonechirospi.com for more information and to begin your journey back to better health.