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Vitamin D Helps Nearly Every Cell in Body Function Better

Nature of today’s lifestyle means most Americans are deficient in vital hormone

DAYTON, Ohio (December 10, 2018) – Vitamin D may best be known for its role in bone health, but a closer look demonstrates it plays an integral part in the function of nearly every cell in the body.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble hormone and vitamin that is naturally produced in the body when cholesterol migrates to the skin and is exposed to natural sunlight. This original form of Vitamin D, known as cholecalciferol, then goes through several cycles of enzymatic change until it becomes D3, the active form in the body, said Faisal Khatri, MD, a family physician with Premier Family Care of Mason who focuses on lifestyle-based care.

“Nearly every cell in our body has a Vitamin D receptor, and judging by the cells that have been studied, they function better when they have Vitamin D around,” said Dr. Khatri. “Immune cells that fight viruses and cancers are examples of cells that function better when they are exposed to Vitamin D.”

In fact, Vitamin D helps keep all areas of the body healthy. It’s associated with lowering blood sugars in diabetes and with improvements in COPD exacerbations. It helps to protect the myelin sheath around nerves to help preserve brain and nerve function, works to lower blood pressure and to improve heart function overall. And it helps maintain a person’s emotional health, especially during the winter months when the lack of high quality sun light contributes to mood depressions. This is, of course, in addition to helping to strengthen bones.

Despite Vitamin D’s vital role in the body’s function, Americans would be surprised to find most are sorely deficient. Factors such as age and the modern lifestyle have contributed to a recent increase in Vitamin D deficiency, Dr. Khatri explained.

“Younger people who spend time outside in peak sun can produce enough Vitamin D through sun exposure,” he said. “However, that same capability is impaired in older people.”

“The American lifestyle, which is driven by work schedules forcing us indoors during peak sunlight hours, as well as an increased focus on sun safety, prevent adequate sun exposure in most people.”

Dr. Khatri said it’s important for individuals to keep the following in mind to determine if they may be Vitamin D deficient and what they can do about it:

Know if you’re at-risk – If you are darker skinned, work the night shift, spend most of your days indoors, or if you are having mood depressions, get frequent infections or can’t recover as quickly from them, or you have bone or joint pains, you may be deficient in Vitamin D. The only accurate way to tell if you are deficient is via a blood test that measures your blood levels.

Know when to supplement – When vitamin D was discovered in the early 1900s in relation to a bone weakness disease called Rickets, it was noted that 400 units was needed daily to prevent it, and this formed the basis of the recommended daily intake. However, since then, we have discovered that vitamin D is much more than a vitamin and acts more like a hormone throughout the body, and that the previously considered normal intake recommendations of 400 units daily and blood level of 30 ng/ml are insufficient. Most rheumatologists recommend a minimum blood level of 50, and Dr. Khatri recommends 60 to 100 ng/ml as a goal range. It doesn’t hurt for Americans in general to supplement from November through March – when sun exposure is at its lowest – but if you are at risk of being deficient or know you are deficient, it is likely a good idea to supplement year-round based on measured levels.

Know what to get – In order to maintain or raise levels in the body, vitamin D should be taken in the D3 form at a dose of about 5000-6000 international units daily as an adult. Consider taking it together with about 200-300 micrograms of Vitamin K2 for better absorption and to help optimize the bone and heart health benefits.

Know how to take it – Since Vitamin D is fat soluble (as is vitamin K2), it should be taken with fatty food to help your body absorb it from your intestine. Some people incorporate it in their meals while others take mixtures of D3 and K2 together in oil suspension which are inexpensive and available over the counter.

Dr. Khatri is available by appointment at Premier Family Care of Mason.

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