Vitamin D is a popular supplement that you’ve probably heard of, but a lot of new questions have been raised. Today we’ll explore.
While it isn’t a new discovery, vitamin D has become increasingly popular for its mood stabilizing and immunity boosting properties. If you aren’t on it yourself, you probably know someone taking it. And you might even know someone who raves about all of the beneficial attributes of this supplement. But a lot of questions have been raised lately, so today we’ll take a closer look and fill you in on what you need to know.
How Much Vitamin D Is Too Much?
Take a look at your health. When you have a specific problem, you go to the doctor to make sure it’s not a sign of a bigger problem. You want to get to the root of the issue before you decide to start treating it.
Well, shouldn’t supplements be handled in the same manner by asking yourself – Why is my body low in vitamin D?
Emerging research over the last couple of years has shown that a huge percentage of the entire world suffers from low vitamin D levels.
Which, yes, is a little bit weird.
But what’s even weirder is how we’re handling this whole thing. The process generally goes like this – a patient goes into his or her doctor, gets tested for vitamin D levels, finds out they’re a little low.
So what does the health care provider do? Recommends the patient with a vitamin D supplement. Problem solved, right?
Maybe. Or maybe that patient comes back a few months later and their numbers are still low. So the doctor increases the dosage.
Rarely does a healthcare professional stop and question why the patient’s vitamin D numbers were low in the first place. And, because vitamin D supplement side effects can really alter a patient’s health, it’s something doctors are beginning to pay attention to.
Can You Take Too Much Vitamin D?
Within the last few years, vitamin D has been in the spotlight as a supplement shining star. And it’s been studied a lot more than other vitamins.
A lot of research – and we mean a lot – suggests that little old vitamin D can actually help in preventing damaging diseases, including autoimmune disorders, cancer, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. These devastating illnesses plague a lot of adults, and what if you could help prevent these with minimal effort? Sounds good to us. But is it a simple as adding some extra vitamin d capsules to your diet?
So taking a supplement that could potentially ward them off sounds like heaven to a lot of people.
Even more so, some studies show that vitamin D can affect the influence of our genes and those with a deficiency may experience weight gain and become obese.
And statistics back these points up. The numbers show that somewhere between 40 to 50 % of healthy kids and adults don’t have enough vitamin D.
Want more evidence of that? In the last handful of years, there has been a huge surge in diagnosis of rickets worldwide. Rickets result from a prolonged deficiency in vitamin D that affects malnourished children and adults.
So quite simply, if there’s a rickets problem, there’s a vitamin D problem. Don’t worry – the healthcare industry is all too aware of what’s going on, as well as the statistics, studies, and research. So they’re looking for ways to fix it.
But their plan of attack is a little unsettling.
It’s not uncommon for a healthcare professional to prescribe higher levels of vitamin D to his or her patients. In fact, these dosages can range anywhere from 2,000 to 10,000 IU (International Units) each and every day. The weekly amount can be up to 50,000 – or even more. This is quite a bit more than you’ll soak up from an hour in the sun!
These high numbers have people asking questions.
Can You Overdose on Vitamin D?
And here’s the biggest question – why aren’t we trying to figure out why everyone’s vitamin D levels are so low? And really, how long can we all stay on vitamin D supplements until it becomes unsafe? Let’s take a closer look.
Vitamin D Effects
So OK, what exactly is vitamin D? Are there side effects from supplementing with it? Let’s look closer. Vitamin D refers to a whole group made up of fat-soluble compounds. They act as pre-hormones to the active version of vitamin D. This is called calcitriol.
And we can “make” vitamin D. How, you ask? Simple! Sitting out in the sun. So if you’re concerned about side effects of taking vitamin D as a supplement, go the natural route and use the sunshine!
When our skin is shining in the sun or ultraviolet-B radiation (UVB), vitamin D is made. This is also the reason why getting some sunshine contributes to mood stabilization, and part of why so many people experience down moods in the wintertime.
This very first form of vitamin D is called 7-dehydrocholesterol. It makes its way to your liver and is turned into another active form of vitamin D, called 25-hydroxyvitamin D. And that is the form of vitamin D that healthcare professionals are testing when they’re on the hunt for a deficiency.
Vitamin D plays a huge role in your body. When it’s in its active form (calcitriol), it’s a micronutrient that helps keep calcium and various other minerals in your body under control.
And it increases our digestive tract absorption of calcium from the food we eat. When our body needs more calcium, our kidneys step up to the plate and produce even more of the active form of vitamin D. So our calcium levels increase.
Before everyone decided to jump on the vitamin D bandwagon, we thought that only a few specific organs in the body served as receptors for vitamin D. They were called Vitamin D Receptors (VDRs).
But now we’ve gotten smarter and we know that virtually every single cell in our body has receptors for vitamin D. So what does this mean? Vitamin D has a much bigger hand than what we thought.
With this brand new info, we have uncovered that this vitamin plays a huge role in our immune system and helps with cell differentiation, as well as regulating the blood pressure and secretion of insulin.
Vitamin D Myths
So let’s circle back to the question of what’s going on in our bodies. As we talked about before, 25-hydroxyvitamin D is usually considered the biggest indicator of someone’s vitamin D levels.
But that’s where things get a little sticky. Scientists can’t seem to come to an agreement on the best range for vitamin D levels.
A real vitamin D deficiency that causes major issues like osteomalacia and rickets occur at levels below 25 ng/mL in the blood.
A big chunk of researchers feel the ideal range for vitamin D levels is somewhere between 50 – 80 ng/mL. But there’s really no general consensus on where the numbers should be.
Back in 2010, the National Institute of Health (US) came up with the Recommended Dietary Allowance in terms of vitamin D. It was 600 IUs each day for babies and children, as well as adults up to 70 years old.
But some experts believe this could be hugely damaging to people’s health. So what can we do?
Sunshine and Vitamin D
The National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements states that we can meet our body’s need for vitamin D in one simple way – get some sunshine in your life!
And just a small amount can do it! All you need is 30% of your skin unprotected from clothes and sunscreen for five to thirty minutes three times a week. For the most effective amount of sun, it should be during the hours of 10 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon.
But, considering how much of the world’s population is dealing with lower levels of vitamin D, is this recommendation of sunshine really accurate? Do we need more?
Case in point – if you don’t have enough vitamin D in your body, it can majorly hurt you.
Some dramatic studies state that the lower your vitamin D level is, the higher your mortality rate is. That’s a direct and startling consequence if we’ve ever heard one.
The flipside of that shows that your mortality rate also rises if your vitamin D levels are over ~40 ng/mL.
So. There isn’t really a clear answer here.
But what we do know – there isn’t any evidence or experience to show that vitamin d3 supplements are safe to use long-term. People are quick to look toward pills as a solution – but maybe we need to ask some questions before we start taking supplements on a consistent basis. We also always love a natural option when available, like getting some sun (also in moderation)!
Vitamin D Supplement Side Effects
Something else to consider would be vitamin D’s relationship with other key nutrients we need in our bodies. Let’s see how that works.
A high dose of vitamin D can cause hypercalcemia, which is a dangerously high level of calcium in the blood.
Think this isn’t something you need to be worried about? Think again. It can kill rats. A certain form of rodenticide is a fatal dose of vitamin D. It has enough of the vitamin in it to calcify soft tissues in the animal and cause death.
But in order for a human to get this level of calcium in their blood, they would need to take about 30,000 to 40,000 IUs every single day. Though no one (we hope) is taking this much of the supplement, you have to wonder how it affects you if it there is a gradual build up over time.
Because calcium levels aren’t always accurate in blood serum tests, abnormalities might pop up in a few surprising (and unpleasant) ways, such as kidney stones.
Hypercalcuria happens when the body attempts to get rid of extra calcium itself. So it goes for the kidneys, which is why a lot of researchers believe that higher levels of vitamin D supplementation can cause kidney stones.
One interesting study focused on a nurse home, where residents were taking 5,000 IU of vitamin D for six months. They were looking for an increase in the urinary calcium/creatinine area – and they found it. They discovered the extra calcium was coming out in urine, because there was too much in the subjects’ bodies.
Kidney stones, while painful and perhaps one of the worst experiences in the world (speaking from experience here!), aren’t the only thing that can come from too much calcium. The mineral may try to deposit itself in various soft tissues throughout the body, such as the arteries.
Just these few key facts should be considered when people begin or continue taking their vitamin D supplements.
And maybe you’re about ready to flush your vitamin D supplements down the toilet and call your doctor and curse him or her out.
But let’s go back to trying to figure out why vitamin D levels are so low across the board. Could it because calcium levels are too high already? And because of this, the body cuts back on vitamin D production in order to cut back on the amount of calcium.
So then, the next question becomes why are calcium levels too high? This could be from a number of things, including pH imbalance, a deficiency in protein, or even a liver dysfunction.
Or, to put in simple terms – there may be other things going on that lead to bigger issues.
A Potent Combination
How about vitamin K? This vitamin permits the body to use calcium for its essential clotting feature. Well, if this vitamin is low, then the body can’t use calcium for clotting.
So if a person is vitamin K deficient, these calcium levels build up and then go to our soft tissues for depositing.
Here’s what we’re getting at – Vitamin D surges the calcium levels in our bodies and vitamin K enables the body to use calcium. So this combination is essential! If any piece of it falls off, the group process is impacted.
And if a person was supplementing a higher dose of vitamin D, when they really needed vitamin K, things could get ugly. Fast.
Magnesium, which is involved in over 300 various processes throughout the entire body, holds the power to make and use ATP, which is the main form of energy.
Among many other things, magnesium helps in processes connected to the production and use of vitamin D. And here’s a shocking fact – over half of the world’s population doesn’t need the recommended allowance for magnesium.
Because of this, a lot of researches feel that supplementing vitamin D would not only add to a magnesium deficiency, but also make it significantly worse.
We could go on and on and on (and on) about deadly combinations and what the repercussions are.
We’ll give you one key take away.
A lot of healthcare professionals urge their patients to supplement vitamins A and K with vitamin D in order to ward off complications. Because we’re always learning more and more about the body, we also learn the various roles that nutrients play as well. A multivitamin can help you keep things in balance, but keep your dosage within reason of all of these nutrients.
Don’t just take a pill for the problem – ask yourself what the long-term complications could be. Always seek to get as much of your vitamins as possible from natural food sources as these are highly absorbable in your body. And most importantly, ask yourself why a problem exists in the first place. Never forget that that some good old-fashioned sunshine can do a great deal for mood stabilization and immune health!
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