Vitamin D in a nutshell - that was my original title – “in a nutshell”, or so I thought. What started out to be a quick, concise, organized discussion of all things surrounding vitamin D turned out to be not so easy. The problem was not in finding enough information, but in weeding out extraneous information. And who am I to really know what is important and what might not be important?  Even at that, I found that any accurate and helpful discussion would require more than the requisite 500 word blog. Therefore, I have decided to break up the information into segments more easily digested and understood. I seriously considered shelving the entire project and my 20 plus pages of information, but I kept coming back to the glaring fact that maintaining adequate vitamin D levels is probably one of the most important and easy things we can do to improve and protect our health.  Add to that equation, I have a pregnant daughter-in-law, which brings this discussion even closer to home due to the very important need for vitamin D for pregnant and/or breast-feeding moms. In fact, I just read an article relating that scientists found that women with low levels of vitamin D were twice as likely to have a cesarean section at delivery than women with no deficiency!

I've noticed this past month that each day a new article or research paper about vitamin D has come across my desk. Some of this research is not new, some of it doesn't agree with what I learned in nursing school and when discussing a lot of the important stuff, those that are supposed to know the answers don’t agree. So this is why I decided to spend the last few weeks doing an in-depth research of all that I could find concerning vitamin D.

I've decided to break up this important content into the following categories - I hope you'll stay with me throughout the discussion and give me feedback with your particular and personal experiences concerning this essential nutrient.

Vitamin D, what is it?

Vitamin D, what does it do?

Vitamin D, what happens when we don't have enough?

Vitamin D, what are our best sources?

Vitamin D, what is considered "enough"?

Vitamin D, what is considered "too much."?

Vitamin D, interactions with medications and other cautions.

References and Resources.

Vitamin D, what is it?

Everyone agrees that vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that it is available in only a few foods and is, therefore, added to other foods as a supplement. Individual vitamin D supplements are readily available in both a prescription and an over-the-counter form. Many agree that the best way to obtain vitamin D is through natural sunshine exposure.  It is, however, necessary to have an adequate amount of ultraviolet rays (specifically UVB) from sunlight to strike the skin and trigger vitamin D synthesis. As you will see, this is not possible in some northern latitudes. Although there are five forms of vitamin D, numbers one through five, only D2 and D3 are bioactive and used in supplements, and for those who care, they are specifically Ergocalciferol or vitamin D2 and Cholecalciferol which is vitamin D3. Vitamin D2 is synthesized by plants, whereas vitamin D3 is synthesized by humans in the skin when it is exposed to UVB rays from sunlight. Foods may be fortified with vitamin D2 or D3.

Although supplementation is available for both, we will find that there is controversy over which form, either vitamin D2 or vitamin D3, is better able to supplement our serum (blood) vitamin D levels. Sun exposure is still considered the best source for vitamin D. There are those who would argue that sunshine and ultraviolet rays are the leading cause of skin cancer. This is true and we will discuss this later.

Tomorrow, Part II - What does it do and what happens when we don't have enough.

Comments and questions are very much solicited.


Addendum - dated August 17, 2010

Since this original article was researched and written, there have been many other studies published showing that Vitamin D is, in fact, crucial to our health. What brings me back to this original, Part I, and the continuing discussion of Vitamin D were two things. A recent discussion with a customer from New Zealand about sunscreen. I explained that we (Wingsets) don't make a sunscreen at this point because most of them contain way too many chemicals that would not be in line with our natural/organic philosophy for a business or lifestyle. I understand that in New Zealand the sun is at a different angle and, yes, they do need sunscreen if outside for very long. My experience in Nebraska, and even when I lived in Mississippi, was that I didn't need to use sunscreen unless I was going to be out in the sun for a long period of time - such as sitting on a nice beach in North Carolina (short pause for dreaming.) I need my sunshine and even in the summer time I don't get enough, so we do supplement with Vitamin D3. It isn't as effective of course as nature's vitamin D. We did come across an "all natural" broad spectrum UVA/UVB 30 SPF sunscreen that I think I could recommend to people - it's called Solar Aegis. Again, I don't recommend using sunscreen on an every day basis. For women who wear foundation makeup, it's a good idea to find one that includes an SPF of at least 20. We do need to protect our faces ladies!

The second reason for adding this addendum is a recent article I saw that gives us another reason to be vigilant about getting enough vitamin D. The research study concluded that vitamin D "may treat or prevent allergy to common mold." This article is of particular interest to those with Cystic Fibrosis. We would see patients come through out critical care unit with this disease and it was always so frustrating that science didn't have answers for this population and we felt fairly helpless in what we could do for them. I've provided a link to this article below.