Ready for Part II?  Vitamin D - What does it do?:

OLD NEWS:  I found it interesting that the list of what happens if you DON’T have enough vitamin D takes up far more space than just what Vitamin D DOES do for the body.  Basically, vitamin D is essential for promoting calcium absorption in the gut, and thereby maintaining serum calcium and phosphate levels, which enables bone growth and remodeling. This is old news.  We’ve known for a long time that vitamin D is important for bone health, which is why the USA adds vitamin D to a lot of their dairy products and cereals. This was back when rickets was a real problem, but these days, I imagine most people under the age of 60 have no idea of what that is – unless they are actually teaching our kids some health and nutrition in school beyond birth control. Sorry, I digress.

NEW NEWS: Now for some of the exciting new news - some of the newer research has shown that in addition to maintaining bone health, vitamin D is also important in human health in the areas of cardiac function, immune function, reduction of inflammatory response, and neuromuscular health. In addition to these there is preliminary research showing that adequate vitamin D levels can be cancer protective and helpful in auto immune diseases. I think the answer to why that is true is because of what you will see in the next paragraph.

What’s important about the newer research is that scientists have discovered that vitamin D is crucial to activating our immune system. They believe they have found that without sufficient serum levels of this vitamin our killer cells, specifically our T-cells, will not be able to do their job, which is to fight off infections in the body. T-cells are our fighter cells, the “big guns” you could say.  But, apparently, they must be "triggered" into their defensive mode in order to seek out and kill all foreign pathogens such as bacteria or viruses. The researchers found that the T-cells rely on vitamin D to activate them.  According to Prof. Carsten Geisler, Department of International Health, Immunology and Microbiology, "When a T-cell is exposed to a foreign pathogen, it extends a signaling device or antenna known as a vitamin D receptor with which it searches for vitamin D.” This means that the T-cells must have vitamin D before they are activated! Vitamin D is the "ON" switch for the T-cells! Which means, of course, if the T-cells can't find enough vitamin D in the blood they can’t do their very important job. This important fact is also an important consideration in dealing with auto immune reactions and the virus theory of cancer.

The other issue that seems to keep coming up is our inflammatory response and what role vitamin D plays here. Inflammation modulation is considered crucial for many chronic problems and diseases, such as how our blood clots. That alone will affect our chances of having a stroke or heart attack. Truly, inflammation is a subject in itself, but I found overwhelming agreement that anything you do that increases the inflammation in your body is NOT good for your body. A recent study showed that increased concentrations of a particular serum (blood) inflammatory marker, were found in women with low vitamin D levels. This would explain why adequate vitamin D intake is important in the prevention and treatment of inflammatory diseases, including heart disease, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. There was a direct inverse relationship - vitamin D low, inflammation markers high.

Vitamin D - What happens when we don't have enough?:

Other than the generalizations of bone, immune function and inflammatory response I talked about in the previous paragraphs, below is what I consider a long and scary detailed list of both diseases and disorders that may result from NOT maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D:

•    Bones disorders:  Osteoporosis, rickets, osteomalacia (bone pain caused by softening), painful teeth
•    Cancer, especially bone, breast, and prostate
•    Adrenal insufficiency
•    Alzheimer's disease
•    PMS
•    Depression, usually in the winter months, seasonal affective disorder
•    Parkinson's
•    Cardiovascular disease – 45% increased risk of heart attack
•    Type I and 2 diabetes
•    Periodontal disease – which also leads to chronic inflammation
•    Premature births
•    Gestational immunity
•    Stroke – 78% increased risk
•    Autism, ADHD – please follow this link to read more about autism.
•    Chronic inflammation – which in and of itself leads to other dangers such as stroke & heart attack
•    Increased risk for cesarean section delivery
•    Overall decreased immune response
•    Any disease – there is a 77% chance of dying of any disease if vitamin D levels are low

We will see later that “what is normal” is still being debated. As you look through this list, you can see that some of these disorders/diseases can be interrelated, as chronic inflammation for example can cause cardiac failure and/or stroke. The point is, obviously, maintaining an adequate level of vitamin D is essential to our health and well being.

Let me just add this disclaimer - I am recounting to you my summary of the research articles, online discussions by medical professionals and information from governmental information sites. References and resources are many and will be included at the end of this series. I am absolutely not diagnosing or prescribing. Please read our general disclaimer for the website.

Tomorrow - Part III, we should be able to get through a discussion of our best sources and maybe even what is considered enough or too much. This is where the not everyone agrees and your own choices come into play. You must educate yourself before walking into any medical professionals office. Do not take the "just give me a pill for it" line of reasoning - because that is not reasoning at all.

Thanks for reading - comments and questions, as always, are very welcomed.


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