Dr Tracie O’Keefe DCH, BHSc, ND is a Registered Naturopath (ANPA), Medical Nutritionist, & Mental Health Professional (PACFA)
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and an essential nutrient with several forms with the two major ones being D2 and D3. It is generally synthersised in the body when we are exposed to sunlight cholecalciferol (D3) or dietary cholestrol. Ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) is generally used a food additive.
However, in an industrialised age and society we are divorced from a natural way of living and may be deficient at any age without realising it. In most modern societies many workers can go without even 5 minutes of direct daylight during the working week. Blood tests do not automatically test Vitamin D levels and family doctors do not generally test younger people.
Vitamin D has the properties of being a vitamin and hormone. It is involved in immune function, autoimmune disease regulation, hormone metabolism, mineral balance in the body, bone and connective tissue formation, joint and muscle function, regulation of glucose, regulation of blood pressure, mood and serotonin levels and neurological development and function.
The USA Institute of Medicine recommends dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin D as 600 international units (IU) per day for younger peoples. For older people above 70 it recommends 800 IU per day. This however is probably far too low in industrialised societies where people spend a great deal of time indoors and may have very poor nutritionally deficient processed diets.
Vitamin D deficiency, ricket and poor bone density was discovering way back in the 1930’s but is still a major health problem with more than a billion people being Vitamin D deficient or insufficient (1). Unfortunately governments and medical associations fail to engage is sufficient disease prevention education around this problem.
In the COVID 19 crisis Americans with historical lower levels of vitamin D were observed to have poor outcome in recovery and severity of the disease (2). Research has also shown the vitamin D has a key role to play in innate immune regulation (3).
There is the question of whether people with depression have poor vitamin D levels or generally have poor diets. Certainly, depression occurs more in lower socioeconomic groups who have poorer diets. Studies however do show that depression occurs more in people with low levels of vitamin D (4).
Vitamin D mediated hormonal and glucose regulation appears to have considerable effect on fetal development and conditions such as Polly cystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). 67-85% of women with PCOS were found to be Vitamin D deficient (5).
What is important is that you seek the help of health care professional to assess and manage your vitamin D levels. Vitamin D prescribing will nor fix problems caused by deficiency alone. There must be an integrated nutrition and supplementation approach for treatment to be affective.
In my clinic I prescribe high doses of vitamin D far above the RDA’s to help remedy problems. That may be along-side other coordinated treatments to rebalance the body for recovery and prevention of those common vitamin D deficiency disorders.
Dr Tracie O’Keefe is the Director of the Australian Health and Education Centre, a practising naturopath and medical nutritionist in Sydney, Australia. She offers in-clinic consultations or you can consult her by video from anywhere in the world except the USA and Canada.
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Bikle, D. (2013, June 20). Vitamin D and Bone. Curr Osteoporosis Rep, 10(2), 151-159. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3688475/
Bivona, G., Agnello, L., & Ciaccio, M. (2018). The immunological implication of the new vitamin D metabolism. Cent Eur J Immunol., 331–334. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6305614/
Cuomo, A., Giordano, N., Goracci, A., & Fagiolini, A. (2017). Depression and Vitamin D Deficiency: Causality, Assessment, and Clinical Practice Implications. Neuropsychiatry. Retrieved from https://www.jneuropsychiatry.org/peer-review/depression-and-vitamin-d-deficiency-causality-assessment-and-clinical-practice-implications-12051.html
Lin, M., & Wu, M. (2015). The role of vitamin D in polycystic ovary syndrome. Indian J Med Res., 142(3), 238-240. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4669857/
Meltzer, D., Best, T., Zhang, H., Vokes, T., Arora, V., & Solway, J. (2020). Association of Vitamin D Status and Other Clinical Characteristics With COVID-19 Test Results. JAMA Network. Retrieved from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2770157