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  • Dr. Cynthia Gonzalez, DPT, OCS

The “other” epidemic - Vitamin D deficiency

40 to 70% of the world’s population is vitamin D deficient.1 More than 1 billion people worldwide are affected at a tremendous cost to society. You may be aware that low vitamin D causes rickets or osteomalacia but that was eradicated after the 1930’s when much of our grain based foods and dairy began to be fortified with it. You probably heard that it is needed for strong bones. It is also known as the ‘sunlight’ vitamin. And yes, even here in South Florida many are dangerously low, especially the elderly and people with darker skin. It is estimated that 75% of adults in the United States have a low vitamin D level. 2 Since levels are not well monitored, this could be even higher.2 The science on why our population is so low in vitamin D is still emerging.

But, did you know that every tissue in our bodies needs vitamin D and will not work correctly if we do not get enough? Milder degrees of deficiency are now understood to be one of the causes of a vast array of chronic diseases, including osteoporosis, impaired immune system, various autoimmune diseases (such as diabetes and multiple sclerosis), several cancers (breast, colon, lung, lymphoma and prostate, among others), high blood pressure, pregnancy complications and cardiovascular disease.1 All may develop because of, or be exacerbated by, vitamin D deficiency. Asking the body to deal with these disorders without adequate vitamin D is like asking a fighter to enter battle with one hand tied behind his/her back. Read more about it here

According to one large-scale study, optimal vitamin D levels can slash your risk of cancer by as much as 60 percent.3 Keeping your levels optimized can help prevent at least 16 different types of cancer, including pancreatic, lung, ovarian, prostate, and skin cancers.3 Vitamin D can also help reduce the risk of other conditions as well, including type 2 diabetes, chronic inflammation, age-related macular degeneration (the leading cause of blindness), and Alzheimer’s disease and can help the bodies infection-fighting abilities in the treatment of tuberculosis, pneumonia, colds, and flu.

What are ‘optimal’ vitamin D levels?

Your physician can test your Vitamin D levels with a simple blood test, just ask. The range of normal is large 25-100 ng/ml. So, always get a copy of your results so that you know your number. If you do not have plans to visit your physician, or you were not tested for it, you can self test at home with a kit you order here: Below is a chart showing the ideal therapeutic levels of vitamin D you’ll want to reach and maintain:3

Where can you get vitamin D?

The principal source of vitamin D is your own skin. A chemical compound naturally present in the superficial layers of skin is converted, on exposure to UVB radiation, to cholecalciferol (vitamin D3). However, we manufacture this vitamin D only if we expose our skin to UVB radiation. If we spend all day indoors or go out only in the early morning or late afternoon, we don’t produce any vitamin D. You can also get vitamin D from food (limited), supplements and other UVB sources.3 Vitamin D supplements are inexpensive and readily available. If you know your number, and it is low, you can calculate the amount of supplementation you need to get here: Otherwise you can ask your physician.

Why is this so important? Vitamin D strengthens your immune system and lowers your chances of getting the flu and Covid19. And the evidence supporting that vitamin D lowers your risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection, hospitalization, severe complications and death continues to mount. In this video,, Dr. Seheult (of describes the role of vitamin D in preventing viral infections, including COVID-19. Increasing your vitamin D is one of the best ways to boost your immune system. The government health agencies of Great Britain have recommended that people take vitamin D supplements through summer and autumn during this pandemic.4

Vitamin D is safe, if consumed in reasonable quantities. It is instructive to know that outdoor summer workers by the end of summer will typically have serum levels of 60-80 ng/ml (150-200 nmol/L).5 However vitamin D is an extremely potent compound, so know your number and communicate with your physician. In addition to optimizing your vitamin D levels, other ways to keep your immune system healthy include getting enough sleep, exercise, spending time outdoors, limiting your screen time and eating healthy.








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