Each week I’ll be releasing a blog post highlighting specific health and wellness information designed to help you keep your family healthy and thriving all year long. I’m not a doctor, just a Mom who is passionate about living life holistically and naturally whenever possible. So with that being said I encourage you to read my references ( linked in the text and sited at the bottom of the post) and do your own individual research as well.
Its that time of year again where respiratory illnesses seem to increase. While we may be led to believe that things like influenza and RSV are in ” season” the fact is viruses do not have seasons, you can get them all year long. The true reason we see an uptick of respiratory illnesses, and really any virus in the winter is because of decreased sunlight, increased sugar intake, less sleep and exercise. During the long winter months our bodies Vitamin D levels can decrease dramatically. You may have heard of seasonal depression, this is caused by depleted vitamin D stores due to lack of natural sunlight exposure. What you may not know is that vitamin D also plays a crucial role in supporting your immune system. In fact vitamin D deficiency is associated with autoimmunity as well as increased susceptibility to infections. One study found that 57% of Americans were deficient in vitamin D!
Your immune System and Vitamin D:
Active Vitamin D works by binding to receptor cites and turning on vitamin D responsive genes through out the body including the intestines, bones and immune cells. You can think if it like two puzzle pieces fitting together. Once these vitamin D responsive genes are activate they tell your immune cells to make antimicrobial peptides (proteins) . You can think of these antimicrobial peptides like the front line soldiers on a battle field. They are one of your cells first lines of defense against infections. These proteins can directly kill bacteria, yeasts, fungi, viruses and even cancer cells! When you are deficient in Vitamin D it is not able to effectively go to enough of your immune cells to activate these proteins and provide protection from foreign invaders. Vitamin D also works with your immune system in preventing autoimmune responses and diseases by activating your bodies regulatory T cells. These T cells help your body to differentiate between its own cells and cells from outside sources. Essentially making your immune system smarter.
Vitamin D supplementation:
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin so it is important to have your levels checked periodically when supplementing with higher doses. It is especially important to have your levels checked if you believe you are deficient or are pregnant or nursing. Symptoms of deficiency include anxiety, depression, hair loss, unexplained muscle fatigue / weakness, unexplained weight gain. Your starting levels as well as individual lifestyle ie; breastfeeding will help to determine how much you should take daily. Most healthy individuals needs about 1000-4000IU daily. Women who are breastfeeding needs a minimum of 6400IU daily, many breastfeeding mothers will need even more than that. When looking for a vitamin D supplement you want to look for a D3 form as this is easiest form for the kidney’s to activate. You also want to ensure it is combined with K2 as these two vitamins work synergistically, or that you are consuming enough from dietary sources. Dietary sources of k2 include egg yolks, high fat animal proteins and fermented foods.
Pregnancy and Vitamin D deficiency:
During your routine pregnancy blood work your vitamin D levels are most likely checked, if they are not you can request for them to be. Studies show 40-60% of pregnant women are deficient in vitamin D. The American association of pregnancy recommends taking 4,000 IU during pregnancy, to help prevent against preterm labor an infections post birth. Most prenatal vitamin only contain 400IU not nearly enough for the majority of pregnant mothers. Not only does adequate vitamin D levels help prevent against preterm labor and infections it also significantly reduces the incidences of postpartum depression.
Vitamin D and Breastfeeding:
Vitamin D passes through breastmilk at a very poor rate. This is why it is recommended to supplement your baby with a vitamin D supplement. This is a perfectly safe an acceptable option. However instead of supplementing yourself and your baby separately you can up your dose of vitamin D which will in turn increase the amount in your breast milk. To ensure you have adequate levels in your breast milk you would need 6400 IU daily, this is if you’re levels are the normal range of 60 – 90 ng/mL. If your levels are low increasing your vitamin D levels to around 10000 IU daily will provide you and your baby with the full benefits vitamin D has to offer.
For me personally vitamin D is part of my families daily health and wellness routine. I notice an almost immediate difference if I forget to take it for a few days. In particular my anxiety is much more prevalent.