Every day, someone asks about which supplements need to be taken for optimal health. Everyone asks for specific advice, but it really depends on many factors. For instance, if a person eats 3-5 fresh fruits and vegetables a day and gets outside regularly, all the nutrients needed are probably available, and in a source that God made to be easily absorbed. However, if a person is a strict vegan, Vitamin B-12, vitamin D, and iron might be needed. If the soil is depleted of nutrients, magnesium or other trace elements may be needed. In general, I try to get people to eat their nutrients in whole foods.
Some like to take a mega dose of vitamins or supplements. Usually this is OK as the excess is eliminated, but think of an orchestra: if you had 50 french horns, the balance might be disrupted. The same principle works with nutrients at a baseline. However, here are some disease states where you need extra nutrients. Let me emphasize Vitamin D.
Vitamin D is actually a pro-hormone, which is very important. It requires a dietary source or skin, as well as the liver and the kidneys to activate it. 25% of adolescents, 33% of young adults, nearly 60% of hospitalized patients, and more than 90% of critically ill patients or nursing home residents have a deficiency. Why the deficiency? We do not get out in the sun. We are spending more and more time indoors. Originally, we were designed to work outside in a garden with lots of fresh air and sunshine. We are just not getting out as we were designed to in the beginning.
Vit-D has effects on multiple organs including the brain, bones, blood vessels, muscles, kidneys and heart. A deficiency has been associated with depression, osteoporosis, muscle pains termed myalgias, hypertension, certain cancers, and diabetes just to name a few. The interactions of Vitamin D, a hormone, are complex. Let me give an example. Vitamin D deficiency causes PTH, parathyroid hormone, to increase. PTH regulates calcium balance. Vitamin D is needed for this balance. Increased PTH causes increased insulin secretion, which is not good for the blood vessels. Renin and angiotensin are increased, which can raise the blood pressure and also cause vascular inflammation. This vitamin-hormone has quite an extensive importance in the body.
The vitamin can be measured with a simple blood test. The target level is at least 20ng/ml. The institute of Medicine recommends patients who are less than 70, and have not had their level tested, receive 600IU of Vit-D a day, 800IU for those greater than 70. If deficient, 5000IU for 2-4 months then 1000-2000IU a day maintenance may be needed. The data thus far says a level greater than 50ng/ml may be harmful. Most use vitamin D3 as the supplement.
Vitamin D deficiency is a common consequence of our modern lifestyle. Just think, the beach is a treatment and can lower your rates of depression and cardiovascular disease. If vitamin D deficiency can cause all this, just think of what all the other deficiencies resulting from our modern lifestyle might cause. What about a deficiency of sleep, water, meaningful activity, human interactions, or even love. When Dr. Hippocrates states to “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”, he was on to something.
I am going to begin writing prescriptions for the beach. The beach has also been associated with the release of endorphins which have many benefits including pain relief. With a trip to the beach, increased Vitamin D and serotonin, your chemistry will be improved and you will be able to continue to find ways to improve your health and relationship with the Master Physician, who created this beautiful world and gave us a complex body to care for.