Vitamin D is so ubiquitous in today’s healthcare that it is virtually the medical equivalent of Halloween candy. Yes, low levels of the vitamin correlate with an increased incidence of certain illnesses. But is the vitamin D depletion a cause of illness, or yet another consequence of imbalances in the body? Katy Haldiman, the Paleo Nurse, puts it this way: “the evidence is building to suggest that low vitamin D levels are a consequence or a biomarker of poor health, and not necessarily the root cause of disease.” You can read Katy’s full article here.
Nutritional checks and balances
To understand why vitamin D alone can’t solve all problems, you need to understand its interactions with other nutrients. In fact, there is an ongoing and complex balancing act always playing out in the human body. Vitamin D supplementation lowers vitamin A, magnesium and potassium. At the same time, it increases calcium and copper. In turn, increased copper means decreased zinc, and when copper elevates in relation to zinc, estrogen begins to elevate in relation to progesterone. In turn, this potentially wreaks havoc with fertility, pregnancy and female hormonal balance as a whole.
Hormones and mineral balance
On a physical level, these hormonal imbalances may manifest as breast tenderness, PMS, menstrual pain and cramping, excessive bleeding and more. On an emotional level, these imbalances often present as anxiety, depression, tearfulness and mood swings. In some cases, they cause phobias and obsessive thoughts and behaviors. These physical and emotional sysmptoms result from the vicious cycle of estrogen dominance and copper dysregulation.
A lot of women who have PCOS suffer from a combination of excess copper and estrogen. From a mineral balance perspective, these women often lack magnesium, zinc, vitamin A and/or potassium. Of course, we can hardly accuse vitamin D of causing PCOS. Nonetheless, PCOS and its associated nutritional imbalances rarely correct themselves if the client takes supplemental D.
A deficiency of vitamin A relative to D can cause immune dysfunction (particularly increased risk of viral infections), night blindness and keratosis pilaris, a bumpy rash on the underside of the upper arms. Unfortunately, excess vitamin D can also increase the retention of lead, especially in children. In other words, indiscriminate vitamin D supplementation can cause or aggravate certain imbalances in the body.
The excess soft-tissue calcium that accumulates as a result of inappropriate vitamin D supplementation may cause kidney stones, cataracts, gallstones and bone spurs. On an emotional level, excess tissue calcium can cause or aggravate addictions to sugar, starches, alcohol and caffeine and is often associated with a great degree of shame and negative self-judgment.
Timing and context
There is a time and a place for targeted vitamin supplementation. But it isn’t for everyone at all times. Likewise, not everyone who tests low on a serum vitamin D test actually benefits from supplementation. Please consult with me or another knowledgeable provider for appropriate supplementation.
The safest source is healthy sun exposure
Getting out in the fresh air and sunshine is a good habit that will expose you to physiological levels of vitamin D, and your body will definitely know when you’ve gotten enough. Remember that sunblock prevents the synthesis of vitamin D by blocking UVB rays that stimulate it. Never stay in the sun long enough to burn!
“Should I take Vitamin D?”
The best tool for assessing your need for vitamin D is a hair tissue mineral analysis (HTMA). This non-invasive and highly affordable test can help assess your individual nutritional needs as well as the potential for rebalancing through an individualized supplement program. Because Vitamin D impacts calcium, magnesium, potassium and copper, I recommend a hair test to anyone who takes or is considering taking it. I have interpreted hundreds of HTMAs and find them very useful in nutritional assessment and fine-tuning.
If you need guidance to assess whether supplementation is right for you, or you want to re-assess your current supplement plan, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an appointment.
Resources for further learning
Cutler, AH, Hair Test Interpretation: Finding Hidden Toxicities. Sammamish, WA, 2004.
Malter, R. The Strands of Health: A Guide to Understanding Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis. Cottonwood, AZ: Educational and Health Resources of Arizona, Inc., 2002.