Do you know your Vitamin D Level? If not, you should find out right away. I have been testing Vitamin D levels for over three years now, and I am always amazed to see that the majority of people that I test have very low levels. I’m sure that you’re wondering what the significance of a low Vitamin D level is. Well, low Vitamin D levels are associated with breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, Parkinson’s Disease, depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression and influenza just to name a few.

As I mentioned, even influenza is associated with low Vitamin D levels. Now that the flu season is upon us, the medical community at large continues to encourage us to get flu shots; however, no one encourages us to stock up on Vitamin D. Yet, new research has shown that influenza is a disease that may be triggered by or is at least associated with Vitamin D deficiency. One study goes on to point out that although the influenza virus exists in the population year around, that influenza epidemics occur principally in the winter months and northern latitudes where Vitamin D levels are at their lowest. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has confirmed that it will be investigating the role of Vitamin D in protection against swine flu.

So, here is really what you need to know. The Vitamin D test that you want to have done is called a Vitamin D, 25 – OH (Vitamin D 25 Hydroxy). The reference range that most labs report is 20 – 100 ng/mL. It is generally reported by the lab that a level of less than 20 ng/mL suggests that there is a Vitamin D deficiency, that a level of 20 – 30 ng/mL suggests insufficiency and that optimal levels are 30 ng/mL or above. The levels that I try to achieve with my patients and my family are levels between 60 – 80 ng/mL. I am not comfortable that a level of 32 ng/mL (even though that is in the optimal range), provides all of the health benefits that Vitamin D has to offer.

As I think back to my mother’s breast cancer diagnosis (she had breast cancer in both breasts) and my father’s prostate cancer diagnosis, I can’t help but wonder if low Vitamin D levels contributed to their disease. Unfortunately, my father died prior to my having the knowledge that I do now about Vitamin D; however, once I was enlightened about the benefits of Vitamin D, I immediately tested my mother’s level. Her level was 7 ng/mL. She really had no other risk factors for breast cancer such as obesity, family history or the use of synthetic hormones. I can’t say for sure that her low level was the culprit for her cancer diagnosis, but my gut tells me that it very well may have been.

Now, before you run out to the health food store to purchase Vitamin D or ask your physician for a prescription, keep in mind that there are many different dosage options and two different forms of Vitamin D. There is Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol) and Vitamin D2 (Ergocalciferol). I talk with people all of the time that tell me that they asked their doctor to check their Vitamin D level, and once it was discovered that they did indeed have a deficiency they were given a prescription for Vitamin D. I then ask them if they picked up this prescription from their local CVS or Rite-Aid Pharmacy and they tell me that they did. The form of Vitamin D that is commercially available by prescription is Vitamin D2; however, there are many excellent studies that indicate that Vitamin D3 is the superior form and that it is the form that leads to higher levels of Vitamin D, 25 – OH. Then, there are over the counter Vitamin D3 supplements that are available but the quality levels of most of them are questionable at best. Vitamin D comes in 400 IU (International Units), 1,000 IU’s, 2,000 IU’s, 5,000 IU’s and 50,000 IU’s. Currently, the “official” safe upper intake limit is 2,000 IU per day, but numerous clinical studies show that it is safe for adults to take up to 10,000 IU per day … an intake level 50 times the current RDA for people aged 50 or less (200 IU). I find that most of my patients need a minimum of 5,000 IU’s to obtain a Vitamin D level of 60 ng/mL or above, and I personally take 10,000 IU’s of Vitamin D3 per day. Also, I have patients who must take up to 100,000 IU’s of Vitamin D3 per week in order to achieve optimal levels. The bottom line is that each of us is biochemically unique, and testing is the only sure way to know what your own personal requirement is. My advice is that everyone should know what their Vitamin D level is and do what is necessary to achieve and maintain optimal levels. The more I research the benefits of Vitamin D, I find that there is a vast body of science showing the many health benefits of vitamin D, and the good part is that it is inexpensive, doesn’t require a prescription and it just may save your life.

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