Got the winter blues? Don’t forget about vitamin D.

Optimizing your vitamin D levels may be one of the most important steps you can take in support of your long-term health.  Vitamin D deficiency is now thought to fuel an astonishingly diverse array of common chronic diseases, including: cancer, autism, diabetes 1 and 2, cold and flu, septicemia, eczema and psoriasis, muscle pain, osteoporosis, pre-eclampsia, asthma, depression, hypertension, obesity, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, signs of aging, insomnia, cavities, macular degeneration, seizures, cystic fibrosis, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, tuberculosis, dementia, hearing loss, periodontal disease, reduced c-section risk, infertility, migraines, schizophrenia. This is a long list, but remember that vitamin D is not “just” a vitamin; it’s actually a neuroregulatory steroidal hormone that influences nearly 3,000 different genes in your body. Receptors that respond to the vitamin have been found in almost every type of human cell, from your brain to your bones.

There’s no better way to get vitamin D than from sun exposure. When exposed to sunshine, your skin synthesizes vitamin D3 sulfate. This form of vitamin D is water soluble, unlike oral vitamin D3 supplements, which are unsulfated. The water-soluble form travels freely in your bloodstream, whereas the unsulfated form needs LDL (the so-called “bad” cholesterol) as a vehicle of transport. There’s reason to believe that many of the profound benefits of vitamin D are actually due to the vitamin D sulfate. As a result, the oral non-sulfated form of vitamin D might not provide all of the same benefits because it cannot be converted to vitamin D sulfate. Also, you cannot overdose when getting your vitamin D from sun exposure, as your body has the ability to self-regulate and only make what it needs.

Unfortunately, adequate sun exposure is not an option for many people, especially during the winter season. For this reason, I recommend an oral vitamin D3 supplement. When supplementing with vitamin D3, it is important to remember this:

  • Not everyone responds to the same recommended daily dosage. Your doctor needs to monitor what dose is therapeutic for you and continue to monitor your serum levels to ensure they stay in a safe range.
  • Supplemental vitamin D comes in two forms:
    1. Ergocalciferol (vitamin D2)
    2. Cholecalciferol (vitamin D3)

    Over the years, doctors have used these two supplemental forms interchangeably, but fortunately we know much more about vitamin D than we have in the past. Here’s what you need to know:

    1. Always supplement with vitamin D3
      1. D3 is the form naturally produced by your body in response to sun exposure
      2. D3 is approximately 87 percent more potent in raising and maintaining vitamin D concentrations and produces 2- to 3-fold greater storage of vitamin D than does D2
      3. D3 is converted 500 percent faster in the body than vitamin D2 (No matter what form you use your body must convert it into an active form)
      4. D3 has been shown to decrease mortality rates by 6% for those who supplemented with it
    2. Why NOT to supplement with vitamin D2
      1. D2 is a synthetic form of vitamin D made by irradiating fungus and plant matter and not the type of vitamin D your body produces in response to sun exposure
      2. D2 increased the risk of death by 2% among those who supplemented with it in controlled trials
      3. D2 has a shorter shelf life than D3 and its metabolites bind poorly with proteins, further hampering its effectiveness.