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Is This Popular Vitamin Really a Vitamin?

Answers to 6 common questions about vitamin D

By Kimberly Kubitza, Guest Author

Woman hands raised basking in sun in field of tall grass overlooking mountains.

We all know how important it is to get our daily requirements of essential nutrients such as vitamins and minerals, but when it comes to Vitamin D it’s not as simple as it seems. Here are six common questions and answers about this wonderful, yet mysterious substance.

What does Vitamin D do for the body? More than we thought

One of the most important roles of Vitamin D is to manage the absorption and function of calcium and phosphorus, which makes it a key factor in bone and muscle health.* It is also known to boost the immune system function and improve mood.* New evidence is also showing that it plays a big part in maintaining proper gut health by strengthening intestinal cells and supporting the gut microbiome.*

Is it actually a vitamin? Yes and No

One of the things that complicates this is that it partly depends on how the word “vitamin” is defined. Most definitions state that vitamins are organic substances needed to sustain life that must be obtained through food because they cannot be produced in the body. That is where Vitamin D sets itself apart since it is actually a hormone that the body can make enough of on its own with adequate sun exposure. When it’s not being made by the body, it can be consumed, like a vitamin, to be converted into what the body needs.

Vitamin D is technically an essential steroid hormone that has a large impact on the endocrine system with receptor sites possibly in every human cell.* Understanding it as a hormone is an important key to properly navigating the often conflicting information about it.

Does the form matter? Absolutely

When discussing Vitamin D, the forms D2 and D3 are the most important to understand and the most commonly discussed.

Primary: D3 (cholecalciferol) is the form of Vitamin D that is most bioavailable. This is the form that the skin produces in the sun and is found in animal sources such as cod liver, fatty fish, egg yolks, and beef liver. D3 can also be harvested from special lichens and algae.

Secondary: D2 (ergocalciferol) is found in a small amount of plants and is not as efficiently used by the body. Certain mushrooms and yeasts are common sources of D2 in supplements.

Should Vitamin D levels be tested? Not necessarily

There are two issues that make this a tricky question. First of all, vitamin D blood levels don’t give all the information needed. Standard Vitamin D blood tests are only measuring 25-OHD which is only the precursor to active D. This test is not reflective of the active form of Vitamin D, but instead is showing what the body has available to create the hormone in the liver and kidneys. The blood is also not the only place that Vitamin D is stored. When the body synthesizes it through sun exposure, it gets stored in fat tissue which can be used months later.

Additionally, not only is it unclear whether the blood tests are a true indicator of the actual Vitamin D level, there is no true consensus on how much is ideal. Due to the nature of steroid hormones, a precise balance is crucial and that level is different for everyone. Measuring and establishing optional levels has been highly debated among scientists and medical researchers for decades. Even though testing for Vitamin D has become increasingly popular, it is generally not recommended for people who do not have high risk factors for deficiency. Many doctors are concerned with the lack of reliability and uniformity of such tests as well as the tendency to over use supplemental D.

What is the best way to make Vitamin D? Sun exposure

God created our skin with the most efficient way of creating Vitamin D and it is the only way to get it without the risk of making too much. Studies show that even 5-30 minutes a day of sunshine, without using sunblock, is enough for the body to produce all it needs and build up stores for winter months. Although the sun is the best source, Vitamin D supplementation can be used to help those who can’t get outside or who live north of the 37 parallel (think Atlanta).

What are the keys to using Vitamin D supplements? Source and moderation.

Most commercially available Vitamin D supplements are byproducts of irradiated yeast (D2) and irradiated lanolin (D3) which is the waxy substance that coats sheepskin. AzureWell has chosen to use foods such as lichen, mushrooms, fatty fish, cod and beef liver as the sources of Vitamin D in our products.

D3 is a fat soluble nutrient that pairs well with Vitamin A (retinol). In fact, the foods that are high in D3 also have high amounts of Vitamin A. Using a food based supplement like AzureWell’s Icelandic Cod Liver Oil or Beef Liver Capsules will provide the right ratio and create a synergistic effect.

Knowing that artificially high levels of Vitamin D can cause calcium imbalances and place too much stress on the kidneys, it is important to supplement with moderation. High dosages over an extended period should be treated with caution.

Whole Foods & Natural Processes

AzureWell’s commitment to whole food, naturally occurring Vitamin D allows the body to convert D2 and D3 into Vitamin D in a way that respects the body’s ability to regulate the hormones it needs and the natural biological processes it uses to do so.*

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1 Comment

Feb 07

This is so helpful, thank you!

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