Vitamin D – it’s not just for healthy bones anymore! PART ONE

Vitamin D – it’s not just for healthy bones anymore! PART ONE

Until recently, vitamin D was known primarily as a secondary nutrient to calcium in helping build stronger bones by helping calcium move from the stomach to the bloodstream and then into the skeletal system.  The major biologic function of vitamin D is to maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium, helping to form and maintain strong bones.  However, research also suggests vitamin D may provide protection from osteoporosis, hypertension (high blood pressure), cancer, and several autoimmune diseases. Other research suggests that vitamin D may be one of the best vitamins for our bodies.  Researchers have discovered that it may regulate up to 2,000 different genes, about one-sixth of the human genome  What does this mean,…that almost everything in our body relies on it.

Got your attention?  So what is Vitamin D, how does it work, and what are it’s sources.  Vitamin D is found throughout the body and acts as a signaling mechanism to turn cells on and off. Vitamin D is also found naturally in a small range of foods.

How does our body process/produce Vitamin D?   Think of it in three steps:

Step One- the sun hits your skin and the UVB light in the sun interacts with a form of cholesterol in your skin.  This substance is synthesized and converted into Vitamin D3.  This is the Vitamin D that circulates through the body, but it still isn’t in an activated form.

Sidenote:  Vitamin D3 is made in large quantities when you are in the sun during peak UV times. It’s estimated that 30 minutes in the sun (in a bathing suit), midday in summer can make up to 20,000 IU of Vitamin D.  I know, not very encouraging for us pasty Portlander’s but luckily there’s other means to get your Vitamin D, more on that later.

Step Two-Vitamin D3 becomes 25D.  The Vitamin D3, either from sun, food, or supplements makes its way to the liver where it undergoes a process turning it into 25D to store in your body.   Having an optimal amount of 25D stored in your body helps the body’s ability to make best use of Vitamin D.  If you have low levels of stored 25D, then you will have low or deficient levels of Vitamin D in your blood.

Step Three-25D becomes 1,25D3, 25D is sent from your liver and kidneys to be transformed into 1,25D3.   I know this is starting to sound like an algebra class but stay with me.  It’s the 1,25D3 that  is the active and potent form of Vitamin D.  As it circulates throughout your blood, it ensures that you maintain the appropriate levels of calcium.

In PART TWO, I’ll cover some of the other health benefits of Vitamin D, appropriate levels for your body, and sources of Vitamin D (without as many random number and letter combinations).

– Toni Stolze, Spa Director Thurman Location

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