It’s winter in New York. The days are short and the nights are long. The sun’s rays are reaching New York at shallow angle. You’re spending more time indoors. The net effect is that UVB rays, which we need to produce vitamin D in our body, are in short supply. The result, not surprisingly, is that most Northeasterners are deficient in vitamin D in the winter months. Why is this important and what can you do about it?
The scientific evidence is growing that vitamin D not only supports crucial physiologic functions but also literally affects about 10% of human genome. In layman’s terms, this vitamin appears to turn off the sickness-promoting arms of the genes and turn on the wellness-supporting arms. Interestingly, based on the way it works on a cellular level, this vitamin behaves more like a hormone than a vitamin.
The best way to get the proper molecular form of vitamin D is to produce it in your own body by exposing your skin to sunlight. But as I mentioned above, producing enough of it is probably impossible to do for a large part of the year in many parts of the world, including the US Northeast.
The solution is to supplement with vitamin D throughout the winter. In fact, start early (the Fall) and stop late (the Spring). You must not permit yourself to become vitamin D deficient if you care to be well and stay well.
But be careful. Mistakes with dietary supplements can lead to serious consequences. With respect to vitamin D supplements, it’s particularly important to take the D3 (cholecalciferol) form, not the D2 (ergocalciferol) form. Vitamin D3 can improve your health, but vitamin D2 can harm it.
I shudder when I hear doctors say that supplementing with vitamin D is unnecessary. And I really cringe when doctors don’t differentiate between D3 and D2 and simply recommend “either one.” When you take supplemental vitamin D, your body must convert it to a bio-available form in order to absorb it. With D3, this process is simple and quick; with D2, not so much. In particular, the shelf life of D2 is quite short and once it begins to degrade, its metabolites bind poorly with proteins. This retards the conversion and the absorption processes, which is counterproductive.
You might be thinking, “but what about food sources Dr. Inna?” Indeed, our ancestors didn’t have vitamins on the shelves in a nearby store. The best dietary options for vitamin D are animal-based. Choices include beef liver, egg yolks, cheeses, and fatty fish like mackerel, tuna, salmon. Where I come from in Eastern Europe, we ate cod liver and herring, which are excellent sources of quality vitamin D.
It is a fact, however, that even when people consume foods rich in vitamin D, their blood often still shows low levels of this important vitamin in the sun-deprived months. Therefore, it is important to supplement with vitamin D3 to keep your levels of the sunshine vitamin where they need to be.
I must mention that when you supplement with vitamin D, you are creating an increased need in your body for vitamin K2. When you take vitamin D, your body needs more vitamin K2-dependent protein molecules to transport calcium throughout your body. Without the proper amount of vitamin K2, these protein molecules cannot transport calcium where it needs to go, such as to your bones and teeth. To make matters worse, the calcium might end up in tissues where it shouldn’t go, such as your arteries. So, eating K2-rich foods like Gouda and Brie cheeses, or adding a K2 supplement is a smart thing to do when you supplement with vitamin D.
But if you can’t get to a vitamin store, don’t hesitate to get on an airplane and sun yourself on a tropical beach for the winter months. 🙂
So very truly yours,