I took this picture of turtles sunning themselves last summer. Not sure if you can see it very well, but there’s one little turtle who crawled up onto a buddy’s back. It reminds me of my youngest son, who is always climbing on someone or something. I so wish I was outside sunning like that right now. But, alas, it’s winter, and most of us are spending our days inside. Winter is when Vitamin D levels are typically at their lowest.
The Importance of Vitamin D
I was sitting in a waiting room somewhere recently and I stumbled across an issue of the magazine, Natural Awakenings, and found a very interesting article about Vitamin D by Lisa Hogan, M.D. In the article, entitled “Vitamin D: A Very Important Hormone”, Dr. Hogan discusses just how important Vitamin D is for our bodies. She notes that Vitamin D deficiencies are linked to stroke, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, various types of cancer, depression, auto-immune disorders, and hypothyroidism. In children, Vitamin D deficiencies are linked to rickets and childhood Type 1 diabetes. Vitamin D deficiency can also lead to severe asthma in children. Dr. Hogan notes that blood levels under 32 ng/ml are typically considered to be deficient, and that levels should be higher than 50 ng/ml for “optimal health”. Do you know what your Vitamin D level is? Do you know what your children’s vitamin D levels are? You can find out from a simple blood test.
At my routine check ups with her, my endocrinologist doesn’t just check my thyroid levels; she also checks my Vitamin D levels (among many other things). A few weeks ago, I noticed that I was having bone pain and feeling weak. I wondered if perhaps it was a flare up of my Sjogrens (the autoimmune disorder that I have in addition to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis). The more I thought about how I felt, though, I wondered if perhaps my Vitamin D levels had fallen too low. I take a daily vitamin supplement that contains Vitamin D, but sometimes during the winter, I fall still below the normal level. This winter has been particularly cold where I live, and I haven’t been outside as much. I noticed that the deep aching sensation I have in my hips and legs felt similar to how I felt when my Vitamin D levels dropped way too low a few year ago. Sure enough, at my endocrinology appointment two weeks ago, my endocrinologist told me that my Vitamin D levels were too low. I am currently at 23 ng/ml (well below normal and optimal levels). No wonder I have been feeling so awful. She recommended that I begin taking Vitamin D supplements in addition to my regular daily vitamin (4,000 IUs/day for a month and then drop down to 2,000 IUs/day).
To find out how much Vitamin D you or your children should take, you should consult your doctor, as it may vary depending on other health conditions you have, your age, your sex, etc. You can also visit the NIH website for a helpful overview of dosing recommendations on Vitamin D supplements, food sources of Vitamin D and other symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D levels are particularly important to people with thyroid disorders. Thyroid Disease Expert, Mary Shomon, interviewed Dr. Richard Shames on her Thyroid.About.Com website about just how crucial Vitamin D is to thyroid patients. Dr. Shames noted that: “Thyroid treatment isn’t optimal — and may not work — if you do not have adequate Vitamin D for the crucial final metabolic step, which takes place at the site where thyroid hormone actually works. This happens inside the nucleus of the cell. Vitamin D needs to be present at sufficient levels in the cell in order for the thyroid hormone to actually affect that cell. That is why vitamin D is so crucial.” Read the full interview here.
So, we know that in order for thyroid levels to be optimal, Vitamin D levels need to be optimal. The story doesn’t end there, though. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to auto immune disorders, including Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. In the study, Vitamin D and Immune Function, researchers noted that Vitamin D regulates antimicrobial protein levels and may be crucial in infection control, as well as in controlling immune responses. Another study on respiratory infections revealed that Vitamin D deficient children who drank Vitamin D fortified milk had a significant reduction in acute respiratory tract infections over the 3 month study period. I found yet another study revealing that in 140 immunodeficient patients, daily intake of 4000 IU of Vitamin D supplement over one year significantly reduced infectious symptoms, the total number of specific pathogens in the nasal fluid and the use of antibiotics in the vitamin D compared to the placebo group. Vitamin D supplementation is an important aspect of treating patients (young and old) with autoimmune disorders, particularly those related to the endocrine system (thyroid conditions, diabetes, etc.). One of my sons is plagued with chronic sinus and ear infections partly due to an immune deficiency. After reading this, I’m even more determined to make sure he’s getting enough Vitamin D.
So, the bottom line is that you need to know what your and your children’s levels are. Vitamin D levels drop to their lowest during the winter months when you aren’t getting outside and absorbing as much natural Vitamin D. So, please be sure that you and your children are getting all the Vitamin D they need! In the meantime, we can all dream of our sunny Spring days ahead.
By Blythe Clifford aka Thyroid Mom
Bergman P1, Norlin AC, Hansen S, Rekha RS, Agerberth B, Björkhem-Bergman L, Ekström L, Lindh JD, Andersson J. “Vitamin D3 Supplementation in Patients with Frequent Respiratory Tract Infections: A Randomised and Double-Blind Intervention Study.” NCBI/NLM/NIH. 13 Dec. 2012. 3 Mar. 2015.
Camargo CA Jr, Ganmaa D, Frazier AL, Kirchberg FF, Stuart JJ, Kleinman K, Sumberzul N, Rich-Edwards JW. “Randomized Trial of Vitamin D Supplementation and Risk of Acute Respiratory Infection in Mongolia.” NCBI/NLM/NIH. 20 Aug. 2012. 3 Mar. 2015.
Dunkin, Mary Anne. “Vitamin D Deficiency: Symptoms, Causes and Health Risks“. WebMD. 14 May 2014. 3 Mar. 2015.
Hogan, Lisa. “Vitamin D: A Very Important Hormone.” Natural Awakenings. 13 Jan. 2014. Web. 3 Mar. 2015.
Prietl, Barbara and Gerlies Treiber, Thomas R. Pieber, and Karin Amrein. “Vitamin D and Immune Function.” NCBI/NIH. 5 Jul.2013. 3 Mar.2015.
Shomon, Mary. “Why is Vitamin D So Important to Thyroid Patients?“. Thyroid.About.Com. 31 Oct. 2014. 3 Mar. 2015.
Study: Link between vitamin D deficiency and autoimmune thyroid disease
Vitamin D: On the Double (Children & Vitamin D)
Low Serum Vitamin D is Associated with Anti-Thyroid Peroxidase Antibody in Autoimmune Thyroiditis