We all know that vitamin D is essential for health, but did you know that you can get plenty of sun exposure, as well as supplement with vitamin D, and still be deficient? The common thinking around nutrients is that the more we ingest, the more we have in our bodies. But with Vitamin D, that’s just not the case. There’s far more to the story than just trying to get enough, whether from food, the sun, or supplements.
A Recap on the Benefits of Vitamin D
Let’s first recount what Vitamin D actually does. Most of you probably know that it’s essential for bone health. As a hormone-like substance, vitamin D travels from one tissue to another and changes gene expression. In the case of bone, vitamin D travels to the intestines and causes the genes in intestinal cells to produce more of a calcium binding protein called calbindin. This protein literally binds calcium and pulls it into the body. People with adequate vitamin D levels will absorb 30-80% of dietary calcium (80% for pregnant and lactating women), while people that are deficient in vitamin D will absorb around 10-15% of their dietary calcium. Beyond the effects on bone, adequate vitamin D levels have been associated with reducing autoimmune diseases, balancing microbes in the gut, reducing cardiovascular disease risk, decreasing cancer risk, treating musculoskeletal pain, reducing the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease, and much more.
It is of utmost importance to maintain proper vitamin D levels while pregnant. Unfortunately many pregnant women are deficient in vitamin D, and thus their offspring are most likely deficient in utero and at birth. Breast milk is often a poor source for vitamin D so building up stores prior to and during pregnancy is critical.
Eating pesticide-laden foods and being exposed to BPA can degrade Vitamin D in your body!
How Can Eating Organic Raise My Vitamin D Levels?
Research has found that even people living in Hawaii, getting 30+ hours of sun exposure a week, are deficient in vitamin D. How can this be?
Well, we all have this receptor that sits on our DNA called the Pregnane X receptor (or PXR). It gets activated by chemical exposure—both prescription medications and xenobiotics (chemicals coming from outside the body)—and when it is activated certain genes called cytochrome-P450 genes get turned on, which inactivate both the storage form and active hormone form of vitamin D. In essence, these chemicals rob your body of vitamin D.
One study found that 106 different pesticides activated the human PXR receptor. This implies that when people are exposed to pesticides they can become vitamin D deficient. In fact, a 2012 study showed that people with higher levels of pesticides in their bodies had lower vitamin D levels. Research shows us that there is a 31% increased rate of exposure to pesticides from consuming conventional produce. So what do you do? Buy ORGANIC to reduce your pesticide exposure, which will then in turn spare your vitamin D from being degraded in the body.
Beyond pesticides, the plasticizing agent, BPA, is also a potent activator of PXR. BPA is found on receipts, the lining of cans (soup, tuna, salmon, juice, tomatoes, etc.), plastic water bottles, plastic food storage containers, polycarbonate bottles, as well as in composite fillings for teeth! Research from the American Heart Association has found that BPA activates PXR so strongly that exposure to it increases cardiovascular disease risk.
It's easier than you think to avoid BPA's, and to get rid of them if you've been exposed!
Buy more fresh organic produce while steering away from packaged foods. Don’t store leftovers in plastic or reheat anything in plastic. Don't use plastic baby bottles, sippy cups, or plastic dishes for your babies and children (use bamboo dishes, glass baby bottles, small ceramic cups, and stainless steel for them instead). Use glass containers or stainless steel for storing food—both leftovers and dry pantry goods. Use a glass or stainless steel water bottle for drinking water. And Sweat! BPA is excreted in sweat so get into the sauna a few times a week, exercise, dance, take a hot bath—whatever you can do to really sweat!
Wrapping It All Up
We usually recommend Vitamin D supplementation from October through April if you are living above the 35th parallel. In the US that’s an imaginary line through Bakersfield, CA, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and Raleigh, North Carolina. Go to www.GrassRootsHealth.net to get your vitamin D levels tested to determine how much supplementation you may need.
In short, purchase organic foods, use glass or stainless steel to store your food, and sweat at least 3 times a week to maintain optimal vitamin D levels and optimal health!
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