Vitamin D & Your Health: What you Need to Know

sunlight and vitamin D

Earlier this month, the Endocrine Society revealed their Clinical Practice Guidelines for prevention and treatment of vitamin D deficiency. While these guidelines are news in the world of western medicine, they are business as usual in our integrative medicine practice. But for those of you still unaware about the need to supplement, especially living here in the Pacific Northwest, we’ve put together an easy to use guide on why and how to supplement your vitamin D levels.

What is vitamin D?

Although it’s commonly referred to as a vitamin, vitamin D is actually a hormone. Vitamins, though processed and utilized by the body, are not manufactured by the body. Vitamin D on hand other hand, is  produced by the skin of the body but only when sunlight is present to carry out the synthesis. A fat-soluble vitamin that exists in several forms, each with a different biological activity, it is the body’s only source of calcitrol (activated vitamin D),  the most powerful steroid hormone in the body.

What does vitamin D do?

Vitamin D is involved in the making of hundreds of enzymes and proteins crucial to good health and disease prevention. It enhances muscle strength and builds bone and has anti-inflammatory effects. It is also known to boost immunity and insulin functions.  Because of this, vitamin D deficiency is thought to play a role in most major diseases.

Many people don’t realize that one of the country’s biggest epidemics is vitamin D deficiency. But how will being deficient in vitamin D really affect you? Well, we have only to look at the list of diseases in which vitamin D deficiency plays a role to recognize the importance of this supplement.
  • Osteoporosis & Osteoarthritis
  • Cancer (including breast, prostate and colon)
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetes
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Infertility and PMS
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Psoriasis

What can I do to get enough vitamin D?

Since sunlight is the only way for the body to generate vitamin D itself, getting adequate exposure to the sun is, obviously, one of your best sources of vitamin D. Remarkably, the human body, if unshielded by clothing, sunscreen and other blockades to ultraviolet rays, can produce in the realm of approximately 20,000 units of vitamin D in 20 minutes of summer sun.

Since only 10% of your body’s vitamin D comes from food sources like fish oils,  fatty wild caught fish (mackerel, salmon, halibut, tuna, sardines and herring), fortified foods (milk, orange juice and cereals), dried Shitake mushrooms and egg yolks, the only other reliable source is through supplementation of vitamin D3.

Because you’d need to eat a minimum of 5 servings of fatty fish a day or drink 20 cups of fortified milk to get the amount of vitamin D necessary to maintain overall health, supplementation with vitamin D3 becomes crucial when living in low light climates, like we do here in the Pacific Northwest.

Our thoughts on Vitamin D

  • Vitamin D is and has been a part of our basic treatment guidelines.
  • We ALWAYS include vitamin D testing in all our regular blood work and the MDs we routinely work with usually do, too.
  • We prefer liquid, emulsified vitamin D3. It’s easier to take and  more highly absorbable than other forms. Our favorite brands have 1000 IU’s per drop.
  • We like the new guidelines, because they’re pretty much in line with what we’ve already been doing and advising our patients to do. The new guidelines just mean that more people will begin to educate themselves about the very important need to include this supplement (along with adequate sun exposure) in their daily diets .

If you’d like more information on vitamin D supplementation or would like to be tested for a deficiency, please contact our office for an appointment.

Acupuncture for Healthy Pregnancy and Postpartum Care

PreggersIn our work with women eager to conceive, we are well aware of the power of acupuncture for balancing the body and aiding in establishing the ideal conditions for conception. Western medicine is even catching up with recent studies at the University of Maryland showing that when acupuncture is used to complement in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures,  there is improved rates of pregnancy.  But we knew that!

So what about once you’re pregnant? There are a lot of fears for expectant and first time mothers to juggle when it comes to their new little ones but when it comes to acupuncture, performed by a qualified and licensed acupuncturist,  there needn’t be any concern. In fact, as we’ve seen our practice, acupuncture is one of the safest ways to combat some of the toughest health issues facing pregnant and postpartum women.

Why Acupuncture in Pregnancy?

Why not?

Besides the fact that science is finally backing up what the Chinese have known for thousands of years, you can feel the benefits for yourself — without risk. Because this treatment is a natural, holistic approach, you don’t have to worry about dangerous side effects and possible drug interactions affecting the well-being of your unborn child.

Acupuncture treatments have proven effective for:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • GERD (reflux or heartburn)
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Musculoskeletal pain
  • Insomnia
  • Stress/anxiety/depression
  • Constipation
  • Preterm labor
  • Breech baby

For best results, we recommend you begin treatment early and continue on monthly, during pregnancy,  increasing your sessions upon advice of your acupuncturist, as you near the end of your term. These visits help to prepare the body for labor, tonifying and balancing energy as well as optimizing the baby’s position, softening the cervix and readying you and the baby for birth. Following a protocol like this can make pregnancy more pleasant, calm and energized and childbirth easier, even extending to shorter labor times.

When used in conjunction with recommendations from your Obstetrician/Gynecologist (OB/GYN), acupuncture becomes one of the building blocks (along with diet and lifestyle changes, herbal remedies and supplements) of your and your baby’s health during and post-pregnancy. Allowing you to have the healthiest, most natural pregnancy and postpartum period possible.acupuncture

After your baby is born, acupuncture can help ease the nerves of new motherhood and is extremely effective in aiding milk production. It is also helpful in reducing:

  • Postpartum depression
  • Prolonged bleeding
  • Uterine infections
  • Fatigue

All of which, helps your body return, more quickly to its normal state of health.

Pregnancy and childbirth can take a toil on a woman’s body, make sure you take YOU into consideration in this equation. Every new Mama needs to focus on herself as well as the new baby — taking time to relax, breath, nourish herself with healthful foods and pleasant sensations (warm baths, soothing music, refreshing walks) as she integrates her new life, with the old. Acupuncture can also provide that quiet space and time necessary to rejuvenate.

If you’d like to learn more about acupuncture as part of your pregnancy, birth plan or postpartum care call or visit our office to schedule an appointment at 503.223.3741.