Friday, January 31, 2014

Celiac or Gluten Sensitive? What You Need to Know About Vitamin D

Low Vitamin D Can Increase Your Risk for Disease

You’ve likely heard that vitamin D is important. Most often we hear of its association with osteoporosis or loss of bone density, when it’s deficient. But did you know that there are vitamin D receptors (VDR) on tissues such as the heart, skin, brain, kidney, immune cells, breast and prostate?

Vitamin D goes way beyond affecting bone health only. When deficient, it’s been linked to severe kidney disease, heart disease, cancer, inflammation and a leaky gut. It turns out that there are few areas of the body vitamin D doesn’t touch.

A little background information: Vitamin D, not really a vitamin but a hormone, is manufactured in the body from the combination of sunlight and cholesterol. It is then in its D3 state where it becomes activated in the liver and kidney to active D, known as calcitriol.

What Does Vitamin D Really Do?

  1. Vitamin D, as mentioned does keep bones strong. Therefore, when deficient, osteoporosis or brittle bones can result.
  2. Vitamin D activates the natural killer cells; the beautiful immune defense army that kills ‘bad’ guys from viruses to bacteria to cancer cells. A good hint for the flu prevention is to ensure your vitamin D level is optimal.
  3. Vitamin D influences the function of the ‘gate keeper’ system in the gut. Deficiency of D has been associated with a leaky gut, a known link to autoimmune disease and other degenerative diseases. Anything that leads to a leaky gut should be addressed urgently.
  4. Inflammation and vitamin D are very tied together. We understand that chronic inflammation is the initiator of most degenerative diseases we are trying to avoid including heart disease, cancer, autoimmune and diabetes, to name a few. Vitamin D is anti-inflammatory, which presents another incredibly strong reason to make sure levels are normal. The ‘fire’ of inflammation has to be quelled in order to prevent and/or heal these degenerative conditions. Vitamin D is such a substance and it is needed in sufficient quantities to perform this very important function.

Vitamin D Deficiency Raises Risk of Breast Cancer 6X

A very recent study, July 2013,  from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, published findings that there is a greater risk of breast cancer among women with deficient levels of serum (blood) vitamin D. Low vitamin D is common in countries where little sun exposure occurs due to climate, clothing or increased skin pigmentation – all acting to reduce vitamin D production.

When women whose vitamin D levels were less than 10 ng/mL were compared with those whose levels were greater than 20 ng/mL, the risk of breast cancer was more than six times higher. In a disease that is promoted has having little ‘rhyme nor reason’, this study gives women something they can truly DO to lessen their risk of this devastating disease.

Vitamin D Causes a Leaky Gut?

A leaky gut can be caused by drugs and chemicals and most often the presence of gluten in the diet. The degree and chronicity of a leaky gut can move the body towards autoimmune disease, inflammation and other chronic degenerative diseases. The intestine’s ‘intelligence’ that allows it to open its gates for good, digested food and close it against toxins, pathogens and other perceived ‘bad guys’ is truly stellar and one of the many amazing abilities of the human body.

But when that intelligence is thwarted, the result is disease. Another tool against leaky gut is vitamin D. It turns out that D is needed for the gatekeeper system of the small intestine and when D is deficient, a leaky gut is the result.

When we appreciate how closely vitamin D is tied into the body’s immune system and its correct functioning, it’s perhaps not a surprise that D would play a role in a healthy gut where 70-80% of the human immune system is housed.

And it’s also not a surprise that vitamin D is frequently deficient in patients with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity and other chronic digestive diseases.

It’s important for everyone to get their vitamin D levels tested, and its especially important for those who already know they have any sort of compromised immune or digestive system.

What You Need to Know

First of all you have to be tested to know what your vitamin D status is. The name of the test is vitamin D, 25-Hydroxy and it’s a blood test. There is no way to guess what your levels are, you need to get them tested to know.

Once you receive your result see how close it is to 50 ng/mL. About ‘50’ is the sweet spot for vitamin D according to most experts. The Vitamin D Council says it could be as high as 60 or 80 ng/mL and I don’t think there’s any problem with that. Vitamin D levels can be too high, but that’s not a problem we typically see.

Which Vitamin D Supplement is Best

If you find that you are deficient or just want to maintain a good vitamin D level you can do the following:

  1. Get some rays – some sunlight is good for you. No, you don’t need to go out at high noon, but about 20 minutes per day with your arms and chest exposed and/or in shorts is enough to produce about 10,000 IUs (international units) according to the vitamin D council. Other factors to take into consideration is the latitude in which you live and the color of your skin. The farther you are away from the equator, the more difficult it is to get adequate sunshine year round. Additionally, darker skin tones cannot absorb enough UV to turn it into adequate vitamin D. Therefore, there’s point #2.
  2. Supplement with vitamin D3 (not D2) in a fatty medium. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin so it’s best delivered with some fat for easier absorption. Here at the clinic we have a liquid in a base of olive oil that makes it very palatable. Each drop is equivalent to 2,000 IUs so most patients are just taking a few drops per day, making compliance a breeze. Here at HealthNOW in the clinical nutrition department, we tend to utilize 1 drop per 10 points we want to raise the D level. Maintenance is typically 2 drops per day, but it depends on the individual. Remember, you’ll need to retest to monitor your levels. You don’t want to fool around with low D, it causes too much damage. 
  3. A severe deficiency may require a prescription for higher doses of vitamin D for a period of time until the level is normalized. Some patients require 50,000 IUs a one or more times per week. Such levels are high and should not be embarked upon without a doctor’s recommendation. 
  4. A chronic deficiency that is not responding to treatment typically means that absorption is quite poor within the gut and especially fat absorption is compromised. This is where root cause medicine shines. In this scenario you wouldn’t just continue to give an individual more and more vitamin D when their levels aren’t improving; you need to find out why they’re not improving.

In patients with Celiac disease, gluten sensitivity or other disorders of the GI tract, healing must occur such that normal absorption happens. If you find yourself in this position, you’ll need to find a clinician who truly understands how to get to the root cause of a problem and resolve it.

Contact Me if You Need Assistance

Hopefully I have made the case for how important it is to have normal, healthy vitamin D levels. And hopefully you were impressed with how many ‘good things’ a healthy D level will do for you.

If you need assistance, let me know. That’s why I’m here.

Visit us at If you have questions or need any help, I’m here for you! Call 408-733-0400.

I look forward to hearing from you.

To your good health,

Dr Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN, CFMP

IFM Certified Practitioner

Founder of Root Cause Medical Clinic
Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”

Author of the eBook: “Gluten Intolerance – What You Don’t Know May Be Killing You!”