Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D Deficiency

Statistics Canada found a whopping 40% of Canadians are vitamin D deficient in the winter months.

Vitamin D, or calcitriol is unique among vitamins as it acts more like a hormone. It regulates calcium in the blood and plays an important role in bone health. It also helps to keep the immune system balanced.

Vitamin D is made in our skin when exposed to sunlight. During a Canadian summer, exposing your arms and legs to the sun (without sunscreen) for 10-15 minutes provides adequate vitamin D.

 

What are the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency?
  • Fatigue
  • Bone or joint pain
  • Low mood, often worse in the winter months
  • Muscle weakness or cramps
  • Frequent colds and flus
Risk factors for vitamin D deficiency:
  • Reduced sun exposure
    • Living in a northern climate
    • Working indoors
  • Kidney or liver disease
    • Vitamin D is converted to its active form after passing through the liver and kidney.
  • Some medications
    • Including laxatives, Prednisone, cholesterol-lowering drugs, seizure-control drugs
  • Conditions that affect the digestive tract, such as Crohn’s or weight-loss surgery
    • This may prevent the proper absorption of vitamin D from supplements.
  • Obesity
    • Fat cells may store vitamin D, preventing it from doing its job in the body.
  • Dark skin
    • Melanin protects the skin from sun, reducing the creation of vitamin D.
  • Over 65 years of age
    • Our skin creates vitamin D, which goes through an additional conversion in the kidney to become the active form. As we age, both our skin and kidneys become less efficient at doing these tasks, increasing the risk of deficiency.
  • Use of sunscreen
    • Sunscreen protects the skin from sun exposure, this, in turn, prevents vitamin D creation.
  • Genetic Variation
    • The GC gene encodes the Vitamin D binding protein (VDBP). This little protein transports vitamin D through blood. Some individuals have a slight genetic modification in the GC gene which may require them to take higher levels of vitamin D.
What foods are rich in vitamin D?
  • Fish: Salmon, Mackerel, Tuna
  • Animal Liver
  • Eggs
  • Fortified foods: Soy, rice and dairy milk

Unfortunately, vitamin D is not abundant in plant-based foods.

What kind of supplements are used?

There are two commonly available forms of vitamin D supplements. D2 and D3. D3, cholecalciferol is three times as effective and is generally recommended.

What are some conditions vitamin D may help?

Osteoporosis

Combining vitamin D supplementation with calcium has been shown to reduce the risk of fragility fractures.

Pregnancy

Vitamin D is important for maintaining bone health of mother and baby. Research also suggests this vitamin helps to prevent gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, bacterial vaginosis, preterm labour, and low birth weight.

Mental illnesses

Vitamin D helps to regulate two hormones which play a role in alertness, adrenaline, and norepinephrine. It also helps to prevent the loss of serotonin and supports the production of dopamine. Two neurotransmitters that are essential for mood regulation.

In addition, research has suggested there might be a connection between the severity of schizophrenia symptoms and vitamin D levels.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Observational studies suggest vitamin D may play a role in the prevention of MS. Further research has found that vitamin D plays a role in reducing T helper cells and Th-17 cells, which can decrease inflammation and potentially prevent disease progression. Vitamin D may also play a role in remyelination, thereby supporting the repair of the nervous system.

Cancer Prevention

Vitamin D may play a role in the prevention of breast, colon, and prostate cancer.

Diabetes

Research has found vitamin D may increase insulin production in the pancreas and the expression of the insulin receptor.  It may also improve the movement of glucose into the cells by decreasing inflammation. What does this mean? Vitamin D may allow the body to use its own insulin more effectively, decreasing blood glucose and preventing long term complications.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

Up to 50% of patients with IBD may be deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D status may also be linked to the severity of the condition. Why? Vitamin D may play a role in decreasing TNF⍺, decreases inflammation.

Can you have too much of a good thing?

Yes. Too much vitamin D can increase calcium in the blood. This can cause calcification, or hardening of the heart, kidney or lungs. Other symptoms of too much vitamin D can include confusion, depression, headaches, constipation, nausea, and feelings of thirst.

How can a healthcare provider offer support?

Based on your health history, our naturopathic doctors may recommend blood testing to identify your vitamin D level. Testing allows for a more personalized treatment protocol. This may include a vitamin D injection, supplement or lifestyle recommendations.

Our naturopathic doctors are also trained to offer genetic analysis through PureGenomics. This software allows our naturopathic doctors to look at your genetic variations related to cognitive health, weight management and your body’s unique usage of vitamins and minerals, including the GC gene.

Surviving Stress

Surviving Stress

Some phases of life are more challenging than others. This could be because of an intensive workload, final exam season, a family crisis, life transition or recovering from an injury. The increased mental, physical or emotional fatigue can leave your body feeling like it needs a little additional support.

What can you do?

Make time to relax. This could be extra sleep, reducing your day-to-day commitments, or even a Netflix binge. Try to set aside at least one hour a day to do whatever feels right for you.

Say no, or ask for support as needed. Do you need alone time? Or some help with groceries? Be honest with your friends and family on how they can best support you.

Meditation. The research is in! Meditation can increase resilience, decrease burnout, improve emotional regulation, and decrease stress.

Exercise.  Exercise has been shown to improve cognition, memory and mental health. This is partially due to its ability to increase dopamine.

Nature time.  Time spent in natural settings has been found to decrease anxiety, anger, depression, and decrease blood pressure.

Eat a healthy diet. Aim for a diet which is 80% whole, unprocessed foods.  Neurogenesis, the formation of new brain cells, is partially regulated by brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Early studies show BDNF is increased by eating carenoid-rich fruits and vegetables. Neurogenesis is decreased by diets high in fat and sugar.

 

How can a health professional offer support?

Acupuncture

  • A preliminary study found combining acupuncture with an anti-depressant, may result in better psychological health, compared to the anti-depressant alone.
  • Acupuncture may decrease perceived stress and improve energy.

Myers’ Cocktail IV

  • A blend of B vitamins, vitamin C and minerals such as magnesium, are administered intravenously and are tailored to an individuals specific needs.
  • Taking these nutrients as an IV, allows for a rapid increase in cellular levels. This can reduce fatigue, support immune function and decrease migraines.

Supplements

  • Supplements contain herbs, nutrients, homeopathic extracts or other natural substances.
  • Your naturopathic doctor can chose supplements specific to your health needs.
      • Periods of stress can disrupt digestive function, alter mood or cause hormonal imbalances. Specific nutraceuticals can be prescribed as a part of a treatment plan.

Tailored diet plans

  • Skin concerns? Digestive upset?
    • IgG or IgA food testing may be recommended to assess for foods that are causing inflammation.

Pharmaceuticals

  • Can be prescribed as needed as part of a well-rounded healthcare plan.

Counseling

  • Can provide a space to process and allow for self-reflection.
  • Can promote a healthy relationship with challenging emotions.

Massage therapy

  • Promotes relaxation and may decrease anxiety.
Prostate Health:  A Naturopathic Approach

Prostate Health: A Naturopathic Approach

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is caused by the gradual enlargement of the prostate gland. By the age of 70 nearly all men will have some prostate enlargement. About half of those over 75 will experience symptoms.

The prostate is a gland located in the pelvis. It wraps around the urethra, which transports urine or semen to the outside of the body. It secretes a portion of semen during ejaculation. The symptoms of BPH are caused by the growing prostate placing pressure on the urethra.

Symptoms can include:

    • Frequent urination
    • Sudden urge to urinate
    • Needing to urinate at night
    • Weak urine flow
    • Incomplete bladder emptying
    • Straining to urinate
    • Urine stream which starts and stops
    • Blood in the urine

Even though BPH is a growth, it is not cancerous, it will not spread, or metastasize to other tissues. Further, it does not increase the risk of prostate cancer. For most men, BPH only causes irritating urinary symptoms. However, in some instances, BPH can lead to kidney problems, bladder enlargement or urinary tract infections.

What causes BPH?

It is thought that increased levels of a hormone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT) may cause the prostate to grow. DHT is created from testosterone by the 5-alpha reductase enzyme. DHT has a much stronger stimulatory effect than testosterone on prostate tissue.

How can naturopathic medicine provide support?

Naturopathic medicine focuses on treating the person, not the diagnosis.  As a result, treatment varies based on the patient’s individual symptoms and illness severity. It can also include addressing other health concerns that may worsen symptoms, such as constipation, stress or poor sleep quality.

General Lifestyle Counseling:

  • Dietary Changes
    • Reducing your consumption of red meat and animal fat may prevent BPH.
    • An increase in organic vegetable consumption supports overall health.
    • Avoid drinking fluids before bed to decrease the urge to urinate at night.
  • Exercise
    • Increasing physical activity can improve blood flow to the prostate gland.

Botanical support:

Serenoa repens

    • Fatty acids extracted from this plant can inhibit 5 alpha-reductase. Research had found this very safe extract can reduce prostate enlargement in some men.

Ganoderma lucidum

    • Early research suggests this mushroom may reduce symptoms of incontinence and urinary urgency.

Allium sativa

    • A recent study found garlic extract taken daily for a month reduced prostate size.

Urtica diocia

    • This nutrient-dense plant can provide symptom relief but has no effect on prostate size.

Ammi visnaga

    • This herb acts as an antispasmodic, which means it promotes smooth muscle relaxation. In some men this can decrease nocturnal urination.

Soy

    • Soy contains a compound called isoflavones that can modulate the effect of estrogen in the body. Studies have shown consuming soy isoflavones can reduce the severity of BPH symptoms. Regular consumption of soy has also been researched as a strategy to prevent BPH.

Cernilton

    • This pollen extract has been shown to significantly decrease urinary symptoms though it’s an anti-inflammatory effect. It is also believed to improve bladder contraction, helping to decrease urinary retention.

Pumpkin seeds

    • Pumpkin seeds are an excellent dietary source of zinc.
      • Zinc is believed to decrease the conversion of testosterone to DHT by reducing the activity of 5 alpha-reductase.
      • According to research zinc may play a role in preventing the onset of BPH.

Cranberry

    • Cranberry extract may be recommended to reduce the likelihood of a urinary tract infection.