Vitamin D is well-known for its importance in handling calcium from the gut, bones, and blood and disease resistance. But many studies now show vitamin D levels affect may be a contributing factor in many other health issues also.
Researchers today believe it plays a crucial role in how cells communicate. Clinical research link abnormal vitamin D levels into colon cancer, prostate, and breast cancer and heart disease, weight gain, and thyroid conditions.
Vitamin D Production
Vitamin D is unique compared to other vitamins, since it’s nearly impossible to get what you need from food. Rather, your body produces it naturally in the skin when you’re exposed to natural or artificial UVB light.
Once your body produces vitamin D or you take it as a nutritional supplement, it’s sent to the liver. The liver transforms vitamin D to 25(OH)D and sends it different areas of the body and activates it. Once activated, it is ready to execute its duties.
Autoimmunity occurs when the immune system treats an individual’s healthy cells and tissues as a threat. When this happens, their body produces an immune response and attacks. This response can lead to damage, inflammation, and chronic pain in many areas of the body.
Vitamin D deficiencies may lower the body’s ability to fight infection and may relate to cause autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Grave’s Disease.
Several 2014 studies presented at the annual meeting of the Thyroid Association are of particular interest. Researchers from Nanjing, China evaluated 34 patients with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and 32 with Grave’s Disease against 52 healthy patients. Researchers measured many thyroid-related aspects including vitamin D3.
Vitamin D is actually a group of compounds classified vitamin D1, D2, and D3. Vitamin D3 is the naturally occurring form of the vitamin and the most biologically active.
Researchers found patients with autoimmune thyroid disease had significantly lower vitamin D3 levels than the healthy controls. This suggests vitamin D insufficiency could link to or cause autoimmune thyroid disorder.
Brazilian researchers studied 54 Hashimoto’s patients, compared to 54 healthy controls. They also found vitamin D deficiency in 63.2% of the patients.
Deficiency of Vitamin D
Typically, the skin produces sufficient vitamin D when exposed to adequate UV light. However, the risks of skin cancer or melanoma now mean lots of individuals use sunscreen and cover their bodies. In addition, we spend more time inside for work and entertainment.
Since more clinical tests show a link between vitamin D and thyroid function, many doctors now recommend vitamin D testing as part of thyroid evaluation and care. Nonetheless, operational professionals and doctors following the medical model may treat you differently based on your results.
Medical Model vs Functional Model
The medical model recommends 400 International Units per day of vitamin D. They also define a sufficient serum 25(OH)D level as over 50 nmol/L as it “covers the needs of 97.5% of the population”. The test used to measure vitamin D levels in the 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood test.
The medical model usually recommends supplementation to boost low vitamin D levels. However, the functional approach to care recognizes multiple reasons may cause low vitamin D levels. Consequently, recommending supplements before taking a look at overall health and other possible issues can be ineffective and counterproductive.
Supplements don’t necessarily correct low vitamin D levels, since they do not address underlying problems. The vitamin D receptor in certain autoimmune patients cannot activate because of variations in their DNA sequence. Consequently, they need higher than normal blood levels of vitamin D to avoid vitamin D insufficiency.
Vitamin D is fat soluble, and some patients with thyroid issues such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis have low stomach acid and poor fat absorption. Autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Grave’s disease also make the immune system work overtime, which depletes the body’s stores of vitamin D. Therefore, addressing gut and digestive issues and modulating the immune system are of primary importance before considering vitamin D supplementation.
A highly qualified working practitioner will take a look over your gut and digestive health and if they’re satisfied, they may order a 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood test for your vitamin D levels.
Your physician may recommend supplementation to achieve between 60 and 80 nmol/L. This remains well below the 125 nmol/L threshold where a patient may experience adverse effects. After several months, they will retest. If their serum level rose to a decent level, the doctor will adjust vitamin D intake so serum levels stay between 50 and 60 nmol/L.
Vitamin D insufficiency is just one factor that can result in thyroid issues, so self-supplementation isn’t recommended because it can be ineffective if underlying problems remain. Discuss your thyroid problems with a functional practitioner to develop an effective treatment protocol.