Tuesday, March 17, 2009

In Praise of Vitamin D

I went for my "annual" check up last week. Since my last "annual" checkup in 2004 my naturopath has learned volumes about breast cancer, the hard way.  Whereas before she took this subject seriously, she now is very sober and very knowledgeable about many aspects and issues concerning healthy breasts.  

Many years ago, when Rosie was a tiny baby, I found a lump on my breast.  Dr. F looked at it and while the lump was on my breast, not in it, she quickly sent me to have it checked.  In the few days of waiting it took for me to get in to the radiologist, I lived in shock and fear.  In fact, I was so scared I never told anyone but Bill about the whole experience.  The lump turned out to be fatty tissue, but my attitude is also quite sober when it comes to breast health.

For years, I have known that we women living in the Pacific Northwest are at highest risk for breast cancer, joined in hazard by our sisters in Northern Europe. Same with multiple sclerosis.  So while we joke about the number of rainy days and our personal confusion when that big yellow ball appears in the sky, it may turn out not to be so funny.  There is a high correlation between lack of vitamin D and rate of breast cancer/MS.  The sobering fact that Dr. F shared with me is that 95% of all humans - man, woman, child - living in the Pacific Northwest are vitamin D deficient.  

Since my last "annual" checkup 5 years ago, the medical establishment has created an easy blood test measuring levels of vitamin D.  Dr. F and I quickly agreed I should be checked.  My assumption was that my levels would be fine or very close to fine because I am serious about my health care, and I take my cod liver and coconut oil on a daily basis. 

My results came back yesterday.  The scale for vitamin D sufficency is measured, I am pretty sure, on a scale from 0-100.  Healthy range is 33-100, and acknowledging that is a crazy huge range, Dr. F says she likes to see her patients at around 50. I weighed in at an alarmingly low 12. Armed with my little dropper bottle of high potency D, I will be super-saturating my body with the liquid sunshine for the next 3 months.   And while I've already started the kids and Bill on an appropriate amount of the high dosage vitamin D, they will also be feeling the prick of information gathering in the next few weeks to check for extreme deficiencies. 

Again, the link between low vitamin D and breast cancer/MS is still just a correlation, with some studies supporting and others denying the marriage of the two. But for now with it being our best guess, taking large doses of preventative vitamin D is neither hard nor dangerous.

If you read this blog, it is because I know you and care about you.  Please, take this post as a cautionary tale and make an appointment with your primary care physician (or mine, she's great) and get tested.  A little knowledge now can save us both a ton of pain and fear later.


Joshie's Mama said...

When I was going through treatment I was on very high doses of D- 50,000 I'U's because my coworkers have read enough on the cancer pathway and the way vit.D can stop it that they insisted. You don't need doses that high- I am back down to a normal dose- but please PLEASE take your vitamin D. There is a correlation- I can give you papers if you'd like. Swedish Cancer Center tests everyone's vit. D levels now- I had to insist on being tested two years ago, but now the evidence is out there.
-Erica V.

Carrie said...

Huh, interesting. Our Ped suggested that we should be on Vit D, which I hadn't heard before. I do have some but don't really know how much we should be taking. Guess I should get on it!

TedHutchinson said...

The form of Vitamin D usually prescribed is not the most effective. See this paper.
The case against ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) as a vitamin supplement
Some people are not able to convert D2 into the natural form the body uses D3 so using D3 Cholecalciferol avoids that potential problem.
Biotech Cholecalciferol this is the only source of 50,000iu Vitamin D3 cholecalciferol I am aware of. Once capsule each week for 8 weeks should correct status. Biotech's 5000iu capsules are the ones recommended by Dr Cannell from The Vitamin D Council.

While 5000iu~6000iu is fine for most people, those who are not average size may find 1000iu for each 30lbs weight an easy rule of thumb for working out an effective intake.
IHERB Now foods 5000iu are an alternative for those who prefer oil based capsules to the dry powder form. I've used both and both are fine for me. $5 Iherb discount code WAB666

Sara said...

Comment from my friend Vicki that I wanted to share with y'all.

Hi Sara! I have been supplementing with high doses of vitamin d for over a year. That deficiency is what put me into autoimmune disease after Clara’s birth (sleep trouble, joint pain, etc.). being consistent with taking it and bumping my levels up over time has put it into remission! Very few symptoms whatsoever. Love vitamin d!!

Qarin said...

I just started taking a relatively low dose of vitamin D a week ago, having meant to all winter- 2000iu/day. I can't be sure, but it sure seems to have already made a *huge* difference in my mood and ability to function. I'd sort of been putting it off, thinking I wanted to get high potency liquid whatnot and not getting around to being able to do that- finally, in a fit of "I need to do SOMETHING", I went to Walgreens at midnight last Thursday and got some who knows where it's packaged vitD.

It's something, anyway. I'll see about getting actually tested when I see the doctor next, eventually.


Sara said...

Thanks for everyone's lovely comments.

Since y'all seem interested in the details: The drops Dr. F gave to me are from Biotics Research Corp. "Bio-D-Mulsion Forte." They are vitamin D as cholecalciferol. Because of my extremely low numbers, she has me at 6000 iu/day for 3 months at which point we will test again.

The drops taste slightly like chalk, which beats the heck out of the Chinese herbs she often gives me that unilaterally taste like dirt!