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Macro Monday: Vitamin D & Macrobiotics

So I got a call from my doctor last week, saying that they took a look at my regular checkup blood test results, and that I was alarmingly low in Vitamin D... 

Hrmph. 

I suppose I have  been feeling not very rested & a bit lethargic lately.  {I attributed that to the change of seasons...afterall, Autumn is a time for slowing down}.

And I suppose I may have  lost track of that bottle of vitamin D I used to take, somewhere in my move. 

And I also suppose, that I have not been regularly eating fish. 

And lastly, I suppose , I do NOT live in the tropics in a nudist colony.

Hrmph.  So there you have it - a big 'ol vitamin D deficiency. 

So I've been doing a bit of research, and decided to post about Vitamin D this lovely Macro Monday, in hopes that some of you will also have suggestions of your own for me, for how to get adequate amounts of Vitamin D on a Macrobiotic Diet.

MM: Vitamin D & a Macrobiotic Diet

Google Image: http://tinyurl.com/oeql8rc

Google Image: http://tinyurl.com/oeql8rc

So obviously, laying naked in the tropical sun daily, would be best.
I'd totally do it if I could. The experts recommend 15 minutes of sunshine daily, with exposure to UVB rays. But the quality of this sunshine varies drastically with how far North you are. In the Northern hemisphere, because of the angle of the atmosphere, we do not get much UVB from the sun. I live for sunshine... But I also live in Canada. So that settles that. No one here gets enough sunshine to create enough Vitamin D (says my doctor, and many other doctors).

I'm always inclined to look at diet and natural methods first: 

Top Food Sources of Vitamin D

From all my research, I've gathered that really, Vitamin D is mostly found in animal fats / products, seafood or in fortified foods. There are surprisingly few sources of naturally occurring Vitamin D. The top dietary sources, in no particular order, are:

Naturally Occurring 

  • Fatty fish such as wild salmon & sardines, and other seafood like oysters
  • Eggs
  • Cod Liver Oil
  • Grass-fed Dairy
  • Some mushrooms, particularly Shitake

 Foods That Have Vitamin D Added
  • Fortified Dairy products
  • Fortified grain products, such as breakfast cereal
  • Fortified juices, like orange juice
  • Fortified Soy Products

Macrobiotic Food Sources of Vitamin D

Okay, so as you may already know, the traditional Macrobiotic Diet does not include eggs or dairy. I don't necessarily agree that this will work best for everyone - some people do very well & feel their best on a vegetarian diet. But I  personally, happen to have an allergy to both cow dairy & eggs...so these things are never present in my diet anyways. 

I eat fish occasionally, and plan to do more so seeing as I now have the Ocean as my backyard. But I also don't feel the best eating a ton of seafood - and in all likelihood will not have it more than 1-2 times/week.

I LOVE mushrooms - particularly shitake. But I'm pretty sure you'd need to eat waaaaaayyyy too may of them to satisfy your daily Vitamin D requirements.

Do you know about any other Macrobiotic Dietary Sources of Vitamin D? 

Vitamin D3 vs. Vitamin D2

Vitamin D2 is known as "ergocalciferol"  & vitamin D3 is known as "cholecalciferol."

Vitamin D2 is a fungus or yeast derived product, as is the form that you will find in any vitamin D supplement that is vegan. 

Vitamin D3 in supplements comes from animal sources: either from lanolin (sheeps wool) or fish/seafood.

Most doctors & health practitioners recommend D3 for many reasons, including these: 

  • Humans naturally make Vitamin D3 when UVB strikes our skin: we synthesize it ourselves...on the other hand, we do NOT synthesize Vitamin D2 ourselves. 
  • Vitamin D3 is thought to be the more potent form as it binds better to our tissue receptors, and it is also therefore potentially less toxic, as Vitamin D2 ends up circulating through our blood stream in higher concentrations, as it is not absorbed as easily
  • You would therefore need to take more Vitamin D2 for it to be just as effective
  • {Info from: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/589256_4

I am positive you can find good quality sources of Vitamin D2, and if you are a strict vegan, I wouldn't try to dissuade you from taking it. Getting enough Vitamin D is really important, whatever your source may be.

As for myself, I eat fish already, and do not have a problem with taking D3 either from sheep's wool, or from fish sources. 

Vitamin D Supplements

The doctor has ordered me to take quite a large dose of Vitamin D3 supplements daily for at least 3 months, and then to continue on taking the supplements daily after that, at a lower dosage. 

Here are some things I came across in my research, to consider when taking Vitamin D supplements: 

  • Having proper amounts of Vitamin D can assist in sleeping...but if you take your Vitamin D at night, or in the evening, it can actually interfere  with sleep. So take them in the morning.
  • Vitamin D is best and most easily absorbed with fat. So either take a Vitamin D gel capsule that includes fat (i've seen plenty that have EFAs and/or fish oil in the gel caps) , or take the pills with a meal that includes fat (preferably breakfast, as per the info in the bullet above).
  • The daily intake from NIH is 200 IU for adults under 50, and 400 IU for adults over 50. But many respected health pracititioners consider this to be MUCH too low, and recommend 1000 IU or more. Dr. Weil, who gives pretty solid advice in my opinion, is currently recommending 2000 IUs of Vitamin D3 per day. I've seen other doctors recommend up to 10000 IU daily. But please talk to your doctor first. 

Other Considerations When Taking Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, which means that it stays in your body in your fat cells, rather than water soluble vitamins where you pee out the excess you don't need. So, you also have to be careful about getting TOO MUCH Vitamin D as it will stay in your body, & also because Vitamin D increases the body's requirement for Vitamin A & magnesium. And also, Vitamin D is most beneficial when it interacts with other vitamins & minerals, such as Vitamin K, zinc & boron. Gah - so complex!

I am by no means an expert on any of this, but I do know that Vitamin A is very easy to get through your diet (anything orange: carrots, squash etc. have very high vitamin A levels, as do some leafy greens). In fact, people more often get too much Vitamin A, which can cause serious problems. So in my humble opinion, I wouldn't worry too much about taking added Vitamin A, especially if you eat a good amount of colourful veggies in your diet.

Magnesium can also be acquired through diet (legumes, nuts/seeds, real cacao & greens), but is also, on the other hand, a fairly common mineral to take as a supplement. I take a magnesium supplement occasionally (Natural Calm), as it is very beneficial for stress amongst other things.

As for Vitamin D's interaction with Vitamin K, again, I think simply making sure you get Vitamin K from dietary sources are best: Vitamin K1 is found in most leafy greens, and K2 in fermented foods like natto & kimchee (also in organ meats & cheeses).

Zinc & Boron also interact with Vitamin D to make it more effective, but again, can be found in the diet. Zinc is common in oysters, beans, nuts & meat. Boron is found in peanut butter, raisins, avocado, wine, beer, nuts & leafy greens. 

But again, please remember, I'm not a doctor or healthcare professional in anyway, so before you become your own science experiment, I'd recommend talking to someone qualified, like a doctor. :)

*I spent hours reading & compiling all of this info from different sites including: this one, this one, this one, this one, & this one.

So...

For now I will follow my doctor's orders, and take my vitamin D3 pills daily. 

I will also enjoy fish & seafood more often, and continue cooking up mushrooms in my daily meals.And of course, goat cheese is a delicious & delightful treat every once in awhile.

And I am also very grateful for INPUT FROM YOU: advice / suggestions on maintaining & acquiring Vitamin D3 in your diet, or suggestions about supplements. 

Sending you all a giant sunshiney hug, 

Jess