Saturday, November 14, 2009

Prevent Cavities and Anorexia: Managing Vitamin D Side Effects

Working together, vitamins C, D, B1 (thiamine) and B3 (niacin) prevent cavities and anorexia. If you're just looking for good doses to try, click here.

These four vitamins are special because they are the only four vitamins associated with named pandemic deficiency diseases. The four diseases are scurvy, rickets, beriberi, and pellegra.

Of these four vitamins, vitamin D is the only one that is not really a vitamin and is highly toxic in overdose. Vitamin D is not really a vitamin because it is not necessary to obtain it from food. Your body produces vitamin D in your skin when your bare skin (no sunblock) is exposed to direct mid-day sunlight (not morning or afternoon sunlight).

Exposing the skin to direct mid day sunlight is easily accomplished. Unfortunately, it is not currently socially acceptable. Many people work indoors during these hours. If a weekend is cloudy, many people will not expose their skin to direct mid-day sunlight for two weeks. Instead of encouraging fresh air and sunshine, our society is pushing vitamin D pills. Unfortunately, unlike fresh air and sunshine, vitamin D pills are difficult to manage without side effects. Read more here. To manage side effects, common advice is to accompany pill taking with regular blood testing to maintain vitamin D levels in the blood within a "normal" range. This is perfectly good advice, but I'm sure I'm not the only one who would like another option.

So - here's another option. First start by recognizing that getting vitamin D from the sun safely provides large doses of vitamin D. Vitamin D specialists claim that untanned white people exposed to direct mid day summer sunshine produce 1000 IU of vitamin D per minute. There are no literature reports of vitamin D side effects caused by sun exposure. It is therefore wise to get as much vitamin D as possible from the sun and to recognize that if you take vitamin D supplements and suffer side effects, it is your own fault. You want the consensus optimal dose of 1000-5000 IU vitamin D per day and you are unwilling or unable to get it safely from sunshine. Sadly, not everyone can take 1000-5000 IU vitamin D supplements per day without side effects. If you take vitamin D supplements and experience side effects, don't blame the experts recommending vitamin D. The experts are correct. You need the vitamin D. Get it from sunshine and you won't have a problem.

I don't like blood tests. I don't like to give the blood, and I don't trust the labs, and I don't like the wide ranges. I want physical evidence of good health caused by vitamin D. I am using my dentist for help. Dental health is particularly reliant on vitamin D. Vitamin D alone will go a long way towards preventing cavities. Dentists have tools that measure the health of teeth and gums. These tools are used as a normal part of teeth cleaning. Read more here. The option I'm proposing is two or three dental cleanings a year and meticulous dental records. If your teeth and gums are in excellent health, then you are getting enough vitamin D.

Another option is to use vitamin D side effects to your benefit. A basic scientific truth is that benefits of vitamins and drugs increase with increasing dose forever. It is safety that limits doses. The optimal dose is the one that balances benefits and side effects. I believe that many people getting plenty of sunshine will find themselves unable to take 1000 UI vitamin D tablets without side effects. One 1000 IU tablet is known to be completely safe. In fact, the Food and Nutrition Board has declared a daily dose up to 1000 UI to be virtually without side effects. Most people who are vitamin D deficient can be slipped a 1000 IU vitamin D tablet and they won't notice. I believe that most people who are getting plenty of sunshine will be caused some discomfort if slipped a 1000 IU vitamin D tablet. If you fall into this group, this is a good option. If you get enough sunshine (which is without side effects) to sensitize yourself to one or two 1000 IU vitamin D tablets taken only once on a random day, then regular use of vitamin D supplements is not an option as it will cause acute toxicity. At this point, blood testing is irrelevant. If your blood levels were to come back low, there would be no safe action you could take. You know you are getting the maximum vitamin D you can tolerate.

We are living amidst an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency of our own making. We need as many options as possible to address this epidemic. In addition to vitamin D supplements and blood testing, it would be helpful to make regular exposure to the sun a more practical option and to measure success by good health (the elimination of cavities and anorexia). An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.


At 6:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't forget about the Vitamin D winter for those of us in northern climes.

At 10:17 PM, Anonymous Dental Orange said...

This is informative. an article that creates awareness to those who will read this. thanks for the info, keep on posting! i'll stay tuned.

At 4:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But if humans made Vitamin C in their bodies, then "C" would also be classified as a hormone and not a vitamin, as "D" is now. I have heard of a theory that some people who live to a great old age might do so because they may be able to synthesize some "C" in their bodies. Perhaps the case with "D" is that while most people can synthesize enough from sunlight, a small, or not-so-small, sub-set of the population cannot. These are the people who would be able to take very large doses of "D" without side-effects. That so many people (and I am one of them) are able to take very large doses of "D" without side effects is a possible indication that some people may not be able to synthesize as much Vitamin D from sunlight as other people...regardless of skin color.

At 11:23 AM, Blogger Steve said...

Dear Anonymous,

Can you refer me to any data concerning the ability to make vitamin D from sunshine at high latitudes in the winter?

I live between latitude 40 and 41. I've been surprised at how many days in the wintertime the temperature rises above 40 F. At noontime, skin exposure to bright sunshine is comfortable for me as long as it is above 40 F. Wintertime skin is pale for a reason. I believe that many people are highly efficient at vitamin D synthesis in the wintertime. Even just one hour in the noontime sun just once a month in December, January, and February may be sufficient to achieve near optimal benefits of vitamin D without supplements.

That said, I say over and over again to go ahead and use 1000 IU vitamin D supplements. Just don't complain about the side effects if and when you get them.


At 12:08 PM, Blogger jdawg said...

I live in Fredericton, NB Canada and we get no sun most of the Fall and certainly none that I can expose myself to during the winter. We're at 45 latitude.

At 9:05 PM, Blogger Steve said...


Most of my readers live well south of you. For you, there's no doubt that getting vitamin D from sunshine much of the year is a problem. Like it or not, you'll have to learn how to use vitamin D supplements. For all the energy I put into recommending sunshine, I don't have a big problem with supplements. My experience has been that side effects have been a huge turn off to non-scientists. Since I want the behavior to spread (high vitamin D status), I go out of my way to recommend the safest method. And getting into the sun feels great too. So - go ahead and take supplements. Start somewhere between 1000 and 4000 IU per day and be on the look out for side effects. If you've read this column, you know what to expect.


At 3:55 PM, Anonymous Drew said...

Dr. Julie O'toole recently wrote about effective long-term treatments of anorexia: However, she didn't mention Vitamin D has a source. This was a good read, thanks!


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