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.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Niacin, and Thiamine During Pregnancy

I learned this week that 12 percent of babies in the United States are born pre-term. Apparently there is an ongoing epidemic of pre-term babies. Medical research pays well and attracts top talent. None-the-less, 12 percent of babies are born pre-term. I've been browsing the internet, and I'd say most of the articles I read did not clearly identify a cause or make any recommendations that are easily understood and implemented.

To me, the cause of this epidemic is obvious. Many women of child bearing age are unhealthy. Unhealthy women are at a high risk of unhealthy babies. Several articles I read pointed out that taking pregnancy vitamins did not protect against the risk of pre-term birth. From this, the authors conclude that vitamin deficiency is not a cause of pre-term birth. Although logical, this conclusion is incorrect. In fact, vitamin deficiency is the dominant cause of poor health amongst women of child bearing age. Poor health caused by chronic, marginal vitamin deficiency can not be corrected by taking prenatal vitamins during pregnancy. Preganancy places many unique demands upon a woman's body. It is unrealistic to expect a woman's body to become healthier during pregnancy. It is unwise for unhealthy women of child bearing age to have children. Of course, women are not going to admit that they are unhealthy and volunteer to forgo pregnancy. Despite poor health, they will continue to claim they are healthy, forge ahead, and perpetuate the current epidemic.

The way to prevent pre-term births is to get expectant mothers into excellent health. The place to start is with girls. The R.D.A.’s for children are too low. Children need a multivitamin, extra vitamin C, niacin, thiamine, and sunshine (vitamin D). They need to learn to master the use of vitamins for themselves as young adults. They need to study and experience vitamin side effects. Young adulthood is the best time to experiment with high doses of vitamins. The risk of permanent harm is negligible and young adults bounce back quickly from any side effects. It is particularly important to master vitamin C, sun exposure (vitamin D), niacin, and thiamine because they are the four special vitamins associated with the four named vitamin deficiency diseases: scurvy, rickets, pellagra, and beriberi. Mastery of these vitamins will result in excellent health for a majority of young women. When and if a young woman in excellent health decides to get pregnant, the conservative course of action is to reduce vitamin consumption to the tried and true levels in prenatal vitamins. The only exception is vitamin C. If a young woman has mastered vitamin C and settled on a daily dose above 2000 mg/day, she should consider continuing to take extra vitamin C at a dose of 1000 to 2000 mg/day, just below the UL of 2000 mg/day set by the Food and Nutrition Board.

Reliable reports from independent physicians working in several countries claim that vitamin supplements at doses significantly higher than contained in prenatal vitamins can prevent poor birth outcomes. These include birth defects, premature births, colicky babies, and difficult labor. The physicians making these reports typically had long term relationships with patients. The mothers they worked with were taking vitamins before becoming pregnant and were, as a result, in better than average health.

What I'm recommending sounds too good to be true. Perhaps one more fact will strengthen the case. It was reported this week that African American women are at significantly increased risk of delivering babies pre-term. African American women, on average, have lower levels of vitamin D in their bodies than lighter skinned Americans. Nature has been unkind to dark-skinned individuals in groups migrating north from the equator towards the North pole. Every population to migrate North turned white within just centuries. The selective pressure for white skin at Northern latitudes is dramatic. The reason for white skin at Northern latitudes is well understood to be vitamin D. And this is just one vitamin among many. Fortunately, only four vitamins prevent named pandemic deficiency diseases. It is highly likely that some combination of these four vitamins is responsible for more than 95% of vitamin deficiency.

I want to emphasize that I am not recommending taking high doses of vitamins during pregnancy. Even doses of vitamins at the UL (the upper safe limit) are known to cause side effects for a small minority. The Food and Nutrition Board developed the R.D.A.’s by studying young adults in excellent health. This includes the R.D.A.’s contained in prenatal vitamins. To me, this means that if an expecting mother is in excellent health, prenatal vitamins will maintain her excellent health throughout the pregnancy and birth. Pregnancy is a time for conservative behavior. It is not a time to be experimenting with vitamin doses.

What I'm recommending is extra sunshine and vitamins for children and young adults. If you are a young adult reading this column and you are looking for a place to start, here is one:

Vitamin C – 4000 mg/day first thing in the morning
Vitamin D – ample sunshine in the spring, summer, and fall including full body exposure at least once/month. 1000 IU/day during the winter months.
Thiamine – 5 to 10 mg/day as TTFD in an enteric-coated tablet. It has to be TTFD and the tablet has to be enteric coated. Alternatively, purchase TTFD cream and apply 5 to 10 mg topically.
Niacin – take 250 mg time release niacin once per week

If you are a parent and are looking for vitamin doses for your children, read more hereand here.

It’s time to work to prevent pre-term births by building bodies in robust health. It’s time to start closing neo-natal care units, and winding down the production of the many medications used to treat children born pre-term. It’s time to take control of our health by taking full advantage of the wealth of knowledge about the nutrients that make us and keep us healthy. I can think of no better investment in the future than improving the health of the young women about to produce the next generation. If there are young women in your family who are not in excellent good health, they have much to gain and nothing to lose by mastering vitamin C, sunshine (vitamin D), niacin and thiamine.