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The body makes vitamin D when it is exposed to the sun, and we also ingest it.

But vitamin D is important and there is a lot to know about it.

1. I think that everyone should be taking vitamin D. I find that most of my patients have vitamin D levels that are either low (below 40 ng/ml) or very low (below 20 ng/ml)/ I prefer my patients to keep levels in the 25 to 30 ng/ml range. Conventional physicians will say the you are OK at 20 ng/ml. I disagree!

2. Always be sure that you take vitamin D3, not D2, which many doctors still prescribe. If you purchase a bottle of vitamin D, it is D3, unless it specifically says so on the label.

3. Typically, getting enough Vitamin D requires that you take a supplement and that you get sun to at least your face, arms and hands without sunblock for 10 to 15 minutes at least three times a week. If possible, I suggest exposing as much of your body as you can for 10 to 15 minutes every day if feasible, then stay out of the sun and use nontoxic sun blocks. (You can find the safe ones and other sun safety advice that the mainstream media does not give you here. I prefer that you get sun between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., when the ultraviolet radiation (UVB) that best helps your skin produce vitamin D is at its strongest.

4. Obviously, staying out the sun for longer periods of time is a way to invite skin cancer, which is the most common form of cancer in the world, and with our sun in Arizona and the Southwest, we are prime targets. By the way, the most lethal form of skin cancer, Melanoma, is decreased in those who have good Vitamin D levels and more common in those who do not. Further, good vitamin D levels are associated with less metastases (spread) of melanoma if the individual has it.

5. You need to speak to your doctor about how much vitamin D you should take -- and you can take too much -- although I have found in practice that this is very rare. Nonetheless, once you begin to be treated with Vitamin D, be sure that your doctor orders follow-up blood tests to be sure that your treatment is effective. I suggest that your doctor order the 25 hydroxyvitamin D test. All commercial labs do this test adequately, so if your doctor wants to order a special test that your insurance company will not cover and from a "special" lab, suspect that they are looking for "gold" (increased profits), not the most accurate test for your blood level of Vitamin D. Be forewarned, some insurance companies will not pay for the test unless you had a previous low Vitamin D, or they may not pay for the follow-up. They might argue that the indications and benefits of the test and therapy are not yet "proven." That is rubbish and a way that their paid physician/scientist henchmen are trying to pass the costs to you and not to their employer or your employer!

6. I have found that a dose of 2,000 IU a day is most often what is required. There are many brands that have been studied for efficacy and content -- that can be found at ConsumersLab.com -- Vitamin D Drops from NSI cost one cent per 2,000 IU and Kirkland Signature (Costco) Vitamin D3 costs four cents per 2,000 IU. I buy the Kirkland brand because I like pills, not drops , but that's a personal preference. The danger of Costco is that American-style over-consumerism is sill alive there and you may walk in just wanting to buy vitamin D pills and walk out with a kayak that in your wildest dreams you will never use and food products in quantities large enough to feed your entire neighborhood!

7. What does Vitamin D actually do? Well, you may have just recently read that Vitamin D decreases the risk of fractures. This is a small part of how it works in your body. Joe Mercola, D.O., put together a very nice list that gives you an idea of how important Vitamin D is: There are only 30,000 genes in your body and vitamin D has been shown to influence over 2,000 of them. That is one of the primary reasons it influences so many diseases, as seen in the list below.

• Cancer
• Hypertension
• Heart disease
• Autism
• Obesity
• Rheumatoid arthritis
• Diabetes (Type 1 and 2)
• Multiple Sclerosis
• Crohn's Disease
• Flu
• Colds
• Tuberculosis
• Septicemia
• Aging
• Psoriasis
• Eczema
• Insomnia
• Hearing loss
• Muscle pain
• Cavities
• Periodontal disease
• Athletic performance
• Macular degeneration
• Myopia
• Pre eclampsia
• Seizures
• Fertility
• Asthma
• Cystic fibrosis
• Migraines
• Depression
• Alzheimer's disease
• Schizophrenia

Vitamin D really is hormone. It is very clear that vitamin D deficiency is a growing epidemic across the world and is contributing to many chronic debilitating diseases.

Further:

Vitamin D deficiency is epidemic in adults of all ages who have increased skin pigmentation, such as those whose ancestors are from Africa, the Middle East, or India, who always wear sun protection, or who limit their outdoor activities.

African Americans and other dark-skinned people and those living in northern latitudes make significantly less vitamin D than other groups.

60 percent of people with Type 2 Diabetes have vitamin D deficiency.

Studies showed very low levels of vitamin D among children, the elderly, and women.

One U.S. study of women revealed that almost half of African American women of childbearing age might be vitamin-D deficient.

There really is so much more to talk about and for you to know about Vitamin D. We will revisit the topic and add more information, but there is one point that may be hidden as we explore all the details that I have mentioned: conventional physicians are both poorly trained and spend far too little time dealing with issues regarding nutrition.

Typically, they would rather give you a prescription for the disease caused by the nutritional deficiency than explore and treat the deficiency. Nutritionists, if you ever get to see one, are not trained to diagnose and treat deficiencies and have a role to go over your general diet, etc. The Affordable Health Care Act and the non-plan of those opposing the act have not addressed the core issue in our country with regard to diet/nutrition.

It's much more than reading the labels on boxes of cereal!

Dr. Sam Benjamin, M.D. - Integrative Medicine, weekend show host

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