TCW - Life, Style & Wellness

Vitamin D: Key to good health or just hype?

Milk bottle on table.jpg

Fortified milk is a great food source for Vitamin D.

Large sunflower in sun.jpg

Sunlight has Vitamin D-boosting benefits, as exposure to the sun helps us our bodies produce this important substance.

Although I'm obviously not a doctor, I pay attention to the latest happenings in the medical world for a couple big reasons. First, as the founder of the Tiffani Kim Institute Medical Wellness Spa, it's important for me to keep up with the latest news in the worlds of health and wellness. Second, as someone who takes a very keen interest in her own health, I am interested in knowing about developments that might possibly improve it. I'll take all the help I can get!
 
You probably have been reading a LOT lately about the potential positive effects of Vitamin D, as I have. (Even my fellow TCW blogger, Dr. Anita Varkey, recently wrote about its mood-enhancing effects during colder months.) Research by credible sources suggests that Vitamin D--which some call the "sunshine vitamin"--can play a big role in boosting the immune system. Not only that, but some are claiming there's a link between Vitamin D and the reduction of risk for different types of cancer.

 

Despite the potential good news, it's always important to ask doctors for advice and counsel before running out to the nearest drug or health food store for a bottle of supplements. So I turned to Dr. Dominic Gaziano, who practices Integrative Internal Medicine at our River North facility.

"Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and maintain bone density," he says. "It's the only vitamin that's also a hormone, and is converted through our exposure into an active hormone. It can be generated by the skin or ingested." 

Dr. G, as many of his patients call him, is well aware of the interest that's been stirred up lately by Vitamin D. I decided to ask him some of my OWN questions about Vitamin D, its role in our lives, and specifically how it affects women:

Are more of your patients asking you about Vitamin D now? "More are asking. They read the literature. It's good for patients to be informed, but there's a lot of misinformation out there. It has to be taken in context. They have to talk to their doctors about how relevant it is to them." 

What's the big deal--and why now? "There's a lot of discussion among medical practitioners and patients. There have been recently hundreds of thousands of PubMed (citations of biomedical articles) searches on 'Vitamin D deficiency.' There's a lot greater testing in America for Vitamin D. It's under-diagnosed as a deficiency."

Are we in Chicago naturally deficient in Vitamin D during the winter because of the lack of sunshine? "We're more predisposed (to deficiencies in Chicago). One of every 5 days is sunny in winter, but one of every 2 or 3 in summer. Some bodies are better at processing Vitamin D than others."

Does Vitamin D really play as strong a role in immune system health as some experts are claiming? "I don't think the research can say that (definitively). In my experience, I don't have enough patients (taking Vitamin D) to say, even anecdotally, that it helps the immune system."

What's the best way for us to add Vitamin D to our bodies? Is it through food? Or vitamin supplements? "Discuss any supplement use with your doctor. You may not need any if you get your own (Vitamin D) conversion. Not everybody should be on supplements, (taking them) like a vitamin."

How much Vitamin D does the average woman need every day? "It really depends on the individual patient. They may need supplements if they're severely deficient. With Vitamin D, you're less likely to get it in your diet. We get massive doses of sodium, but don't get enough Vitamin D."

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