Vitamin D & Genomics
Everyday someone comes into my office which happens to be a pharmacy to get vitamin D. Sometimes they ask,” how much vitamin D do I need?” For me that is a loaded question, and before I checked by genes and my labs I would have just said take a multivitamin, but apparently it isn’t enough as I found out. So how much vitamin D do I need, well read on to find out why there are multiple right answers.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is probably one of the most important hormones that we call a vitamin and it is sold in stores without a prescription. Vitamin D is a hormone the kidneys produce that controls calcium concentrations in the blood and also is the precursor to your immune cells. It is typically known as calcitriol, ergocalciferol, calcidiol, and cholecalciferol.
How is Vitamin D converted in the body?
The body makes vitamin D is a chemical reaction that occurs when sunlight hits the skin. The reaction produces cholecalciferol, and the liver converts it to calcidiol. The kidneys then convert the substance to calcitriol, which is the active form of the hormone in the body.
Vitamin D has its effects by binding to a protein (called the vitamin D receptor). This receptor is present in nearly every cell and affects many different body processes.
Why our bodies convert Vitamin D differently is because of genetics
Here is an image of how vitamin D comes from sunlight and after three steps is delivered to my tissues. I say my tissues because this is my genetic sequence for vitamin D. Each step in this process is controlled by a specific gene. So DHCR7 is involved in Synthesis, CYP2R1 is involved in the activation of vitamin D, and gene GC is involved in transporting vitamin D to the tissues. As you can see all of us can have a different gene variation of a gene which could increase or decrease our vitamin D requirements. In my case I have three snps and because of these snps I require higher levels of vitamin D or higher levels of sunlight.
Using the report from Puregenomics I decided to check my vitamin D levels using ZRT labs blood spot panel and here are my results from December. So here is what my blood levels looked like before taking any vitamin D.
As you can see my Vitamin D, 24-OH, D2 was <4 so I would require a higher dose of vitamin D, then someone else. Since I will be supplementing with Vitamin D I will probably be rechecking my vitamin D in 90 days. So this is why it is really important to check your labs for micronutrients or hormones like I did in the case of vitamin D, change your diet and lifestyle for 90 days, and then retest to make sure the changes you have made a difference by retesting your specific lab.
Why I love this approach
So why I should have stopped digging here. I had my dad complete his 23 and me and his puregenomics and guess what his vitamin D conversion process looked like? Yeah you guessed it, let me show you his. We always look for improving our health, our habits, and usually our children. So it looks like I would recommend the following lifestyle changes to my dad, aunts, uncles, and my kids, and my brothers and sisters as well.
I should start eating food such as mushrooms, fatty fish, dairy, or fortified tofu. I should also try to get out of the pharmacy more and get some sunlight:) And I should bring my kids with me.
Supplementation D3 has been shown to raise levels more than D2. So I will be definitely start taking the D3 version of Vitamin D.
So next time some you ask “how much Vitamin D do I need?” realize that there is a different correct answer for each person, but that answer is beyond just looking at the blood levels.
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