Adequate blood levels of Vitamin D in my patients are very rare. Everyone I have tested who is not supplementing with Vitamin D is deficient. According to the thoughtful and public health minded neurologist Stasha Gominak, MD, an expert in Vitamin D, we need levels of 60-80 ng/ml in order to sleep normally. There is a disagreement amongst the experts about what qualifies as adequate, with some stating that any level above 20 ng/ml is sufficient, but I agree with Dr. Gominak. She has a very accessible and useful website entitled Sleep, Chronic Pain and Headaches, which I highly recommend. It is full of clear explanations and clinical wisdom.
In 2005 Dr. Gominak serendipitously discovered that many of the patients in her neurology practice who consulted her about headaches, seizures, back pain, dizziness and balance problems had abnormal results when she performed sleep studies on them. Often they were not even aware that their sleep pattern was abnormal. She discovered that they also were deficient in Vitamin D. When she prescribed supplementation with Vitamin D and adequate blood levels were achieved, their sleep issues resolved, eliminating the need for masks to treat sleep apnea or sleeping pills, and their other symptoms also improved.
Vitamin D is a crucial factor in a many diverse bodily functions. It should more accurately be designated a hormone rather than a vitamin. Vitamins are defined as organic compounds which are essential for health, which we must obtain from external sources, because we cannot synthesize them. Our skin produces Vitamin D in response to exposure to sun light. Vitamin D would therefore more appropriately be classified as a hormone rather than a vitamin, because it is a chemical substance produced by the body which controls and regulates the activity of a variety of cells and organs.
There are also a few dietary sources of Vitamin D; some of the best being fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel. Small amounts of vitamin D can be found in beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks. Some foods are fortified with Vitamin D, such as milk, breakfast cereals and some brands of orange juice, but the amounts contained in these foods is negligible. For instance, a cup of milk has only 100 IU of vitamin D. You would have to drink 100 cups of milk a day to prevent Vitamin D deficiency.
Dr. Gominak believes that Vitamin D deficiency is correlated with a great variety of symptoms due to the fact that Vitamin D deficiency causes sleep disorders. Much healing occurs when the body is asleep. When a person suffers from a sleep disorder, it interferes with the body’s healing process. When sleep quality is improved “headaches, seizures, tremor, back pain, balance difficulties, depression, memory loss, etc. all get better”.
I was especially fascinated by Dr. Gominak’s perspective on Vitamin D and digestive health. This is particularly relevant to my readers, many of whom suffer with gut issues. She links it with acid reflux, IBS and diabetes. “D hormone affects the entire GI tract. There are D receptors in our salivary glands, our teeth, our esophageal sphincter, and the stomach cells that make acid. When the stomach sphincter is weak the acid moves up into the esophagus, where it doesn’t belong, causing acid reflux. The D we make on our skin goes to the liver, then into the bile, it keeps the bile acids dissolved, preventing gall stones from forming. Because there are D receptors in the islet cells of the pancreas that make insulin, not enough D may contribute to the development of diabetes. Low vitamin D levels are related to poor stomach emptying as well as bloating and constipation or “irritable bowel”. The irritable bowel may result from losing our “happy, helpful” bacteria in our lower GI tract. They die off when we don’t supply the vitamin D the bacteria also need to survive. Because those same colonic bacteria supply 7/8 of the B vitamins we need on a daily basis, some of my patients have vitamin D deficiency and secondary B vitamin deficiencies. (At least 2 of the B vitamins, B5 and B12, are needed to sleep normally) So there are secondary B vitamin deficiencies that may also have to be corrected before the sleep will return to normal.”
Compromised gut health is often associated with multiple psychiatric symptoms, including depression and mood disorders, anxiety, attentional issues and learning disabilities, as well as more globally disabling conditions such as autism and psychotic disorders. This is the premise underlying the GAPS healing protocol developed by another brilliant neurologist, Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride. GAPS is an acronym for The Gut and Psychology Syndrome, and the protocol is designed to treat these disorders.
Dr. Gominak links Vitamin D deficiency with a whole host of other conditions, including anemia, autoimmune disorders and cancer, osteoporosis, pain syndromes, balance difficulties, infertility, poly cyctic ovary syndrome, and endometriosis.
A great resource about all things related to Vitamin D is the website of the Vitamin D Council. They recommend a dosage for adults of 5000 IU a day, and for children they recommend 1000 IU a day per 25 pounds of body weight. This is a much higher dose than that recommended by most conventional medical practitioners. An at home finger prick blood testing kit is available through with a ZRT Laboratories for $75.
As I mentioned above, there is considerable disagreement about what constitutes an appropriate blood level. The Vitamin D council suggest 50 ng/ml as an appropriate target, as compared to Dr. Gominak’s recommendation of 60-80 ng/ml. Though quite rare, it is possible to take too much Vitamin D which can result in too much calcium in your blood (hypercalcemia) resulting in symptoms of poor appetite, nausea, vomiting, weakness, frequent urination and kidney problems. The Mayo Clinic reported that 50,000 IU per day for several months could cause toxicity, which is 10 times the daily dose recommended by The Vitamin D Council.
The highest dosage available over the counter for Vitamin D is 5000 IU. It can be purchased at Sam’s Club, Walmart and Amazon. Vitamin D is your friend. I recommend supplementation to all of my patients, since it is intimately involved in supporting so many functions crucial to health and well-being, and as it seems that none of us are getting a sufficient amount from sunlight or dietary sources.
Charles Sangston says
Be sure you are supplementing D3. Not the typical junk doctor prescribed D2. Very big difference. Not debateable. Again, D2 not nearly as beneficial for myriad reasons. In fact for many may have almost no benefit. It has to do with metabolites.
Eat natto and other fermented foods. These will help recolinize the gut with correct populations of beneficial microbes.
Also be sure your magnesium levels are healthy. Vitamin K2 as well. Utterly essential for D to work its magic.
Patricia Smith says
Hi, any advice on how to heal my gut after a vitamin D deficiency? My vit D levels are now almost normal but I still suffer from constant bloating and other symptoms.
I recommend following the Paleo Auto Immune Protocol in my practice to identify food intolerances that may be causing symptoms. It is essentially an elimination diet. I would also look at the GAPS healing protocol to learn about principles of gut healing and factors which support and damage the immunity and to learn about some recommendations for supplements. Movement, sleep, community and spiritual practice are also all essential to healing.
Sally Erickson says
Dr. Gominak now has an affordable workbook ($20-$30) that details how to use her Right Sleep program. I have been using it for a couple of months and experiencing the best sleep I’ve had consistently in the last 30 years or more (I’m 65). She includes now treating with Vitamin D and B vitamins. The B vitamins apparently actually “feed” the gut bacteria until the normal healthy bacteria are producing sufficient amounts to feed each other and to provide for one’s body needs. I have had chronic constipation associated with hypothyroid and this is now resolving. I also had my gut biome tested by uBiome, online resource, and after determining that I was very lacking in bifido bacteria I chose a probiotic with mostly bifido bacteria. That combination, the D, the B vitamins, and the probiotic I believe are working together to help both the sleep and the constipation. I had previously eliminated most grains (except sourdough fermented), sugar, etc. but once I got the D, Bs and right probiotics things are really improving incredibly. There is nothing like REALLY GOOD sleep to repair everything in the body. I think Stasha Gominak is a real pioneer and deeply appreciate her work.
What a helpful comment! Thank you. I plan to investigate.
I’m finding this topic very interesting, as I was just diagnosed with a severe D deficiency for the third time in 3 years. Each time, I am prescribed 50,000 IUs to take once a week, with 2000 IUs the other 6 days of the week for 12 weeks. I keep up the 2000 IUs 7 days a week all the time, yet when I go back to my yearly check up, it has dropped again. What could be causing it drop down to 14 – 14.4 ng/ml even while taking supplements so often?
You could have a malabsorption issue. You might consider sublingual. I recommend 5,000 is to my patients.
Get your celery juice!!!
Do not use those little green oval pills to pull up your D. Besides, it it Vitamin D2!
Use cheap Vitamin D 3 from drugstore. It works, but you need Dr. Gominak’s protocol. Read all about her research on her website. Buy her affordable booklet.
Wasting your time on the 50,000 unit prescription ! Also can exacerbate your sleeping problems.
Steve in Florida says
I am a 63 year old white male and had been taking multivitamins or vitamin packs for decades. I switched over to individual higher quality vitamins about 3 years ago. This included a vitamin K2+D3 (5000IU D3). I went back to my files and checked my D levels from yearly blood tests more than 3 years ago and they were 35. The blood results state a proper level is 30 to 100. So this was borderline low , but not low enough to create a red flag for my doctor. I am active outdoors in Florida and bike, hike and kayak, but a normal multivitamin was not enough to get my vitamin D levels to a good level. I checked my blood tests for the last 3 years and now they are 70. This is after adding the K2+D3 daily. I had researched and learned, as discussed here, that you want the D3 form, and with K2 to get it into your body. I use the Divine Bounty brand but I think any other well reviewed brand with the same mixture and level would be good. Next I am looking into Dr Gominak’s Right Sleep protocol to further improve my sleep and health. I will start with getting Vitamin B levels measured, since the yearly bloodwork from my Dr office does not include any tests for Vitamin B.
My body is unable to absorb or process Vitamin B’s. I literally get sick from taking them. I also have low levels of Vitamin D which I have begone to resolve with supplements. Is there a link between VitaminD and Vitamin B? Can a low level of Vitamin D cause my body to not absorb Vitamin B’s?
I don’t know the answer to your question. Some of the B vitamins like B6 and P-5-P need to be very gradually increased for some sensitive individuals, or else they can make a person feel unwell.
I would not recommend supplementing with k2-mk7 specially from fermented natto (soy). Because k2 needs kalcium,potassium and vitamin d to fully metabolize in your body. Also those minerals antagonists will decrease further, like magnesium. Which then decrease your d-levels and that’s terrible if you’re already deficient. Also from my experience and other consumers, migraine or headaches are elevated from k2 supplementation.
Our body makes k2 from k1 in our body to a degree and vitamin k is in many green vegetables,liver & eggs. I would rather rely on vitamin k1 from a supplement but hey, if your d-levels are adequate you do as you wish, i think mk4 is rather suitable since it’s higher absorbably to the body and to avoid the allergic /migraine risk from mk7.
Probably because I have been eating a WAPF based diet for nearly 15 years, my tests for Vitamin D are more than adequate, without supplementation (I take cod liver oil in small amounts, somewhat irregularly, mostly in the winter). About four years ago, my test score for Vit. D was 65! Which I consider a little too high, actually. Two years ago it was 42, which I am more comfortable with.
Just to add to this theory of bacteria eating up Vitamin D…my experience.
Last year, I tested low for Vitamin D by my doctor. She gave me supplements, but when I took them I felt ill, so I became scared to take them. A while afterwards I underwent the ketogenic diet, stopped eating sugars and carbs, and followed the diet for around 6 months in total. Towards the end of the diet I was re-tested for Vitamin D (without having taken any supplements) and my doctor was amazed that my Vitamin D levels had returned to normal! She asked what I was doing…I said I had simply started eating meat again and cut out sugars and starches. She said meat isn’t a significant source of Vitamin D but fish is…yet I hadn’t been eating any fish.
My theory is that doing the ketogenic diet somehow allowed my body to metabolize or absorb Vitamin D naturally, or perhaps it starved off the bad bacteria that I had previously been feeding with sugars and starches.
Maybe the ketogenic diet is really how our bodies were meant to run afterall…food for thought anyway;)
That is fascinating. Thank you for taking the time to write. It’s also interesting that the Vitamin D supplements caused you to feel ill. I have never heard of that.
I think the problem with the supplement was the gelatin capsule…I’m sensitive to gelatin it seems (possibly sulphur). I now tolerate liquid vitamin D just fine 🙂 I’m supplementing it now as I find it boosts my energy in the dark mornings.
I’ve also heard of a connection between parathyroid and problems taking Vit D…not sure how it’s connected though.
Thank you for following up. That is a good reminder that the way a supplement is packaged matters in terms of its tolerability.
Linda Santini says
May I provide a very different viewpoint on “vitamin” D?
Many people have been found to have a low level of “vitamin” D so they’re taking often huge doses of it in an attempt to regain their health.
But science has shown that a low level isn’t really a deficiency: the “vitamin” D is simply being eaten up by “stealth” bacteria infecting the person’s body.
Trevor Marshall, PhD (originally from Australia and now living in the US) founded “The Marshall Protocol” based on research showing that people infected with “stealth” bacteria tend to have a low 25-D level. It’s not really a deficiency: the bacteria are simply gobbling up the D. Stealth bacteria LOVE “vitamin” D. They feed off it and grow stronger and larger in numbers. They create microscopic ligands, which are essentially little ropes, and literally tie up the vitamin D receptors (VDR) in the cells of the immune system to inactivate them. With the immune system knocked out, the bacteria are free to proliferate. They can then overpower and, in some cases, eventually kill the host (the patient). When someone has been overpowered by bad bacteria, he’s going to be very sick, in one way or another. Sometimes it’s physical, sometimes it’s mental, or it could be both.
This is why taking even enormous doses of D doesn’t raise some people’s level much (if any). It’s simply a case of, the more you take “vitamin” D, the more you’re feeding the bacteria so they can grow in strength (and in number) and steal even more of your D (while your health deteriorates).
So, my point is, there is a good reason people are showing up with low levels of D: they are infected with stealth bacteria. Supplementing with D is only aiding and abetting the enemy. We need to stop supplementing with D and, instead, kill off the bad stealth bacteria.
After studying the research and going on the Marshall Protocol, I stopped taking supplemental “vitamin” D. It isn’t even a vitamin: it’s a precursor to a plant steroid.
Best regards –
Thank you for taking the time to write and share your perspective. I never heard of the Marshall protocol. Dr. Walsh apparently is also unaware of this research, as he regularly includes Vitamin D in his protocols. I am in agreement with the notion that it is fundamental to good health and immunity to support the balance of the microflora in the gut. I will have to look into this. Thank you again for writing.
I was most concerned reading about the Marshall Protocol and not having the knowledge to evaluate it; however, Dr. Mercola seems to have written a reasonable response.
well, it is indeed an interesting hipothesis.
if we follow this route of bacteria interfere with D vit in the body I would sugest the hypothesis of chronic bacteria >> create chronic high inflammation >> which in time “consume “most of our anti-inflammatory mechanism /substances >> switch to another anti-inflamatory substance/mechanism VitD
Linda Santini says
Judy Nicol sent me a link to your site. I live in Bellingham, WA, in the US.
I wrote a book about my family’s experience with American-style psychiatric care (it’s dreadful) and how we used Orthomolecular Medicine. (The book is “The Secrets to Real Mental Health” by Linda Van Zandt. The original title was “The Secrets to Recovery from Mental Illness.”
Anyway, what enabled my younger son to recover from “incurable” mental illness was biochemical repair. My older son, who had “ADHD,” was also treated biochemically and is now a senior at a major university.
I’m happy to see that you help patients by using biochemical repair. It’s such a wonderful, restorative approach!
I’m commenting under the Vitamin D heading because I have a very different viewpoint on it. So I think I’ll start a new comment in another post.
Thank you for taking the time to write. I am not familiar with Orthomolecular Medicine. Is it similar to Dr. Walsh’s approach? Its wonderful that you found good help for your kids.
Granny Gibson says
Dr. Gominak apparently is not accessible via the internet at this time?
Wow, I am shocked! I wonder why that is. It was such an excellent site. Hopefully its just temporary. Maybe its down while she reconfigures it. Who knows? That is a pity. Thanks for letting me know.
Thank you for sharing this important information! I’d like to add a comment from my own experience.
I’d seen anecdotal information online that the time of day that vitamin D is taken can make a difference, particularly if you’re taking a higher dose, so I did some experimenting. Taking a 5,000 IU dose first thing in the morning, especially when combined with a short walk in the daylight, usually resulted in better sleep that night. Taking the same dose in the evening often made me wide awake with a racing mind at bedtime. So, it might be worthwhile to experiment.
It took me several years of high dose (8,000 to 10,000 IU per day) vitamin D to get my blood levels up to around 50 ng/ml. At that level I saw improvements in some troubling neurological problems, and I also caught fewer colds in the winter. I now take around 4,000 IU per day (plus getting sun exposure) to maintain those blood levels.
Thank you for sharing your experience. This is how we all learn. That is fascinating about the time of day and its effect upon your sleep.
Erin Chamerlik says
Hi Dr Tsafrir,
Awesome information regarding Vitamin D.
I was unaware of the connection between sleep and adequate Vitamin D levels. It is such an affordable supplement. I would encourage people to seek out gel caps, since Vitamin D is fat soluble. For my nutrition clients I have a 5,000IU Vitamin D3 that is a soft gel with olive oil. So often vitamin manufacturers use junk oils like soybean oil. Also, what are your thoughts on supplementing with K2 along with D3 (specifically MK7).
Hi Erin. So nice to hear from you. I am not an expert in this area. I would scour Dr. Gominak’s website as well as the website of the Vitamin D Council to see if you can figure out the answer. That is a good point about the oils in which the Vitamin D is packaged. All the best as we approach the change of season.