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Vitamin D-3 and the Skin
At DermaHarmony, we are keenly aware that the millions of Americans who suffer from psoriasis need options for help. We also know that options for treating only topically often help for a while, but that response may dwindle over time. This dwindling response from topical solutions alone is a clear wake-up call for you to start healing from the inside as well! Although there is currently no proven cure for psoriasis, recent research indicates that there are numerous health benefits to vitamin D. Supplementation with D-3 provides relief from many inflammatory ailments and medical conditions. We believe these include psoriais, dermatitis, dandruff, eczema, rosacea and severe acne. A study done in Isreal at the Dead Sea—legendary for its treatment of psoriasis—showed that natural sunlight provided significant improvment in symptom activity. This is because sunlight stimulates our bodies to manufacture vitamin D.
If you are a psoriasis sufferer, you already know it is an extremely uncomfortable and sometimes disabling disease, with unsightly plaques caused by the overproduction of skin cells. Cells pile up quickly in affected areas, and because the body is unable to shed them fast enough, red, scaly itchy patches form. In some extreme cases psoriasis leads to a debilitating form of arthritis. While psoriasis is still poorly understood, the process of inflammation clearly plays a role. In addition to its supporting role in relief from psoriasis and other inflammatory conditions, scientists now believe that vitamin D supplementation may be able to prevent or lessen the impact of a host of other diseases, including diabetes, epilepsy, depression, hypertension, and perhaps even cancer!
Vitamin D may benefit psoriasis patients in a number of ways. Recent studies have shown that patients suffering from a variety of inflammatory conditions were often vitamin D-deficient. A significant number of patients had simprovement after taking only modest amounts of additional vitamin D per day. Nearly every organ in the body, as well as the bones, contains receptors for vitamin D! Our skin, the largest organ of the body, makes vitamin D from sunlight, and also contains receptors for the more active, circulating form of vitamin D. This more active form of vitamin D may actually help retard the abnormal growth and shedding rate of skin cells in conditions like psoriasis. Though not fully understood, UV light therapy has long been an effective remedy for psoriasis relief. Since the body makes vitamin D from UV light, it is fair to say that UV light therapy is another form of vitamin D supplementation.
How do we get vitamin D?
Vitamin D-3, or cholecalciferol (clinical/molecular formula: C27H44O), is naturally manufactured in the skin, primarily through exposure to sunlight. Since most people work indoors, and many fear cancer due to sun exposure without sunblock, few people are able to maintain healthy levels of vitamin D solely through sunlight. Merely the use of sunscreen can block up to 95% of your body's vitamin D production! But vitamin D levels in the body are affected by a number of other factors as well. Geographic location, skin pigmentation, and age all play a major role in individuals' vitamin D levels. People who live in Northern regions (i.e., higher latitudes) suffer from vitamin D deficiency due to long winters with limited sun exposure. Studies have shown that people with darker skin pigmentation need much more exposure to sunlight to produce the same amount of vitamin D as someone with lighter skin.
Vitamin D is also naturally found in a limited number of foods, such as nuts, eggs, and fish, and it is a common additive in milk and orange juice. But in order to obtain adequate amounts of vitamin D from food or fortified beverages, pounds of fish or multiple glasses of milk would need to be consumed, which most people are simply unable to do. And, after the age of 45, the kidneys reduce production of alphahydroxylase, an enzyme that assists in the body's ability to process vitamin D.
Getting adequate vitamin D and maintaining ideal vitamin D levels relies on healthy skin exposure to enough sunlight, healthy intestines to absorb it from foods or supplementation, and a healthy liver and kidneys to properly assimilate it into the active, circulating form—25-hydroxyvitamin D. Fortunately, we now know that vitamin D blood levels can be tested and monitored regularly, and that levels can more consistently be improved by taking a good quality supplement (like DermaHarmony D-3)—to maximize the health benefits we deserve!
How to start using vitamin D
In order to determine whether vitamin D levels are adequate, or preferably ideal, request a 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)-D] blood test from your physician. Levels below 20 ng/mL are considered to be vitamin D-deficient. Levels less than 40 ng/mL are probably still insufficient, and levels 40-60 ng/mL are considered the new ideal optimal range. A level of greater than 80 ng/mL is considered excessive. Testing is important, to gauge how much you may need and to prevent toxicity from this fat-soluble vitamin. The test is fairly inexpensive, so if your health plan will cover the cost of the test, you should consider paying for it out of your own pocket. Note that your levels may test higher if you have recently used UV light therapy, and levels may also be higher during the summer months due to increased sunlight exposure.
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for vitamin D, as determined by the Food and Nutrition Board, is presently under scrutiny. Many prominent scientists from diverse fields of medicine believe that the currently suggested RDA for vitamin D, of 200-600 IU (International Units), is far too low and should be raised to at least 1000 IU. In order to achieve maximum benefit from vitamin D, many researchers believe that repletion doses may need to range between 3000-5000 IU per day until ideal blood levels are achieved and maintained, with regular monthly blood testing for safety during that process.
Please see your doctor, if using higher dosage supplementation, for repeated vitamin D and calcium blood tests. Rarely, an individual may ingest too much vitamin D, which puts them at risk for a reaction from vitamin D hypersensitivity. Symptoms of hypersensitivity or toxicity may include serious stomach upset accompanied by vomiting and excessive thirst. If you suspect vitamin D toxicity when using supplements, you should contact your doctor immediately. New studies seem to indicate that vitamin D toxicity is highly unlikely for most healthy individuals, even using up to 6000 IU of D-3 daily, unless suffering from an underlying kidney or metabolic condition which affects serum calcium levels.
Why is D-3 preferred?
There are two main options for supplementing with Vitamin D. D2 (ergocalciferol) is produced from irradiated fungi in a laboratory setting. D-3 (cholecalciferol) is the form typically extracted from fish oil or food sources. Due to the manufacturing process, it seems that D2 has been more closely associated with potential side effects and has greater risks for toxic contamination. D-3 matches what is produced within human skin, and is much more efficiently converted by the liver to support circulating active levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D. Potency and quality are key in D-3 supplement choice, and only pharmaceutical-grade products are held to consistent content and quality standards. While some studies and pharmaceutical companies use D2 supplements, we believe there is much stronger evidence for using D-3.