Vitamin D ~ Friend or Foe?

We have now returned home from our trip up north to prepare for our next adventure. While I practice learning key phrases in a different language (international trip perhaps?) I have decided to tackle a topic near and dear to my heart, that of vitamin/mineral supplementation, in particular vitamin D.


I have decided to write on this topic as I am one of those freaks who, instead of reading news articles ad nauseam, I pore through health and nutrition literature, topics for which I am most passionate.  And with all the documentation out there, it can be mind-boggling. What I hope to do here is to open up a dialogue, and quite honestly, learn from your comments. So, here goes…

Disclaimer:  I have no medical credentials to substantiate anything in this post; I’m just a passionate consumer.  This is based on what I have read over many years and what resonates with me, which is the approach I take with most things in life.

Several years ago I read a book written by Dr. Sarfraz Zaidi, Power of Vitamin D which for me was an aha moment.  Since then I have read many articles on the subject.  As I had lived in sunny Arizona for many years, I was shocked to read that this Southern California doctor discovered, after testing, that almost 90% of this patients were vitamin D deficient.  Soon after I had my doctor test my level and found that I too was deficient.  This started me on a course of vitamin D supplementation and a new approach to sun exposure.


What I have learned in my readings is that there is evidence to support a relationship between vitamin D deficiency and “bone pain, osteoporosis, immune disorders, heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, diabetes, and cancer”.  There are now over 800 references in the medical literature to support vitamin D’s effectiveness against cancer and many others that show vitamin D’s ability to fight infections and chronic inflammation.

If you buy into any of this literature, right now you may be wondering why your medical doctor has not told you about the risks of vitamin D deficiency.  It may be because he/she may not know, as this is not covered in the medical schools’ curricula, which Dr. Zaidi says is often tailored to drug companies’ standards.  It is not a drug so big pharma is not going to get behind it.  In fact, vitamin D is not really a vitamin, but a steroid hormone instead.


Source: Vitamin D Council
Source: Vitamin D Council

I read an article a couple of years ago on Dr. Joseph Mercola’s website, where he states that “vitamin D deficiency is a pandemic in the United States, with 50% of the general population at risk”.  Blood testing is the only way to be sure if you are vitamin D deficient.

If you prefer not to incur the cost of an office visit to have your doctor order a vitamin D blood test for you, there are several options for ordering in-home kits.  Here are just a few of the outlets available:

  1. Grassroots Health
  2. Vitamin D Council
  3. Direct Labs
  4. Health Labs

The best source of vitamin D is sun exposure, as your skin creates it as a response to UV radiation.  But if you can’t use the sun for your source, which may be dependent upon where you live or how you process vitamin D, then an oral supplement may be your next best bet.

Safe Sunlight Exposure

If you want to get your vitamin D from the sun, here are a few factors I have read for practicing safe sunlight exposure:

  1. Time – the best time to expose yourself to the sun for processing vitamin D is between 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.
  2. Skin pigmentation – fair-skinned people can max out their needed vitamin D production in as little as 10-20 minutes in the sun.  Those with darker skin will need more sun than this.
  3. Sensitive body parts – sunblock and/or hats should be used for the delicate skin of faces and necks.  But, unlike what we have been told for years due to fear of skin cancer, a little UV radiation, by way of sun exposure, is most likely very good for us.
Source: Grassroots Health
Source: Grassroots Health

If you do opt for vitamin D supplements, which are inexpensive, studies show that taking this with vitamin K2 is very beneficial, as K2 helps move calcium into the areas of your body where it is needed, such as bones and teeth, and helps remove calcium from areas where we don’t want it, namely arteries and soft tissues.

What are optimal levels of vitamin D?

Source: Dr. Mercola website
Source: Dr. Mercola website

 7 Signs You May Be Vitamin D Deficient

  1. You have darker skin. ~ Those with darker skin may need as much as 10 times more sun exposure to produce the same amount of vitamin D as a fair-skinned person.
  2. You feel “blue”. ~ Serotonin, the mood elevator hormone, rises with increased exposure to the sun.
  3. You are 50+. ~ As we age our skin doesn’t make as much vitamin D in response to sun exposure.
  4. You are overweight. ~ Vitamin D is fat soluble so it collects in fat cells.  If you are overweight you are likely to need more vitamin D than a slimmer person.
  5. Your bones ache. ~ Many who see their doctor for body aches and pains, accompanied by fatigue, may be diagnosed with fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome.  For some, studies have found that when tested for vitamin D deficiency and treated with larger doses of vitamin D, their symptoms have resolved.
  6. Head sweating. ~ This is one of the classic signs of vitamin D deficiency.
  7. You have gut problems. ~ If your body lacks the ability to absorb fat properly, you may have a lower absorption of vitamin D as well.  This may be true for conditions such as Crohn’s, celiac, and inflammatory bowel diseases.

Smartphone apps can track just about anything so I was not surprised that there is an app for tracking the UV radiation you’re getting in your area and how many units of vitamin D you are making.  If you are interested, check out DMinder.

There are hundreds of articles on the subject of vitamin D, some in favor of sun exposure and supplementation and some concerned about toxicity.  I would suggest googling vitamin D articles if you have an interest, and I would love to hear your comments, although please refrain from making this a political issue.

Tabata Training

The older I get the more determined I am to stay focused on a regular fitness program.  I want to move into my golden years a  strong, healthy woman.  Hiking, biking, and pickleball are all a part of my fitness routine, as is resistance training, which can be more of a challenge when your home is on the road.  I get easily bored so feel the need to change things up often as well.  I believe our bodies need these shifts to keep us off those plateaus that tend to derail our progress, and in the process we burn more body fat, increase strength, improve flexibility, and build muscle mass.

Throughout my life I have tried many workout programs in my quest to reach fitness goals, some with better results than others.  Over the past few years there has been a great deal of discussion around the positive benefits from high-intensity interval training (HIIT), giving our metabolism the boost it often needs.  I can vouch for its efficacy, so when I read about Tabata training, which is a HIIT program, I was ready for the challenge.

Japanese scientist Dr. Izumi Tabata and his team of researchers from the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo discovered this training program recently after working with two groups of athletes for 6 weeks.  Group one worked out 5 days/week for an hour at moderate intensity while group two worked out 4 days/week at high intensity.  For group two each workout session lasted four minutes total, 20 seconds for each of eight exercises, with 10 seconds of rest in between each exercise.

Group one increased their aerobic (cardiovascular) system with no improvement to their anaerobic (muscle) system but group two rocked it, boosting their aerobic strength beyond that of group one and increased their anaerobic system by 28 percent.

This protocol is the official program, while most Tabata training programs you find online are copycat versions, lasting 20-30 minutes.  The intensity is not as extreme but you will still get a great workout that leaves you breathless and pleasantly sore.

Here is just one example of a Tabata workout:

Push-ups (4 minutes)
Squats (4 minutes)
Burpees (4 minutes)
Mountain Climbers (4 minutes)

Perform each exercise for 20 seconds at high intensity then rest for 10 seconds, striving to complete 8 sets.  Rest for one minute, then move on to the next exercise.

I downloaded a custom interval timer to my Android phone and created by own Tabata timer but there are many timers available for both Android and iPhones.  You can check them out here.

The beauty of a (copycat) Tabata workout is that you can do just about any exercise you want, particularly those that work your large muscle groups. No fancy equipment is needed, although you can use dumbbells and incorporate kettlebell exercises as well.  All exercises could be done using only your body weight, so whether you pull your home down the road with you or travel by car, staying in hotels along the way, this is a convenient program to use.  If you are looking to change-up your exercise routine, google Tabata training or check out the YouTube videos online, and get ready for an intense workout.