By Dr. Christiane Northrup
August 21, 2009
There's a paradigm shift going on in medicine as new research reveals a far greater role for vitamin D. Vitamin D is not just for kids—or the prevention of rickets. Optimal levels of Vitamin D (40–80 ng/ml) enhance the creation and functioning of healthy cells throughout the body. [footnote 1] In addition to protecting the bones and boosting the immune system, studies show that Vitamin D helps prevent certain cancers, including breast, ovarian, prostate and colorectal. [footnote 2, 3, 4, 5] Exciting new research shows that, in the United States alone, thousands of new cases of breast cancer could be prevented every year if more women had optimal levels of vitamin D. [footnote 6]
A study conducted by Cedric Garland and other prominent vitamin D researchers determined that women with vitamin D levels above 52 ng/ml have half the risk of developing breast cancer as those with 13 ng/ml! [footnote 7] Garland (et al) estimates that 58,000 new cases of breast cancer in the United States could be prevented per year by raising vitamin D levels to 52 ng/ml. Imagine what the global impact could be!
A simple blood test is all that's needed to find out your vitamin D level. Five years ago, a range of 20–100 ng/ml was considered normal. Just recently, this range was raised to 32–100 ng/ml. Make sure to ask your healthcare provider what your actual vitamin D level is. Too often women are told that their levels are normal, which is not the same as optimal.
If you're deficient, the best way to boost your vitamin D quickly is to supplement with vitamin D3. Initially, you may need to take 5,000 IUs per day. After establishing a healthy level, I recommend supplementing with1,000 to 2,000 IUs per day—it's hard to get all you need from food. Some healthy fish provides 300 to 700 IUs, but milk only provides 100 IUs per glass.
The best source of vitamin D
You may be surprised to learn that the sun is actually the best source of vitamin D. The sun's UVB rays enable our bodies to manufacture vitamin D in the fat layer under the skin, as long as we don't use sunscreen. The body can make enough vitamin D from sun exposure to last the entire year! And it will never create toxic levels, regardless of how long you expose your skin. Although we are taught to fear the sun, sunbathing in moderation—exposing but never burning the skin—is good for us. This may explain why the incidence of breast cancer is higher in northern latitudes than at the equator.
I encourage every woman to check her vitamin D level regularly and keep it in the optimal range. This is easily done by supplementing with about 2,000 IUs of vitamin D3 per day and getting regular, safe sun exposure. (You can even visit a tanning salon that offers UVB tanning rays.) Your breasts and your entire body will benefit. This is preventive medicine at its finest.
Dr. Christiane Northrup,a board-certified ob-gyn, is a visionary pioneer, beloved authority in women's health and wellness and the author of the groundbreaking New York Times best-sellers Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom and The Wisdom of Menopause. Her third book, Mother-Daughter Wisdom, was voted Amazon'snumber onebook of2005 (in two categories). Her latest books, The Secret Pleasures of Menopause and The Secret Pleasures of Menopause Playbook, teach youhow to experience joy, pleasure, prosperity, fulfillment and vibrant health.
Following a 25-year career in both academic medicine and private practice, Dr. Northrup now devotes her time to helping women truly flourish on all levels through tapping into their inner wisdom.
Through her exclusive Women's Wisdom Circle, Dr. Northrup shares cutting-edge medical and lifestyle advice. For more information about Dr. Northrup and her Wisdom Circle, go to DrNorthrup.com.
This information is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material in this article is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health program.