Sufficient vitamin D levels require both a healthy diet and an adequate supply of sunlight, however modern life has made acquiring both difficult. About half the world’s population and three-quarters of the US population is deficient in vitamin D, even in sunny locales. Sufficient vitamin D is vital to dampening inflammation and taming autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s low thyroid. Some people with autoimmunity may even need extra vitamin D due to a genetic variation that affects the ability of their cells to absorb adequate vitamin D.
In addition to supplementing with vitamin D (cholecalciferol), discussion of vitamin D would not be complete without highlighting its cofactors, or “helper molecules” that assist in biochemical transformations.
When supplementing vitamin D, make sure to include fat-soluble vitamin A, magnesium, and K2, as they make it more bioavailable and help prevent D overload.
Vitamin A and vitamin D work together to make sure your genetic code plays out properly. There are two main types of vitamin A:
- Beta-carotene, found in brightly colored fruits and vegetables, apricots, mango, and leafy greens.
- Retinol, found in organ meats and dairy products.
While vitamin A can be taken in supplement form as both beta-carotene and retinol, it’s possible to take too much retinol. Your body can’t get rid of it easily, which can be harmful. However, your body can get rid of excess beta-carotene.
Magnesium. Plenty of magnesium can be obtained through food, but high doses of vitamin D3 deplete the body of it. If you are already low in magnesium and taking vitamin D, it is important to supplement it to avoid headaches, cramping, nausea, numbness and more that may result when you begin high dose D3.
The Vitamin D Council recommends between 500 and 700mg of magnesium per day. Common supplement sources include magnesium glycinate, magnesium citrate, and magnesium malate. Each has its unique effects, so consult with my office to find out which is right for you.
Foods rich in magnesium include dark leafy greens, potato, beans, lentils, avocado, bananas, figs, strawberries, blackberries, nuts, seeds, brown rice, and dark chocolate.
Vitamin K2. One symptom of vitamin D toxicity is when soft tissues accumulate calcium and calcify like bone. In contrast, when vitamin D is high but not at toxic levels, some studies show it may even protect against calcium deposits in arteries.
Vitamin K2 is an important cofactor for vitamin D because it helps the body deposit calcium in appropriate locations such as the bones and teeth, and prevents calcium from depositing where it doesn’t belong, such as the soft tissues, arterial walls, joints and organs.
Vitamin K2 comes in part from conversion by gut flora of vitamin K1 in the gastrointestinal tract from dietary sources such as cabbage, kale, spinach, chard, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels’ sprouts, and sauerkraut.
The National Academy of Sciences recommends a daily intake of 90mcg for women, and 120mcg for men of vitamin K2.
Osteoporosis International recommends the optimal dose of K2 (as MK-7) as 180 mcg/day.
Caution: If you take blood-thinning medicines such as Warfarin or Coumadin, avoid vitamin K supplements, as they can affect how well your blood clots.
Testing vitamin D levels
If you suffer from Hashimoto’s low thyroid, having your vitamin D level checked periodically can go a long way toward improving your thyroid health.
In functional medicine, vitamin D levels are measured with a serum 25-hydroxy vitamin D test. Optimal levels are considered to be between 50 and 80 ng/mL, depending on the individual. Levels above 100 ng/mL may indicate a vitamin D overload, and risk of artery calcification.
If you suffer from leaky gut or have Hashimoto’s low thyroid, you may be more prone to relapses of vitamin D deficiency, so test your levels and then recheck periodically to make sure you are not deficient over time.
How to learn if you have Hashimoto’s low thyroid
Many patients are not diagnosed with hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s until after several years and going through several doctors. It is a demoralizing journey richly illustrated in my book The Truth About Low Thyroid: Stories of Hope and Healing for Those Suffering With Hashimoto’s Low Thyroid Disease, through real-life stories from patients in my practice. Managing Hashimoto’s goes far beyond using thyroid medication as you must work to stop the immune system from attacking the thyroid. For more information on identifying and managing Hashimoto’s low thyroid, contact my office.
About Dr. Josh Redd, Chiropractic Physician — Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Idaho, and New Mexico functional medicine
Dr. Joshua J. Redd, DC, MS, DABFM, DAAIM, author of The Truth About Low Thyroid: Stories of Hope and Healing for Those Suffering With Hashimoto’s Low Thyroid Disease, is a chiropractic physician and the founder of RedRiver Health and Wellness Center with practices in Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. He sees patients from around the world who suffer from challenging thyroid disorders, Hashimoto’s disease, and other autoimmune conditions. In addition to his chiropractic degree, Dr. Redd has a BS in Health and Wellness, a BS in Anatomy, and a MS in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine. He speaks across the nation, teaching physicians about functional blood chemistry, low thyroid, Hashimoto’s, and autoimmunity. You can join his Facebook page here.