If you only take one supplement, let it be…

Give me a D!

Vitamin D helps the body build and maintain strong bones by aiding the absorption of calcium, and by maintaining normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus. There is also strong evidence that Vitamin D protects against osteoporosis, high blood pressure, many cancers(!),  and that’s not even all. While we can produce D ourselves through sun exposure, that has obvious downsides.

D2 vs D3?

It’s sold in two forms: D2 or D3.  Vitamin D3 (the kind our own bodies produce in response to sunlight) is more readily metabolized into a bioactive form of D that is easily converted to its hormone form in the kidneys. D2 may be more common but there is a narrow therapeutic range and has toxicity issues above that.

Best taken how?

Personally I like taking it in liquid form (it’s usually suspended in lecithin), as you need to have a small amount of fat with it for absorption. In this form, the fat is right there!  So just a few drops onto my morning steel cut oats and berries and I’m set.

Combine with K2

Best effects may be realized from combining D3 with K2.  There are also capsules (from Thorne) with D3 & K2 together (remember to take some fat with that, if you go that route).

How much D?

The preponderance of evidence suggests 2,000 IU is a therapeutic dose. My own physician takes 10,000 IU/day and since my surgery was a joint replacement where bone regrowth was the order of the day, I adopted that protocol for the first weeks of recovery. I suggest you review the below NutritionFacts summary of research and make your own decision.

But what about other vitamins and minerals?

Few supplements have accumulated the weight of evidence that they have clinical benefit (Vitamin D and curcumin are notable exceptions). What’s more, when researchers test multiple manufacturers, they VERY often report finding fillers and contaminants, and too much or too little of the active ingredient. And finally, even if they are pure, they can be hard on the body, over time (eg excess gelatin can form a hard ‘bezoar’ in the intestines!)

As acupuncturist Frances Wocicki says:

Even Turmeric, something that is used as a cooking spice, taken in large doses over an extended period of time, can cause harm. Turmeric can cause gallstones in people who already have a poorly functioning gallbladder (and you may not know your gallbladder is not functioning optimally). Cinnamon is another one that in big doses can add too much heat to your body and raise your blood pressure. Magnesium can cause diarrhea. I could go on and on. But the point is for every herb and supplement out there, taken incorrectly, it can have negative side effects. Over the counter pain medication can also do big time damage.

So… get your nutrients from a (plant-oriented) diet

The best way to nourish the body before surgery and after is to eat nutrient-dense plant foods, via a 90-95% plant-based diet.  I know, I know. It’s not what you want to hear. But listen. The biggest problem with non-plant foods is that they just aren’t as dense with the antioxidants and phytonutrients we need (I’m looking at you, white bread and pasta), or even if they might have some nutrients (I’m looking at you, meat), they have well-established and severe negative health effects, including contamination of various kinds.  We can get all the nutrients our bodies need for building muscle, bone and sinew from whole grains, fruit vegetables, nuts and legumes (ok, we have to take B-12 if we’re 100% vegan).  Tip: whole grains start tasting much better if you reduce your sugar consumption. If your physician looked you right in the eye and said “you need to adopt a vegan diet if you want to have a good surgical outcome.” or “you need to go vegan if you want to live a long and healthy life,” would you listen?  Well, this physician is telling you exactly that.

What about other supplements?

If you aren’t eating many portions of whole grains and a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables each day, you may want to consider other supplementation.  In that case, I suggest working with a nutritionist to make a plan, and being careful about the brands you choose. The supermarket multi-vit, for instance, is liable to have folic acid instead of folate, which is likely toxic (though inexpensive for the manufacturer).

Well, thanks for ruining my day.

I know, I know. You thought this post was about Vitamin D and now you’re dissing even my free-range chicken. Look, we can put our head in the sand over climate change and hope that we’re gone before the world is submerged, but we are each going to experience the consequences of our diet. In fact, we already do. The quality of our thinking, our pain and inflammation, our intimacy are all mediated by the vitality and functioning our our bodily systems.

A place to start

Try limiting your animal products (dairy as well as meats, fish and poultry) to one meal/day, max. Over time, let a few days each week be whole-heartedly plant-based. Later, dial it down to one off-diet meal per week. That’s where I got to a few months ago. And more recently, a few weeks go by without my even missing it. Hint: whole grains start to taste sweet when we dial down our sugar consumption in favor of fruit.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *