Vitamin D: Are You Deficient?

 Clinic lab test available to you!

Clinic lab test available to you!

This vitamin, or hormone to be exact, is known as the sunshine vitamin. But are you actually getting enough sun exposure to to produce optimal levels of vitamin D?

Vitamin D plays many vital roles in our body. Virtually every cell in the body has a vitamin D receptor, which, when bound to vitamin D, can influence the expression of more than 200 genes. It maintains normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus, to support proper bone development, it modulates cell growth, support the immune system, reduces inflammation and much more!

Vitamin D Levels:

The optimal level of 25-OH D is 75-100 umol/L (recent research has shown a possible optimal range at 120-150 umol/L), however the current Canadian average of D3 levels is 67.7 nmol/L. This means more than 70% of Canadians are deficient. I have seen patients which much lower numbers than this. Even down to 23 nmol/L! (Higher is not always better though for this fat soluble vitamin. However, most cases of toxicity symptoms are at 25000-60000 IU/day for 1-4 months. This is much higher than the ND recommended dose.)

Where do we get vitamin D?

We synthesize most of our vitamin D from sunlight exposure. It is estimated that 20 minutes, with face and arms exposed, provides 200 IU for people with light coloured skin. A moderate sunburn can produce 10000IU per day. However, sunscreen and sunblocks over SPF 8 prevents formation of D3, and most of us are indoors often throughout the summer and get minimal exposure to sunlight on these darker days of fall and winter. We source some vitamin D from food, with seafood being the most significant source, sardines to be exact! Mushrooms and egg yolk also have small amounts.

This is why it is recommended that most Canadians supplement with vitamin D.

What does Vitamin D effect?

To display the vast effects vitamin D has on the body here is a list of conditions that have been linked to vitamin D levels:

  • Fractures and Osteoporosis - Vitamin D along with K2 if needed to increase calcium absorption - D3 supplementation is associated with a 22% decrease in risk of falls

  • Depression - D3 deficiency has been linked to increased incidence of depression 

  • Autoimmune conditions - D3 deficiencies have shown an increase risk of autoimmune diseases such as MS, psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis 

  • Thyroid health - There is an association between low vitamin D status and autoimmune thyroid diseases such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease

  • Poor immune system - Vitamin D helps the immune system adapt and ward off infection, beneficial in cold and flu season

  • Metabolic disorders - D3 helps restore beneficial gut bacteria which in these studies has shown to have a key role in diabetes and heart disease 

How much Vitamin D to supplement?

So with all that information you may be wondering how much to actually supplement. This really depends on your individual levels of 25-OH D. As stated early, I’ve seen a patient with levels in the 20s (nmol/L), so they would need a much higher dose of D3 to reach optimal levels, compared to someone that is slightly deficient, let’s say in the 60-70nmol/L range. If you suffer from any of the above health conditions, I advise to get your vitamin D levels tested. The quicker you raise D3 levels if you are deficient, the sooner symptoms will improve. The common recommended dose of 1000-2000IU may not be enough for you! That said, if we were to give higher levels of D3, a dose of 5000-8000IU, it is important to know D3 levels and assess the necessity of vitamin K2 and vitamin A supplementation - all these soluble vitamins play a role with each other to prevent toxicity. Sufficient levels of potassium and magnesium have also been suggested to protect against vitamin D toxicity.

So ask your doctor to test your vitamin D levels, 25-OH D levels to be exact. There is a simple blood test I do in practice to assess your levels. Book in for a blood test visit to get yours tested today!

In health & happiness,

Dr. Karen

Whole Foods Berry Smoothie

berry smoothie.jpg

Are you looking for a delicious smoothie filled with whole foods that will power you throughout the day? This is the perfect one! It has a focus on antioxidants with blueberries and cranberries, as well as healthy fats and protein to balance blood sugar and keep you full. I find smoothies are not enough for me on a busy morning even with protein powder, so I need to make sure I include some healthy fats such as avocado, coconut oil or nut butter to sustain me. This one can have all three! Weary of adding lemon rind to your smoothie? Try it! It adds a bit of a tangy refreshing flavour to your morning drink. Come winter I don’t crave really cold smoothies as much so this one is just right with less frozen fruit.

Ingredients:

  •  1/2 cup frozen wild blueberries

  • 1/2 cup frozen cranberries

  • 1/4 lemon with rind

  • 1 tbsp almond butter

  • 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds

  • 1 tbsp chia seeds

  • 1 tbsp ground flax seeds

  • 2 walnuts

  • 1/4 avocado

  • 1/2 tbsp coconut butter (or coconut oil if you don’t have it)

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 1 tbsp The Cultured Coconut Kefir (optional)

  • 1 scoop Sproos Collagen (optional)

  • 1 tbsp greens powder (optional)

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients to a high-speed blender and blend until smooth :)

In health & happiness,

Dr. Karen

Food Friday: Grain-free Granola

IMG_2047.jpg

Fall is in the air! That calls for fall flavours in my morning meal of course :) To set your day off right, whether it is for better energy, weight loss and concentration, it is important to get protein for breakfast. Common breakfast choices like cereal, toast, pancakes and even oatmeal do not have any protein in them unless they are “tweaked” a little, leading to blood sugar spikes then energy crashes. Being a Naturopath with a busy day seeing patients, it is important for me for my mind to be clear and my energy to not crash so finding better breakfast options is always key. This recipe is an easy one for busy mornings or when you are craving something a little sweater. The spices can be adjusted depending on what you prefer and you can even mix up the seeds or add some nuts like almonds or cashews. So many options!

Some other protein packed breakfast options I enjoy are a smoothie with protein powder or almond butter, “paleo pancakes” with eggs and plantain and a breakfast hash. Yum!

Do you have a go-to granola recipe?

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups raw sunflower seeds

  • 2 cups raw pumpkin seeds

  • 3 tbsp chia seeds

  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon

  • 1 tsp ground ginger

  • 1 tsp cardamom

  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup

  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil

  • 3/4 cup dried currents

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 300F. Prep a baking sheet with parchment paper.

  2. Place sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds in a food processor and pulse until you have a chunky, coarse meal.

  3. Add all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

  4. Spread mixture out on the baking sheet and bake for 35 minutes, stirring once half way through.

  5. Remove from the oven and mix in dried currents, then let cool. Once cooled store in an airtight container.

  6. Mix with yogurt, almond milk or vanilla hemp milk :)

In health & happiness,
Dr. Karen

Food Friday: Stovetop Lemon Chicken

 Photo by Seasons and Suppers

Photo by Seasons and Suppers

A basic chicken breast or thighs have never been my favourite thing to cook for dinner. I usually prefer it pre-cooked added to a salad or wrap for lunch, in a saucy fajitas or a whole cooked chicken with all the juices. However, this recipe, by Seasons and Suppers, caught my eye and it will definitely be a go-to weeknight dinner option from now on (if only he liked capers…). It is great served with any green veggie of your choice, green beans are perfect. Or if you are craving something a little heavier serve it over gluten free pasta with a salad on the side.

The garlic and shallots in here are great immune boosters as we head into cold & flu season so don’t be shy about these and finally you all know my love for lemons.

Do you have a favourite chicken recipe you’d like to share?

Ingredients: (serves 5 people)

  • 2 small lemons cut into thin rounds

  • 1 1/2 tsp white sugar

  • 4 garlic cloves halved

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts cut in half lengthwise

  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil

  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter or ghee DIVIDED

  • 1 tsp minced shallot

  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic

  • 1 thyme sprig

  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or additional 1/2 cup chicken stock

  • 1 cup chicken stock

  • 1 tsp all-purpose flour (or sub gluten free flour)

  • 2 Tbsp capers

  • Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, add lemon slices and garlic halves. Sprinkle with sugar. Set aside.

  2. Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil. Add chicken to pan and cook for about 4 minutes on each side or until golden and cooked through. Remove chicken to a plate.

  3. Add a splash more oil to the pan if it is dry. Add lemon slice mixture to the pan (keeping bowl handy) and cook, turning occasionally, for about 1 minute or until lemon slices are lightly browned. Return lemon mixture to the bowl.

  4. Wipe pan with paper towel and heat over medium heat. Melt 1 1/2 tsp of butter in the pan, then add shallot, 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic and thyme sprig. Cook for 30 seconds or so, then add wine to pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Bring to a boil and cook for about 3 minutes or until liquid almost completely evaporates. Add chicken stock, and flour to the pan, stirring with a whisk. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes or until liquid is reduced to about 2/3 cup.

  5. Remove pan from heat; discard thyme sprig. Stir in remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons butter and capers, stirring until butter melts. Taste sauce and add additional salt and pepper, as needed. Return chicken and any juices to pan and re-warm in sauce, turning to coat with sauce. Top chicken with lemon mixture and allow to warm with chicken slightly before serving. Garnish with parsley.

Enjoy!

In health & happiness,

Dr. Karen