Vitamin D Hormonal Deficiency

Paul L. Reller L.Ac. / Last Updated: August 03, 2017


The story behind the term 'Vitamin D', and a new, truer hormonal concept to resolving this calcidiol deficiency

Current research shows that the hormonal metabolism we still euphemistically call the 'Vitamin D status' is an all-important part of the human endocrine system, especially for women. This hormonal system, when deficient in production and utilization of the varied hormonal molecules still referred to simply as Vitamin D, is implicated in diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome with insulin resistance, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, cartilage degeneration, neurodegenerative disorders, chronic inflammatory states, and a host of other health problems. The sad history in standard medicine of this information points to a concerted effort to downplay the value of restoring this hormonal system with more holistic medicine. This has gravely damaged public health, as deficiency of the hormone Vitamin D is now seen in about 40 percent of the population in industrialized countries such as the United States, with much greater deficiency in the African American and Hispanic communities, related to lower income and unhealthier environmental standards.

In the last 20 years we found out that a large percentage of the population was not utilizing calcium well, especially post-menopausal women and others with hormonal deficiencies. As you can see when examining the Vitamin D hormonal question, D3 is essential to calcium absorption and utilization. In response to this problem, the public was told that they were going to be prescribed synthetic hormone replacement to fix this widespread health problem. Instead, long term studies showed that synthetic hormones worsened the problem, and even synthetic hormone contraceptives created problems. Then, the public was prescribed calcium supplements, and was told that simply taking calcium in the cheapest form possible would solve the problem. Instead, calcium supplementation was problematic, as this molecule is highly regulated by the hormonal feedback system in the body, and supplementation could cause calcifications in the hormonally deficient patients, such as kidney stones and gallstones, as well as calcified joint capsules and arthritis, and even increased atherosclerotic plaque and calcified arteries leading to stroke and heart attack. Obviously, these common health guidelines created a lot of harm. Finally, we were told that most of us have a Vitamin D deficiency, that Vitamin D is actually a hormone that is integral to the calcium regulation, and that simply taking Vitamin D supplements will solve the problem. Unfortunately, simply taking a relatively low dose Vitamin D supplement rarely solved the problem, and large studies showed no benefit with standard supplementation. One can see a pattern here. The public perhaps just needs a little education to solve the problem themselves if this is the public health advice we get. The problem is that standard allopathic medicine does little to restore homeostatic hormonal balance when it goes awry, and integration with Complementary Medicine needs to be encouraged to achieve this more complex restorative goal.

How long have we been aware of the importance of what we mistakenly call Vitamin D? A review of research (cited below) from the University of California Department of Biochemistry in 1988 shows us that by this time we had determined that calcitriol hormone receptors, called 1,25(OH)2-vitamin D3 receptors, are found throughout the body and serve important roles in regulation of the immune system, cell differentiation and rapid proliferation, lymphokine expression (immune mediators), regulation of genes related to cancer pathology, as well as mineral homeostasis. Scientists also found a relationship between D3 receptors and receptors for estrogens, progesterone, thyroid hormones, adrenal hormones, glucocorticoids (cortisol, glucose regulators related to insulin), and retinoic acid (the active form of Vitamin A). 23 years is a long time to ignore the subject of such a widespread hormonal deficiency that affects so many systems in the body. The main reason that we have ignored this health problem is because standard medicine has continued to view this hormonal family as a vitamin, and to treat vitamin deficiencies with little regard. To fully understand this problem, we should review what a vitamin is.

Vitamin is a term that is applied to families of molecules that almost always act as a coenzyme. The B Vitamin family is very large, as most of us realize to some extent, but even one of the B Vitamins, such as B3, is a family of chemicals that is now pretty large. Vitamin D was purportedly the first vitamin medicine discovered, in 1922, by Edward Mellanby, who was researching the disease rickets, and noted that the patients perhaps had a nutritional deficiency that could be corrected by synthesizing a nutrient chemical. The disease Rickets is a childhood disease where insufficient calcium is deposited in the bones due to hormonal insufficiency. Increasing the hormone D3 may increase the absorption and deposition of calcium into the bones. A deficiency of this hormone is related to poor calcium regulation and a variety of diseases, including osteoporosis, osteomalacia, poor cardiovascular function, muscle weakness and spasm, depression, various types of arthritis, various types of cancer, especially breast cancer with calcified precancerous lesions, inflammatory bowel disease, tooth and gum disease, chronic fatique syndromes, and various autoimmune disorders, including diabetes type 1, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, et al. Since calcium is to essential to the functions of our body, and is the most highly regulated molecule in the body, hormones such as D3 are also essential to our health.

Vitamin is a term that was coined by a Polish scientist named Cashmir Funk, around 1906, who combined the terms vitality and amine (carbon compounds such as amino acids) to come up with a term for a nutritional chemical necessary for vitality. These essential nutrient chemicals should be obtained from food, although many of the symbiotic bacteria in our bodies also manufacture vitamins as needed. Vitamin deficiencies have been known to be causes of disease for some time, and so vitamins are added to commercial foods for public health benefit. Commercial milk has added the fat soluble vitamins A and D for some time, and so it is obvious that public health experts saw a deficiency of these vitamins long ago in the population. It is also obvious that the vitamins added to milk and cereals did not solve the Vitamin D deficiency, as studies now show that about 80% of the population has measurable Vitamin D3 deficiency. While standard medicine may still treat the subject of vitamin deficiency with about the same response in 2010 as it did in 1928, the science is now much more complex, as evidenced by the rise of the Naturopathic medical doctor, who is still not recognized in many states, unfortunately. It now seems that the National Institutes of Health should add a Naturopathic Institute to its group. The thoughtful patient has questioned the simplistic prescription of Vitamin D and has begun to ask the details in the Vitamin D3 story. In this article, you can learn more than you wanted to know.

In response to the discovery that the hormone D3 deficiency, which was assumed to be related to a Vitamin D deficiency, was related to the poor calcium deposition and rickets, two scientists, in 1926, Max Tishler and Robert Williams, invented synthesis of vitamins. The first vitamin synthesized was thiamine. Later, at least two types, or analogues, of D3 were synthesized and marketed, and were effective for some specific diseases. Still later, D2 ergocalciferol was synthesized, and added to a variety of commercial foods, including milk. While this showed a public health benefit, and reduction of some disease incidence, it obviously did not solve the problem. As time went on, the medical community did not take the problem seriously, despite research over time that pointed to D3 deficiency as a serious health threat. For instance, in 1987, researchers at the University of Michigan linked Vitamin D3 deficiency to cardiovascular dysfunction (see study below), and found that when calcium and D3 deficiency was induced in laboratory animals, that heart function was impaired. This could account for chronic high blood pressure and other problems, including heart attacks, and the study revealed that simple restoration of circulating calcium levels was not effective to correct the problem, but that restoration of the D3 hormone levels did, providing evidence that the D3 hormone benefitted the heart tissues by exerting more than just calcium regulation. Since the D3 hormone is regulated by the endocrine system, hormonal balance in this regard was deemed essential to maintaining cardiovascular health. Other studies have linked Vitamin D3 calcitriol deficiencies to decreased production of the kidney and adrenal hormone renin, which is integral to the regulation of blood pressure. Many such studies were conducted over the last 30 years, but a comprehensive solution was not developed. Who knows, if a more comprehensive answer to D3 hormonal deficiency was instituted, perhaps many cases of hypertension would have been normalized without the use of blood pressure drugs. We now have definitive proof from many expert sources that the hormone Vitamin D in fact regulates the renin-angiotensin system, and is highly linked to cardiac arterial calcification, or atherosclerotic hardening of the arteries.

The hormonal Vitamin D receptors are found in the nucleus of almost all human cells. Vitamin D3 calcitriol receptors have also been found in insulin secreting cells of the pancreas, suggesting that calcitriol has an effect on insulin metabolism, especially under conditions of increased insulin demand, such as in insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. Increased D3 receptors imply a potential for increased demand of D3 hormone, another explanation for the widespread Vitamin D3 deficiency seen in the population. The link between hormone Vitamin D deficiency and diabetes is very strong, both in children and adults. In many ways, restoration of health overall would seem to be integral to restoration of the Vitamin D hormonal balance, decreasing need and receptor overexpression, just as sufficient hormone Vitamin D in circulation would seem to be integral to overall health. This goal of overall health restoration is achieved with a step-by-step protocol utilizing various physicians and Complementary and Integrative Medicine (CIM/TCM), which has as its basis a holistic approach to health, and would utilize Vitamin D3 cholecalciferol supplementation within a larger framework. Oversimplification of Vitamin D deficiency is not helpful.