Sometimes when people come to see me they’ve already been supplementing with vitamin D. First, I like to check their levels, as I discussed in Part 1. Next, I tackle what their previous experience taking vitamin D was like.

Vitamin D supplementation protocols are all over the map. Lots of docs gravitate toward high doses given once a week. Other docs prefer high dosing for 1-2 months then rechecking your levels. Still others recommend a low and slow approach that involves long term, small, frequent dosing. All strive for the same goal of optimal vitamin D levels, but the journeys to achieve said levels are vastly different.

I’m definitely in the low and slow camp. Let me tell you why.

Not many people know that vitamin D is a hormone. Yup, a hormone. Like insulin, estrogen, and epinephrine. Hormones are tiny chemical messengers that are distributed in the blood and have wide reaching effects throughout the body. The other main messaging system of the body, or the nervous system, uses electrical impulses that reach one cell at a time; its effects are very specific. In hormonal messaging, if a cell has a receptor for a hormone, that hormone will effect the cell, no matter where it is in the body. As you can see, hormones have a wide reaching effect on the entire body.

The body is constantly balancing our hormone levels to keep things running smoothly. If a little more hormone is needed, the body produces and releases a small amount to bump levels back into balance. If too much is floating around the bloodstream, our body stops production and/or breaks down some of the extra hormone. Unless a major event occurs, hormones are released and used in small doses.

Vitamin D is best taken in small daily doses. In this way, the hormone is being brought into the body in quantities that can be easily absorbed and used. Lower daily dosing mimics the body’s own method for creating balance and order in the system.

Large, infrequent doses have the potential to disrupt this natural balance. For example, your body is constantly releasing small amounts of epinephrine, the fight-or-flight (I’m running from a bear!!) hormone. Imagine if instead of small releases throughout the day, your body stored up its epinephrine for a week and then released it all at one time! You would have difficulty adapting to such a large input and you’d feel like you’re running from the biggest bear in the world!

I’m not saying that vitamin D has the same effects on the body as epinephrine, but I am saying that the principle is the same. Large amounts of a hormone can stress the body. It is much easier to adapt to small shifts, and the body is more likely to integrate and use what its been given. The hormonal system is a very complex web, and we only understand a fraction of its interconnections. It’s best to respect the body by working in harmony with the system, rather placing it under unnecessary stress.

Again, exact dosages are best discussed with a trained professional to ensure that you are safely supplementing and that your levels are in a healthy range.

Stay tuned for Part 3 and Part 4 that cover the forms of vitamin D, and the different types of vitamin D supplements that are out there.