Fixing low Vitamin D levels without supplements

I recently helped someone who approached me with a question she didn't seem to get an answer to: chronic low levels of Vitamin D.

That person had tried everything, from sitting in the sun for 20min a day every day in peak sun conditions (she definitely has an understanding boss!) to taking high dose VitD supplements.

Sun exposure didn't seem to raise her levels of 25-hydroxycholecalciferol (the measured form of VitD), and while supplements did raise those levels, they dropped back within 2 weeks of stopping supplementation.

Remember that VitD is actually not a vitamin at all but a hormone (it was called vitamin because when it was discovered they didn't know how to distinguish between vitamins and hormones).

And as I've explained before, "most" of our hormones are derived from cholesterol. In fact, our steroid hormones are derived from LDL cholesterol to a large extent.

The chain works as follows: LDL => Pregnenolone => cortisol, DHEA, testosterone, VitD, progesterone, and so many others.

So if you detect low levels of any of these hormones, then chances are your levels of LDL or Pregnenolone could be low

In the case of this particular person, a series of blood tests we ran revealed a double whammy:

  1. Her LDL levels were very low as she had been vegan for 18 months,
  2. She is an avid crossfit athlete, and high levels of Cortisol meant that most of the (already low levels) of Pregnenolone she was producing was being converted to Cortisol (through a mechanism called Pregnenolone Steal).

After adopting a minimally disruptive protocol (described below) and re-testing one month later, her VitD levels were back to normal without supplementation and even with fewer "lunch break sunbathing"!

Vitamin D enhancement protocol:

  • Nutrition: remained vegan (personal choice) but added fats: avocados, variety of nuts, chia seeds
  • Training: dropped 1 Crossfit session / week, introduced 1 yoga session and daily 10min meditation to lower Cortisol

Feel free to drop comments / questions below or by email.

(I wrote an extensive piece on Vitamin D last year which you can find here).