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Health Matters: Providence St. Jude Medical Center | 5 R esearch shows that vitamin D, the "sunshine vitamin," can prevent respiratory infections, reduce cancer risk and diminish symptoms in autoimmune diseases by improving immune function and damping down the body 's inflammatory responses. But according to Rajsree Nambudripad, MD, a board-certified expert in both internal medicine and integrative medicine, the list of benefits is even longer. "Vitamin D is one of the most essential vitamins in the body, and in addition to its protective qualities against illness and disease, it can have a significant impact on your energy level and mood," says the Providence St. Jude Medical Center physician, who routinely tests patients' vitamin D levels. A deficiency, she says, can often create symptoms such as fatigue, depression and muscle and joint pain. "When a patient is struggling with tiredness, lack of energy, low mood or body aches, and we increase their vitamin D to an optimal level, there is often meaningful— sometimes even dramatic—improvement," says Dr. Nambudripad, adding that while supplementation may only be a first step toward better health, vitamin D, along with exercise and nutrient-rich foods, is often one of the most effective places to start. More than half of Americans are deficient in vitamin D, meaning they fall below the minimum serum level of 30 ng/mL. But that percentage grows dramatically when you realize that minimum is not the same as ideal. "Many patients have symptoms of deficiency at 30 that disappear as blood serum levels increase," she says, explaining that 60 to 80 ng/mL is often optimal for good health. Because vitamin D increases the body 's absorption of calcium—making it essential to preventing and treating osteoporosis— Dr. Nambudripad recommends taking a vitamin D3 supplement that includes vitamin K2. "K2 promotes absorption of calcium by the bones, where it's needed, and keeps it from accumulating in the arteries," she explains, adding that you should look for a high-quality supplement that doesn't include fillers like soybean oil, which is often genetically modified and a cause of inflammation. Vitamin D toxicity is rare and, in the Fullerton physician's experience, is typically seen only in patients taking more than 10,000 international units (IU) daily. "Most of my patients reach the 60–80 ng/mL range by taking 5,000 IU of D3 with K2 daily," she says. "Since it's a fat-soluble vitamin, it's more effectively absorbed if taken with food." Those who are obese, have had gastric bypass surgery or suffer from intestinal absorption problems such as inflammatory bowel disease or small intestine bacterial overgrowth are especially at risk for vitamin deficiencies of all kinds, including vitamin D. "If you fall into one of these categories, or have an autoimmune condition, frequent infections, fatigue or depression, get your level tested," says the preventive medicine specialist, who adds that most insurance plans cover the lab test. "It's an easy investment to make in your health." JOIN US FOR A FREE VIRTUAL PRESENTATION What's causing your migraines and how can you prevent them? Wednesday, September 22, 6 p.m. Are your migraines related to your diet, hormones, nutritional deficiencies, stress or other triggers? Join Dr. Nambudripad to learn some of the root causes of migraines and find out ways to improve your diet and lifestyle to prevent migraines. What foods may be triggering your migraines? Learn about the role of magnesium and other key vitamins in migraine prevention. Did you know the gut microbiome has a role in migraines? Dr. Nambudripad will be sharing some exciting case examples from her clinical experience and her practice in integrative medicine. Please register by calling 844-925-0944. After you register, a confirmation email including the Zoom meeting link will be sent to you. The Vitamin D Question The nutrient is vital, but do you need a supplement? Rajsree Nambudripad, MD, is an expert in holistic primary care, thyroid and hormone health and functional gastroenterology, including finding and treating digestive imbalances to heal the gut. To learn more about a wide range of health topics, visit her YouTube page, "Rajsree Nambudripad, MD," and her website at

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