Tag Archives: Pregnancy

Is Vitamin D Supplementation Useless?


Dr.  Stephanie Senef, a MIT research scientist recently spoke out against Vitamin D supplementation at a Weston A Price Wise Traditions conference, saying that supplements are “a waste of money.”  I believe she is wrong about supplementation although correct about the sun being a superior source for those lucky enough to live in the right conditions.

Senef believes that the beneficial products of sun exposure occur before you manufacture Vitamin D.  When you expose your skin to sunshine, your skin synthesizes vitamin D3 sulfate. This form of vitamin D is water soluble, unlike oral oil-form vitamin D3 supplements, which are unsulfated. The water soluble pre-vitamin can travel freely in your blood stream, whereas the unsulfated supplement needs LDL ( so-called “bad” cholesterol) as a vehicle of transport. Dr. Seneff says:


“The sulfated form of vitamin D does not work for calcium transport, which I find very intriguing. And in fact, I think it’s the sulfated form for vitamin D that offers the protection from cancer. It strengthens your immune system. It protects you from cardiovascular disease. It’s good for your brain. It helps depression. I think all of those effects of vitamin D are effects of vitamin D sulfate.”

 There are several problems with this.  First, the research on Vitamin D status and cancer, cardiovascular disease, depression and other diseases was not performed only on people with sun-induced Vitamin D levels and it is likely that the relatively high levels of 25(OH)D in their blood would not come from sun alone unless they lived in climates south of the US  (and  most were done here.) For instance, in a recent study that I will describe below (video reference at end), pregnant women living in Charleston, SC where the sun shines strongly 325 days a year and the latitude favors the rays of sun that make Vitamin D, were overwhelmingly deficient or insufficient in their Vitamin D levels before supplementation.  Another study on lifeguards in Hawaii found that many had suboptimal blood levels. Between sunscreen or blocking mineral particles in  most skin products and cultural practices of showering frequently, we tend not to manufacture much Vitamin D.  So to get relatively high levels shown in the chart below and at this link,  It is likely that subjects used supplementation although only the resultant blood levels of 25(OH)D were canvassed.

vitamin D Deficiency Diseases by Blood Level

Note that only rickets is prevented with low blood levels of Vitamin D

(To enlarge, see  disease_incidence_prev_chart_101608)

In a recent study at the University of South Carolina medical school, expectant mothers, especially African American mothers, tested as insufficient to deficient in Vitamin D.  At the start of the study, deficient or insufficient levels of vitamin D were seen in 94% of the African-American women, 66% of Hispanic women, and 50% of white women who participated..  A select group was prescribed 4000 iu daily of Vitamin D3 in their second and third trimester and that group had 50% fewer adverse events such as to develop gestational diabetes, pregnancy-related high blood pressure, or preeclampsia than those taking 400 iu.  They also had fewer preterm births.  It benefited both the mother and baby and researcher Dr.  Carol Wagner felt that in the future higher amounts would test as even better, seeing no problem with 10,000 iu.  In a Norwegian study published in Epidemiology, pregnant women who took vitamin D supplements of 600-800 iu had 27 % lower rates of potentially fatal per-eclampsia.  Doesn’t sound like a waste of money to me!

Reinhold Veith studied research on Vitamin D from the sun and supplementation.  He  found that supplementation in adults below 10,000 iu daily had a pretty flat effect on 25HydroxyD (blood Vitamin D) levels but that higher levels brought D up to levels found by ultraviolet light from the sun or fixtures.  He did find that Vitamin D2 supplementation was less effective at raising blood levels of 25OHD than Vitamin D3, although some researchers dispute this.

I will be the first to say that supplementation alone is not the best way to get Vitamin D. According to researcher Michael Holick, this is difficult: to get it from the sun during late fall to early Spring, you must live south of Atlanta, go out without sunscreen between 11am and 1 pm and not wash it off for 3 days since bacteria on the surface of the skin synthesize it and can be washed off, even with plain water. If your skin is dark, you may need 6 times as much sunlight. How many people can do this?  Sunshine produces more than Vitamin D and Holick believes it is likely that breakdown products from UV and excess Vitamin D that are missing from supplements are useful to the body.  But that is a far cry from calling supplementation useless or a scam.

There are two forms of supplementation: oil and dry based Vitamin D3.  I prescribe dry Vitamin D to clients without gallbladders and the concentrated Biotech dry form to people who need to build up stores rapidly.  Neither form is sulfated, although we do not have evidence that they cannot become sulfated in the human body or in our flora.  Perhaps Dr. Senef’s theory indicates that dry Vitamin D supplements would be better than oil based forms.  However I see clinical results from oil based forms as well.  Cod Liver Oil, proposed by the Weston A. Price Foundation is an oil-based form of Vitamin D.

There is no good evidence that all of our vitamin D should come from Cod Liver oil, although I personally believe some of it should.  To get 10,000 iu via cod liver oil would incur toxic levels of Vitamin A.  Some Vitamin A is probably needed although there is conflicting research on it- given that research is unclear, I stand behind traditional practices.  Carlson’s cod liver oil is closest to the traditional A:D ratio in a commercial oil.   Fermented cod liver oil is possibly superior, but there is no real research and I was unable to get data from the manufacturer Blue Ice, even on the relative levels of Vitamins A and D.  I would have no hesitation to use it for my Omega 3 supplement, adding Vitamin D3 at levels of 10,000 iu, depending upon blood test results.

We have moved far from our equatorial origins and dress ourselves in clothing that usually covers all but 5% of our bodies. Most of us work indoors and are not suntanning at noon, and we shower frequently, washing away the skin bacteria that make the sulfated Vitamin D.  Most facial make-up and skin lotions provide a level of sun blockage even if direct sunscreens are not added.  While doctors used to think that such exposure was sufficient, that was based upon prevention of rickets, which as the chart show requires ridiculously little Vitamin D, and not the other conditions like cancer or heart disease that require higher blood levels.  We know that Vitamin D is a natural hormone necessary for  a broad variety of biological activities.  While getting what sun we can is important, we should not let the optimal be the enemy of the good.


Photograph of Cod Liver Oil capsules.
Photograph of Cod Liver Oil capsules. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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August Herbal Blog Party: Herbs for Fertility

There are many ways herbs can help a couple deal with fertility.  A simple red clover infusion  can  kick off a pregnancy for many women.   Herbalists can make specific formulas for the five parts of the menstrual cycle identified by Chinese medicine or more simply incorporate menstrual charting with formulas, using herbs to tonify the yin or yang phases of the menstrual cycle as needed.  One may even managed to open a blocked fallopian tube with a phlegm stasis formula.  Or reduce insulin resistance in PCOS.  Or improve sperm quality and motility in the male partner.  Or use flower essences with a frightened first time mother. We can even use plants to deal with the residues of sexual abuse so that a prospective mother can embrace her fertility.

Here are the results of our August Herbal Blog Party where different people wrote articles on various aspects of fertility: Continue reading August Herbal Blog Party: Herbs for Fertility

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Staging Herbal Formulas to Enhance Fertility

Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)
Red Clover  Image via Wikipedia

Many women respond to single herbs or single formulas in their quest to get pregnant.  A strong overnight infusion of red clover, or red clover mixed with nettles and oatstraw has pushed many women over the brink from infertility to fertility.  This seems to work best when a little extra nourishment is needed in an otherwise healthy woman.   But hormones are complex, and the reasons why they may be out of balance are varied.

But before giving targeted formulas , the first thing I suggest to women is that Continue reading Staging Herbal Formulas to Enhance Fertility

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Vitamin D in Pregnancy and Nursing

Care of Flicker by Mahalie Stackpole

Vitamin D levels are very important to your personal health as well as that of your baby.  I have previously written about how Vitamin D reduces pre-eclampsia, or toxemia of pregnancy.  Vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy and infancy prevents childhood Type 1 diabetes.  And low levels of Vitamin D during pregnancy and lactation have caused preclinical rickets which have caused African American women whose skin absorption is lower, to lose custody of children on charges of suspected child abuse.

A South Carolina study of pregnancy complications and Vitamin D  found:

  • The 400 iu level of Vitamin D in a prenatal vitamin was inconsequential
  • 4000 iu of Vitamin D reduced bad pregnancy outcomes by half compared to 400 iu.
  • 4000 iu of Vitamin D is safe in pregnancy
  • Virtually all African American women in sunny SC had serious deficiencies of Vitamin D
  • 30% of all pregnant women in the study were severely deficient

Continue reading Vitamin D in Pregnancy and Nursing

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Insulin Resistance and Infertility


It is well known that insulin resistance is the basis of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) which is a major cause of infertility, but insulin resistance affects other infertility conditions as well.

Many infertility doctors are aware of this.  I had one, non PCOS, client whose fertility doctor prescribed Metformin, a diabetes drug that improves insulin sensitivity, but failed to suggest to her that she had blood sugar problems  (at a stage in her life where she might be able to make changes to avoid diabetes.) Doctors routinely suggest weight loss for infertility which is also known to correct insulin resistance.

But drugs are not the first resource for insulin resistance.  Diet Continue reading Insulin Resistance and Infertility

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More Problems With Paxil

I just wrote a piece on how Paxil (paroxetine) can cause serious birth defects, shown when independent Swedish researchers reanalyzed data from the manufacturer.  Now new information shows that it, along with imipramime, does no better than a placebo at helping depression. Continue reading More Problems With Paxil

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Pregnant Women Should Avoid Antidepressants

Many women wonder if they should take antidepressants while pregnant.  A recent study shows that there are more complications of birth including C-Sections, premature births and induced deliveries.  Paroxetine (Paxil) was associated with twice the rate of congenital heart defects and hypospadias (a penis malformation.)  Tricyclic antidepressants were more strongly associated with malformations and persistent pulmonary hypertension. Continue reading Pregnant Women Should Avoid Antidepressants

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Ear Acupuncture Curbs Back Pain in Pregnant Women

I’ve been in California this week and after kayaking, fellow acupuncturist Bob Linde noticed that the guide was suffering from back pain and put zaccaria seeds in her ear on the auricular points dealing with back pain.  She felt changes immediately and claimed it was the best tip she’d received yet.

We know that acupuncture works for back pain and since treating back pain in very pregnant Continue reading Ear Acupuncture Curbs Back Pain in Pregnant Women

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Nursing Mothers, Infants and Vitamin D

While I used to think otherwise, I firmly believe that nursing mothers should supplement both themselves and their babies with Vitamin D.  The exceptions to this are mothers who live south of Atlanta, who Breastfeedingtogether with their babies are out of doors without sunscreen between 11:00 am and 1:00pm and who don’t use soap when they wash (because it washes away the D2 oil involved in the process of making D3.)  We used to have government programs to encourage parents to take children out into the sun.   See this informative and entertaining video from UCSD.

In Finland, babies were routinely given cod liver oil providing 4500 iu of D (and modern cod liver oil is NOT recommended for it due to lower D/A ratios).  Then, since research showed that rickets could be  prevented at 400 iu, the recommended daily amount was lowered.  As a result, Type 1 Diabetes skyrocketed.  We have very good data showing that 90% of Type 1 Childhood Diabetes can be eliminated by Vitamin D supplementation.

Continue reading Nursing Mothers, Infants and Vitamin D

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Vitamin D Prevents Cancer, Type 1 Diabetes, MS, Heart Attack and Pain

Watching this You-Tube video from the University of California at San Diego might be one of the best things you can do for your health. It explains clearly and in detail which levels of vitamin D3 are necessary to prevent a great variety of diseases. Rickets, the disease our woefully inadequate RDA was designed to prevent, needs very little Vitamin D.    Cancers, diabetes, heart attack, falls, fractures, hypertension, neurological impairment, even pain will be prevented by raising your blood Vitamin D levels to the recommended range.

I have been taking 10,000 iu of Vitamin D3 daily for the last year and am only in the low end of the recommended range.

You can find the charts shown in the video at http://www.grassrootshealth.net

A blood level of Vitamin D (have your doctor test it) should be 40-60 ng/ml, which is likely higher than the reference range of the test. You would need to reach 200 ng/ml to suffer from toxicity. The amount you need to supplement will vary, but is way way higher than you find in any multi.  Unless you seek out a special high concentration vitamin D supplement, you are not getting enough, at least above the Mason-Dixon line (and usually below as well.)

This video puts together the Vitamin D research and offers a public health program designe Continue reading Vitamin D Prevents Cancer, Type 1 Diabetes, MS, Heart Attack and Pain

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Acupuncture Helps Digestive Problems in Pregnancy

Today I ran into a former patient who had suffered hyperemesis, vomiting during her entire pregnancy.  She lives far away but came in because she was desperate for relief.  She thanked me and introduced her new son.  It was a reminder of how much help acupuncture can be during pregnancy.

by Lief Parsons
by Lief Parsons

Acupuncture is safe during pregnancy providing that certain traditional points are avoided (unless there is a very good reason like stopping a miscarriage.)  Since Chinese medicine was so well documented over the years, it was possible to categorize points that would help or hurt a pregnancy and these points are well known by licensed acupuncturists.

Here is a good article from CBS news:

Acupuncture helps pregnancy symptom

Updated on 09 June 2009

Source PA News

Acupuncture can help relieve the symptoms of indigestion in pregnancy, new research suggests. Continue reading Acupuncture Helps Digestive Problems in Pregnancy

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