The Sunshine Vitamin

The Sunshine Vitamin

The Sunshine Vitamin – Although we refer to it as a vitamin, vitamin D is actually a hormone.  Our body makes vitamin D from cholesterol when the skin is exposed to the sun.  We can also get vitamin D through food; fatty fish, fortified dairy products, and egg yolks.  But, it is very difficult to get it from food alone. 

Vitamin D deficiency is very common, affecting about 50% of children and adults worldwide. Every tissue in the body has vitamin D receptors, including the brain, heart, muscles, and immune system.  This means vitamin D is needed at every level for the body to function.  Vitamin D deficiency has significant medical and psychological consequences.  The signs usually start subtle and then become significant.  Good news… it’s easy to fix!  

Risk factors include


Dark-skinned individuals’ high level of melanin impairs absorption of vitamin D, which is made when skin is exposed to ultraviolet radiation found in natural sunlight.


As people age they lose some of their ability to synthesize vitamin D from sunlight.  Also, elderly people who are homebound are less likely to spend time outdoors. 


People on a vegan diet are at high risk of suffering from vitamin D deficiency since most of the foods taken are not sources of vitamin D or just contain small amounts of it.


We all know UVB radiation from the sun is the major cause of skin damage and cancer.  But, we also know the sun is the most efficient way for us to make vitamin D.  Sunscreens with a high SPF filter out the wavelengths that cause the production of vitamin D in the skin. 

SPF of 15 or higher can reduce the body’s vitamin D production by 99 percent. To boost and maintain optimal vitamin D levels, researchers recommend spending about 10 to 30 minutes in midday sun twice each week, without the protection of sunscreen and exposing face, neck, arms, and legs.  


People living in areas farther away from the equator make less vitamin D in their skin. In these areas, more of the sun’s rays, especially UVB rays, are absorbed by the earth’s ozone layer.  People who live farther away from the equator need to spend more time in the sun to produce enough. Which is further complicated in the long, cold winter months!  


Celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, and chrohn’s disease can all affect your intestine’s ability to absorb vitamin D from the food you eat.  

Common signs you may be deficient in Vitamin D


Vitamin D plays a major role in our immune system, so if you are contracting things like the common cold, strep throat, the flu, or other infections and illnesses more frequently than you normally would and taking much longer to recover, it could mean you are low in Vitamin D.  


Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, which is essential for bone health. Deficiency can negatively impact your nerves, muscles and your immune system.  A common symptom of vitamin D deficiency is joint and lower back pain.


Cuts taking along time to heal?  Vitamin D impacts your body’s ability to heal its wounds. If you do not get enough vitamin D, you’re may experience impaired wound healing. This can be particularly problematic for people who are going through surgery or serious injuries.


Low levels of vitamin D can cause chronic  fatigue despite how much sleep you get.


Vitamin D helps to regulate certain chemicals in your brain, including those that impact your mood.  If you aren’t getting enough vitamin D, your mood could end up suffering.  

Some studies show that by giving vitamin D to people who are deficient helps improve depression, including seasonal depression that occurs during the colder months and anxiety.


Vitamin D assists with the absorption of calcium, helping to build strong bones. It is imperative vitamin D levels are in optimal range to protect bone mass and reduce risk of fractures. 


Štress is a common cause of hair loss.  However, when hair loss is severe it may be due to an autoimmune disease called alopecia or nutrient deficiencies, including vitamin D.  


Vitamin D receptors are present in nerve cells that sense pain and studies have shown a link between chronic pain and low blood levels of vitamin D. 


The most accurate way to measure how much vitamin D is in your body is 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood test.  A level less than 12 ng/mL indicates vitamin D deficiency, although a level less than 20 ng/mL is considered inadequate and often requires treatment.  

Treatment for vitamin D deficiency involves getting more vitamin D through diet AND supplementation.  

Guidelines from the Institute of Medicine increased the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of vitamin D to 600 international units (IU) for everyone ages 1-70, and raised it to 800 IU for adults older than age 70 to optimize bone health. The safe upper limit was also raised to 4,000 IU.   Therapeutic dosage may be prescribed containing more than 4,000 IU to correct a vitamin D deficiency, but blood levels must be monitored by your physician.

~Building Better Nutritiōn

Let’s Talk Diets and Hormones

Let’s Talk Diets and Hormones

The weight loss industry knows we have caught on to them, especially commercial weight loss programs such as Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, often thought of as your mother’s and grandma’s diet which they have become lifelong members with- why is that? Because they do NOT work!  And gone are the days of fat free foods and 100 calorie pack snacks, those just leave us feeling hangry (hungry and angry).


Restrictive diets in effort to lose weight and quick, results in increased cravings and urges  for food.  90-95% of people who lose weight on diets, regain the weight back  and many result with weight higher than they started at!  We have the before diet, after diet, then there is the after, after diet!   And it is not because you failed!  Restrictive diet’s cause you to gain weight in the end!  


Diets cause many biological and health damage including; teaching the body to retain more fat, slows rate of weight loss with each attempt of dieting, lowers metabolism, and increases binges and cravings.


Dieting also provides psychological and emotional damage; eating disorders,  increased stress, social anxiety.  Dieting gradually erodes confidence and self-trust.  


Since the diet industry knows that millennials have caught on, they are coming at us from a different angle. They are reinventing themselves as Wellness. They are coming at us from a sneaky way to continue the dieting rollercoaster, but presenting it as health and wellness (and sustaining the multi billion $$ diet industry). These are in the form of clean eating, cleanses, Whole30, detoxes, Paleo, Ketogenic Diet, Intermittent Fasting.  Again, giving you more food rules and pushing you further away from intuitive eating, which really hones in on your hunger and satiety cues.  Resulting in not eating when we are hungry and then eating past satiety.  


I admit it is so hard to go against the grain and start trusting your body to tell you what, when, and how much to eat.  Especially when you are constantly inundated with social media posts regarding diets.  The only thing you should detox are the social media accounts that make you feel not good enough!  It’s time to retrain our minds on nourishing our bodies for physical and mental satisfaction as well as balancing our appetite and weight regulating hormones after dieting has disrupted the balance.  Diets that consistently have us taking in too few calories than we expend through our resting metabolic rate (RMR) and activity, result in our bodies responding by increasing or decreasing certain appetite stimulating and satiety hormones.  Let’s take a look at hormones that effect our appetites and weight – Leptin, Ghrelin, Cortisol, and Insulin. 


Leptin is the ‘master’ hormone that regulates weight and is produced by fat cells.  It tells us when we have enough food and can burn energy.  It also influences our fertility and immunity.  Its primary goal is energy balance and it influences how much we eat, expend, and store.  Weight loss decreases leptin, then the brain tries to gain weight back.  We can have leptin resistance!  This is when the brain isn’t listening.  No drop in appetite, no increased metabolism.  Your brain can even think you’re starving, because it doesn’t think that there’s not enough leptin. So it makes you even hungrier!

So the vicious cycle starts:

  1. increased body fat = more leptin
  2. too much body fat = leptin signal disrupted
  3. brain thinks you are starving, so you eat more
  4. and it repeats

Ghrelin is the ‘hunger’ hormone, which is produced in the stomach and tells the brain to eat!  It’s primary role is to increase appetite, increase food intake, and store fat. Ghrelin rises during dieting and increases hunger.  The more restrictive you eat, the higher the ghrelin. Yikes!! So, how do we decrease ghrelin? Avoid restrictive dieting, ensure adequate sleep, increase muscle mass, and  increase protein intake throughout the day 

Cortisol is increased with STRESS!  I know, we all have stress in our lives, but, if we have chronic high stress resulting in high cortisol levels for long periods of time, this can result in high blood pressure, weight gain, fatigue, disrupted sleep, impaired memory (brain fog), and suppress immunity.


Insulin is the ‘storage’ hormone. High spikes in insulin from peaks of blood sugar tells our body to store fat. The goal is to control blood sugar peaks to prevent high spikes in insulin. Which results in decreased cravings, increased energy, and better mood : )


The end goal with all my clients is Intuitive Eating.  Intuitive – using or based on what one feels to be true even without conscious reasoning; instinctive.  BUT, for many, we need to reverse the damage that restrictive dieting has done to their metabolism, hormones, mental thoughts regarding food, and depleted energy levels.  So, how do we get these hormones regulated?!  First off, ensuring you are not eating BELOW your RMR!  Then begin eating balance meals based on macronutrients – PFC (protein, fat, carbs) and make sure you are ‘pairing’ your foods to contain all 3. To begin regulating your hormones, you need to trust nutrient dense foods and forgo the fear of calories.  Remember, limiting calories ultimately increases cravings by increasing ghrelin, resulting in overeating in the later part of the day, and then the guilt sets in.  One should never feel guilty or bad about eating!

Here are the 5 Keys to Health to focus on to help regulate your hormones;

1.  REST (Lack of sleep leads to more ghrelin, less leptin, and disrupted glucose and insulin metabolism)

2.  NUTRITION (eating PFC throughout the day)

3. MOVEMENT (find ways to enjoy movement throughout the day)

4. MINDFULNESS  (calmly accept your feeling’s and thoughts and aware of eating)

5. SELF CARE – decrease stress!


The health and fitness world can be a confusing place.  A Registered Dietitian can help cut out the noise and guide you to the best eating and lifestyle strategies that are individualized to you and your personal goals. Visits with a Registered Dietitian are often covered by your medical insurance.


~ Suzanne

Building Better Nutrition


Enchilada-Stuffed Portobella Mushrooms

Enchilada-Stuffed Portobella Mushrooms

How’s that Fad Diet Affecting your Gut?

How’s that Fad Diet Affecting your Gut?

Ever wonder how a restricted diet affects your body long term?  All too often I see clients that have jumped from one fad diet to the next, trying to find that perfect plan that will give them the results they desire.  In the meantime, not only are they sliding down a slippery slope of a lifetime of diets, because we all know, diets fail us.  Yes, that’s right!  Diets fail us!

Restrictive diets in effort to lose weight, result in increased cravings and urges for food.  90-95% of people who lose weight on restrictive diets, regain the weight back and many result with weight higher than they started at. That’s right!  Diets cause you to gain weight!  They cause many biological and health damage including; teaching the body to retain more fat, slow rate of weight loss with each attempt of dieting, decrease metabolism, increase binges and cravings.  

Dieting also provides psychological and emotional damage; eating disorders, increased stress, social anxiety, lowered self-esteem.  Dieting gradually erodes confidence and self-trust.

So how does dieting affect my gut?

Here’s one more way diets leave us hurting.  Eliminating whole food groups or foods containing gluten effects your gut microbiome.  There’s a lot of recent research showing how our gut microbiome can affect our overall health.  Research has shown the relationship between the gluten-free diet and the gut microbiota.  Complete elimination of gluten, unnecessarily, (without celiac disease or gluten sensitivity), leads to worsened immune function by increasing pathogenic bacteria (E.Coli!) and decreasing beneficial gut bacteria.  Our gut ecosystem is greatly influenced by our diet.  When the growth of beneficial bacteria is not supported due to reduced supply of their main energy sources, other non-beneficial bacteria begin to grow and lead to intestinal microbial imbalance (dysbiosis).  This can lead to irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, yeast infections, leaky gut syndrome, skin conditions (eczema/acne), brain fog, infections, and colon cancer.

Dietary counseling by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) will help guide you to achieve your individual health and fitness goals, while including interventions to eliminate potential health risks of restricted diets.  When needing to eliminate gluten, good planning with the guidance of an RDN will allow you to feed the beneficial gut microbiome largely through resistant starch, providing pre and probiotics.

Here’s to good gut health!

~ Suzanne

Enchilada-Stuffed Portobella Mushrooms

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