Vitamin D is an important biochemical that is needed for many biological processes, from bone formation to immune function. However, it is not what you think it is, and I will try to clear up some of the “misunderstanding” of this “vitamin”.
“Vitamin” D is a term used to describe a series of biochemicals derived from cholesterol when it comes in contact with sunlight through the epidermis of the skin. “Vitamin” D is a secosteroid, a type of steroidal hormone, and it has three major forms:
The first two are inactive forms, while the third, Calcitriol, is the active form that is utilized by the body for the various functions that Vitamin D is known for.
Cholecalciferol, the form that is called “Vitamin D3”, to delineate it from the Ergocalciferol (from the fungus Ergot) Vitamin D2 founds in fortified milk, is an inactive form of Vitamin D. It must be transported from the skin, where it is converted from provitamin D when cholesterol comes in contact with the UV rays of the sun through the upper layer of the skin, to the kidneys via a substance called Vitamin D Binding Protein, or VDB for short. In the kidneys, Cholecalciferol is converted to the second inactive form called Calcidiol. This form has no biological function, and must be transported via VDB once again, and this time to the liver where it is converted to the biological active form called Calcitriol. However, this final form requires a conversion enzyme called 1-Alpha Hydroxylase or else it will remain in the inactive form and create a “conversion backlog”, and then the body eventually “down regulates” Vitamin D synthesis, and deficiency sets in no matter how much D3 supplements are taken, because the body simply can’t convert the inactive forms to its final, biologically active form.
So, let’s look deeper into this. Is Vitamin D deficiency really a deficiency in dietary intake? The biochemistry says NO. Vitamin D deficiency is a conversion deficiency or malfunction. This conversion process is hyper dependent on two enzymes: Vitamin D Binding Protein and 1-Alpha Hydroxylase. If these two enzymes are functioning properly, then even small amounts of Vitamin D can be efficiently converted to the active form and be available for biological processes. If these enzymes are not functioning due to a deficiency of the factors that activate them, then Vitamin D conversion stagnates, and the final conversion never takes place.
That’s why Vitamin D supplementation is highly misunderstood and overdone to the point of being counterproductive. If Vitamin D3, Cholecalciferol, intake exceeds the body’s ability to convert it, D3 will simply backlog and it is entirely possible for this backlog to cause health problems. Maybe we are supplementing too much with D3? D3 has a half-life of about 24-27 days, so overdoing it can cause a real pile up of the inactive form.
There is a hidden aspect of this, one that few discuss if at all, about Vitamin D: remember, it is a hormone, not a vitamin, so we must view its many forms as hormone precursors that need to be converted. From this perspective, the solution to the Vitamin D dilemma becomes clear: focus on the factors that influence conversion. Only supplement what is missing and allow the body to convert what it needs.1
The two enzymes we spoke of, VDB and 1-alpha Hydroxylase are the key. And the solution is very simple and I have demonstrated this clinically.2 VBD is hyper dependent on the presence of magnesium. Without magnesium in physiological amounts, VDB does not function right, and since it is involved in at least two aspects of the conversion process, even the slightest drop off in function can inhibit the proper conversion of Vitamin D. This is an absolutely huge revelation that all clinicians and lay-people need to remember: If you are deficient in Vitamin D, you are deficient in magnesium. Correct this deficiency and you will correct Vitamin D deficiency.
It doesn’t end there, though. The terminal enzyme in this process is 1-Alpha Hydroxylase. This is the enzyme that controls the final conversion step of Vitamin D to its active, biologically functioning form. If this enzyme is not functioning right, the whole process stops in its tracks before the finish line. The significant part of all this is that Vitamin C controls all hydroxylation in the body. This means that if Vitamin C is deficient, this hydroxylation process will not work. Hydroxylase enzymes allow for inactive nutrients, such as amino acids, Vitamins, and inactive forms of hormones and neurotransmitters to be converted to their active forms. This is often a multi-step process that requires different hydroxylase enzymes along the way. ALL of these enzymes are under the dictation of Vitamin C. Humans do not make vitamin C, so it must be consumed in rather large, frequent amounts because the biological demand goes far beyond what the Recommended Daily Allowance suggests. Vitamin C is more than just an antioxidant, and it also affects magnesium uptake. We can say with all confidence that if you are Vitamin D deficient, then you are really Vitamin C deficient. Vitamin C has a half life of 30-50 minutes, and humans have no way of storing and as mentioned cannot make it, while 99.9999% of all other mammals can make it.
One remarkable aspect of the Vitamin C/1-Alpha Hydroxylase phenomenon is that at a certain level of concentration, Vitamin C turns ON the enzyme, and yet once it reaches a greater saturation, the enzyme is turned OFF. This is a brilliant repressor-mechanism that prevents the over-conversion of the Vitamin D hormone, and demonstrates the complex yet intuitive chemistry of Vitamin C and how it is a “chemical regulator” that provides homeostasis of the chemical environment of the body.3
In conclusion, Vitamin D is not a “vitamin”; it is a steroid that needs to be converted through several organ systems and a long process that involves two crucial enzymes, Vitamin D Binding Protein and 1-Alpha Hydroxylase. These enzymes dictate the transport and conversion process. Magnesium, a critical mineral, controls the VDB enzyme while Vitamin C controls and regulates 1-Alpha Hydroxylase. Without these nutrients in abundance, these enzyme systems malfunction or fail, causing a conversion backlog. This is why supplementing with D3 supplements is not the solution. Fixing the more common, more insidious, and mostly overlooked Magnesium and Vitamin C deficiencies is far more effective in correcting Vitamin D deficit, because the focus is on conversion to its final active form.
Find The Deficiency First!
1 This is a variation on what I call “The Zengo Maxim”. It is a method of properly supplementing hormones via the Bioidentical Hormone Replacement modality. This method was taught to me when I attended several training conferences presented by Dr Greg Zengo in Atlanta, Georgia many years ago. He made a simple statement that may be one of the core principles of my approach to BHRT and Deficiency-Based Medicine: Supplement what is needed and encourage the body to natural produce the hormones it needs. This concept is a game changer because it involves testing right and understanding what and why we are testing. Truly groundbreaking, simple ideas that make a tremendous difference.
2 I had a patient who had sub-normal levels of Vitamin D for many years and was part of her diagnosis of osteopenia. She was taking huge amount of vitamin D for many years and never moved the dial. Her levels were in the 20s. After getting her off the large doses of Vitamin D3 supplement and only supplementing what was missing while focusing on physiological dosing of Vitamin C and Magnesium for six months, her tests showed a three-fold increase in active vitamin D.