Vitamin D Success!

There are really only two ways you can get vitamin D into your body. Ingest it, or expose your skin to sunlight. People who live in colder, northern climates often can’t get enough sun exposure even if they tried and must supplement. Ingestion of vitamin D can be in the form of naturally vitamin D rich foods, supplemented foods, or just plain supplements.

Every blood test that I’ve previously had that measured vitamin D showed my level to be low.

Since vitamin D is very critical to so many bodily functions, and my body is already run down enough from 30+ years of leaky gut and food allergies, getting my D level back up became a priority this year.

I limit my exposure to the sun, both by choice (I’m not interested in getting a tan) and by practice (I don’t do a whole lot outdoors in bright sunlight).

Over the course of several years, I’ve tried taking different vitamin D supplements. Even in a low dose, and from a supplement manufacturer that I trust to not include any other allergenic ingredients, vitamin D still makes me very ill (as in, severe food allergy reaction).

So, what about foods? Well, there are very few foods naturally high in vitamin D and they are seafood which I either would never eat or am allergic to. The same goes for the supplemented foods, like milk. All the good sources are foods that would make me sick.

That brings us back to sunlight. You can make adequate amounts of vitamin D from sun exposure, but it’s tricky. There are apps that help you compute the length of exposure you need based on how much skin is showing, angle of the sun, time of day, cloud cover, etc. In order for this to be successful, I’d have to stand outside for about 30 minutes, half naked, at noon, every day. Uh, I’m at work at noon most of the week, and it’s cold outside a good portion of the year, and it rains some days. This is clearly not a workable long-term solution!

But, there’s another approach. What about sunlight causes your skin to make vitamin D? In addition to the visible light emitted by the sun, it also produces lots of ultraviolet (UV) light. Science generally breaks down the bands of solar UV light into UVA, UVB and UVC. UVA light penetrates atmosphere, clouds and even glass and contributes to tanning, skin cancer, and skin aging. UVB penetrates atmosphere (not too much though), but not clouds or glass. UVB contributes very little to tanning, but DOES cause the skin to produce vitamin D. UVC usually doesn’t make it to the Earth’s surface and is very dangerous – we’ll skip that.

Hmm, is there a way to artificially dose yourself with UVB light and make vitamin D? Why, yes there is. Enter the Sperti Vitamin D lamp. Apparently, this device is FDA-approved for people who need vitamin D supplementation and is a perfect solution for people like me who are unable to tolerate vitamin D foods or supplements. It’s not cheap, but the reviews are good.

I gave the Sperti lamp a try. For the first half year of use, I followed the directions precisely. Five minutes of exposure to my chest or back, at a distance of 15 inches from the lamp, three times per week. After all that effort, my D level was still a sub-par 27 ng/ml. This Sperti lamp has undergone clinical testing and is proven to work, so what’s the problem? I discuss it with my doctor and decide to give it a another try.

Second time around, I used ten minutes of exposure to my chest or back, at 12 inches from the lamp, still at three times per week. And… we have success! My vitamin D levels are now at 46 ng/ml for the stable form and 50 pg/ml for the active form. Finally, I have vitamin D levels right where they should be for good health and you CAN do it with just UVB light exposure. Yay, something went right for me.

Food Allergy Versus Sensitivity

There are many things that can happen when you eat (or drink) something. In most normal cases, the food is digested to some degree and components are used by the body for building cells, creating energy or stored for later. This is an oversimplification, but you get the idea.

For those of us who have unpleasant reactions to food, the normal digestive processes are altered in some way. There are general categories of such reactions: allergies, sensitivities, intolerances, and a few others. Medically speaking, these reactions have distinct differences. As a common example, take lactose intolerance. When people with lactose intolerance ingest milk products, the milk sugar (lactose) is not broken down because those people lack sufficient lactase enzymes. The result is lactose fermenting in the intestines and producing gas, bloating, cramps and loose bowels. This is not an allergic reaction and not the same as a milk allergy.

What I’m going to focus on is the fine semantic line between food allergies versus food sensitivities, and whether there really is a difference.

What I have learned from multiple food allergy tests is that medical science typically identifies two types of allergic reactions to foods. These reactions are mediated by the presence of immunoglobulins in the blood. The immunoglobulins may be labelled IgE or IgG.

IgE reactions are those that cause the stereotypical allergic symptoms like sneezing, coughing, itching, rash, swelling, immediate vomiting, and possibly anaphylactic shock. These symptoms may appear within minutes to less than an hour after ingestion.

IgG reactions are typically delayed and produce more subtle symptoms like nausea, loose bowels, cramps, fever, body aches, headaches, fatigue, brain fog, skin rashes, and many others. These symptoms may not show up until hours or days after ingestion. This makes it somewhat harder to identify the offending food.

While there is not necessarily a hard and fast rule on this, many sources call IgE reactions true food allergies while calling IgG reactions food sensitivities.

In my specific case, I’ve never tested positive for, nor had any obvious reaction, indicating an IgE reaction to any food. On the other hand, my tests for IgG reactions show some sensitivity to almost everything! This is not entirely an accurate picture because I can safely eat some foods on the IgG reaction list while others that show no response have made me very sick. The main point I take away from the testing is that my body is simply really, really, really (to infinity) sensitive to nearly all foods. The only way to nail it down is with food challenges, previously discussed in an earlier blog.

Getting back to the semantics, the more recent doctors I’ve seen call my reactions food allergies, even if they are all IgG mediated. For ease of discussion with the general public, I call my condition “multiple food allergies.” It readily puts people on alert that eating things may make you very sick.

Not everyone views things this way though. I’ll give you an amusing anecdote. A few years ago, I had joined a very active and informative online forum for food allergies. After lurking a while and picking up some good tips, I finally formally introduced myself and talked about my condition. Well, I quickly got “flamed” (I think that’s the word). Other forum members were all over me for daring to join their forum discussions with what was not a “true food allergy.” Some of the people told me to go away and seek advice elsewhere. The only explanation I may have for their unwelcoming outbursts is that a lot of the forum members were moms of kids with life-threatening IgE food allergies. They want to protect the seriousness of their children’s concerns and not have them “diluted” by someone with less life-threatening IgG food sensitivities. Just…wow. I mean, food makes me sick. I thought all of us in that condition could hang together. I guess not.