Vitamin D and Weight Loss

Vitamin D has several functions in the body. It helps keep our bones strong and plays important roles in immunity and neuromuscular function. It's also a key regulator of fat and metabolism.

Our skin makes vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. Levels are naturally highest in the summer when days are long and the sun's rays are most intense. Vitamin D deficiency is most common in winter, when days are short and the sun's rays are least intense.

Observational studies show that people with the lowest levels of vitamin D gain more weight, on average, than people with the highest levels. This doesn't mean that low vitamin D levels cause weight gain, but it does show that low levels of vitamin D may predispose people to gain weight more easily.

Evidence is emerging that tests for measuring vitamin D in the body are unreliable and may be influenced by factors like inflammation, which has been shown to decrease levels of vitamin D. Even if testing would produce accurate results, it only tracks a couple of vitamin D metabolites, but more than 50 exist in the body.

Vitamin D supplements don't have the same effect as sun exposure. Sunlight stimulates several different biochemical pathways, and vitamin D production is only one of the beneficial effects. Sunlight also helps regulate our circadian rhythm, which can act as a master control switch for fat metabolism.

To maintain a healthy weight during the holidays, follow these five tips:

# 1  Get daily sun exposure, preferably in the early morning hours, and take 800 to 1200 IU of vitamin D3 daily. Higher doses can carry side effects and so far research studies don't show bigger benefits. Avoid intense sun exposure.

# 2  Exercise regularly, even when you're busy. Prioritize it and make it happen. When you travel, take your athletic shoes along so you can exercise anywhere, even if you only have time for a brisk 30-minute walk.

# 3  Eat protein, healthy fat, and fiber at every meal. 

# 4  Minimize your intake of sweets, starches, caffeine, and alcohol.

# 5  Get plenty of sleep and keep a regular schedule as much as you can.

Once the holidays are over, schedule an appointment with your naturopathic doctor to address the environmental aspects of weight gain.

More than 400 chemicals from the environment have been found in human blood and fat tissue and many of them have been linked to weight gain and obesity (as well as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease, infertility, depression, Alzheimer's disease, and even cancer).

Let your naturopathic doctor tailor a detox program to meet your individual needs and help you achieve your weight loss goals.


Janesick A. and Blumberg B. 2012. Obesogens, stem cells and the developmental programming of obesity. International Journal of Andrology 35(3):437-48.

Leblanc E.S. et al. 2012. Associations between 25-hydroxyvitamin d and weight gain in elderly women. Journal of Women's Health 21(10):1066-73.

Thayer K.A. et al. 2012. Role of Environmental Chemicals in Diabetes and Obesity: A National Toxicology Program Workshop Review. Environmental Health Perspectives 120(6): 779–789.

Travel Healthy

Vacations are good for us. Taking time to rest and relax can revitalize our bodies as well as our minds. Unfortunately, getting sick while traveling isn’t uncommon and it can ruin any holiday.

People often blame unfamiliar and unfriendly microbes found in new environments, and they may certainly play a part, but so does our susceptibility to sickness. The stress, lack of sleep, and changes in daily routines that come with travel all take a toll on our immune systems, making us more vulnerable to illness and infection.

Follow these tips to strengthen your immunity and reduce your risk of getting sick when you travel.

Manage Stress

Stress suppresses our immune systems. When we’re physically or emotionally stressed, our adrenal glands secrete stress hormones like cortisol as part of an inherent survival instinct. Cortisol prepares the body for "fight or flight" action by raising alertness, increasing heart rate and blood pressure, boosting levels of blood sugar and insulin, and suppressing bodily functions that aren’t immediately necessary, like immune surveillance, the search and destroy mission of our white blood cells that protect the body from bacteria and viruses that make us sick.

We can’t avoid stress completely but we can minimize its effects on our immune systems by learning to manage it effectively with activities like yoga, breathing exercises, and meditation. When you travel, plan ahead as much as possible to make your time of transit worry-free.

Get Plenty of Sleep

Sleep is like a master control switch in the body. It regulates our immune systems and makes our white blood cells more active against viruses and bacteria. Adults should sleep eight hours or more each night in the summer, when nights are naturally shorter, and nine hours or more each night in the winter, when nights are naturally longer.

If you’ll be traveling during the hours you’re usually snoozing, bring along whatever you need to help you sleep (neck pillow, eye mask, ear plugs).

Maintain A Regular Routine

Our bodies are sensitive to our daily routines. Sleeping a different number of hours or even the same number of hours at different times can disrupt our circadian rhythm and the hormones that control immunity and metabolism.

When you travel to new time zones, help your body adjust by sleeping only at night and in complete darkness, waking up as close to sunrise as possible, and exposing your skin to some early morning sunshine. As much as you can, keep regular hours for sleeping, waking, eating, and exercising.

Exercise Regularly

Regular exercise can improve immunity as long as you don’t overdo it. Exercise at moderate intensity and limit workouts to an hour at a time. Too much exercise or exercise that’s too intense can raise cortisol levels and suppress the immune system.

Always bring along your athletic shoes when you travel. They allow you to exercise anywhere, even if it’s just a brisk half hour walk. Resistance bands and jump ropes are also easy to pack and they can be used anywhere too.

Eat Well

Eating a healthy diet is essential to maintaining a healthy immune system. Avoid sweet and starchy foods, and include healthy fat and protein with each meal. Make vegetables at least half of every meal, especially those high in beta carotene like carrots and green leafy vegetables.

Because leafy greens are on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen Plus list of foods most contaminated with pesticides, buy them organic or stick to cabbage, which is on their Clean Fifteen list.

Avoid Afternoon Caffeine

Caffeine elevates cortisol levels, which keeps us awake and alert, so it’s best consumed in the morning. Drinking too much coffee and consuming caffeine in the afternoon or evening can suppress your immune system, cause problems sleeping, and make it more difficult for your body to adapt to changes in time zones.

If you drink caffeinated coffee or tea, limit yourself to one cup before noon. People who experience negative side effects from caffeine like anxiety, restlessness or insomnia should avoid it completely.

Avoid Anti-Bacterial Products

Anti-bacterial products are popular for travel but they promote the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (which increases the incidence of life-threatening infections) and some contain toxic chemicals like triclosan, a dioxin linked to weakened immunity.

Instead of using anti-bacterial products, take other precautions. Avoid contaminated and shared surfaces when you travel and don’t touch your mouth, nose, or eyes unless you’ve washed your hands thoroughly in hot, soapy water.

Pack Smart

Put together a wellness kit to help you stay healthy when you travel:
  • Pure lavender essential oil can be used as aromatherapy to promote relaxation and sleep. Its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties also make it good for first aid (topical use only). 
  • Probiotics can boost immunity and reduce the risk of infection. Find a temperature-resistant probiotic for travel but keep it in the fridge whenever you can. 
  • Ginger can soothe digestive disturbances and prevent motion sickness. It also has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory activities in the body. 
  • Elderberry can help prevent upper respiratory infections like colds and flu, which are commonly contracted in crowded and confined areas like airplanes. A 2009 study even found it effective against the H1N1 virus and compared its anti-viral activity to pharmaceutical flu medicines like Tamiflu. 
  • Melatonin can help your body adjust to changes in time zones and sleep schedules, which minimizes jet lag and enhances immunity. Always take it in the evening and before 11:00 p.m.
  • A multi-vitamin-mineral supplement can help compensate for less nutritious meals away from home and make sure that your immune system is getting the nutrients it needs for infection prevention.


Cohen S et al. 2009. Sleep habits and susceptibility to the common cold. Archives of Internal Medicine 169(1):62-7.

Roschek B. Jr. et al. 2009. Elderberry flavonoids bind to and prevent H1N1 infection in vitro. Phytochemistry 70(10):1255-61.

Green Housekeeping;%20margin:0px%20%21important;Ellen Sandbeck is an expert on non-toxic cleaning and environmentally-friendly home maintenance and every home should have a copy of her book, Green Housekeeping.

Inside she takes you on a tour of your home, points out sources of possible pollution, suggests smart solutions, and explains timesaving techniques to keep every room in your home in good order.

Sandbeck covers chemical-free cleaning and basic home upkeep, from unclogging drains and removing soap scum to purchasing paint and cleaning up computer spills.

She explains how to remove water rings from wooden surfaces with just vinegar and olive oil, how to clean fine handmade rugs using only snow, and how to have a sparkling clean bathroom with only ten minutes of effort per week.

Sandbeck can sum up her strategy in a few simple sentences:

"Evaluate the situations; work with what you have; don't make extra work for yourself; and as much as possible, avoid the use of toxic chemicals."

I completely agree!