For this section, I am going to focus on fat soluble vitamins specifically, which means vitamin A, D, E, and K. Fat soluble vitamins can be stored for later use unlike water soluble vitamins and tend to be the most deficient in the American diet for various reasons. Each one of the fat soluble vitamins has potent effect on the immune system and therefore, deficiency in any of them, can put us on the path to immune system disorders (if we aren’t already there). Fat soluble vitamins are found widely in animal products, so this tends to be a sticking point in the world of plant power. Don’t worry though, even if you are a vegetarian, you can still get these vitamins without having to eat meat. If you are a vegan, however, this may a trickier component to address.
Vitamin A. Vitamin A is important in the scope of autoimmunity because it is important for maintaining mucosal barriers. You know just how imperative this is for the avoidance of leaky gut which is the precursor to every autoimmune disease if you read my previous articles. Vitamin A also plays a major role in inflammation due to its connection with neutrophils, macrophages, and natural killer cells. If someone has depressed immune system due to Vitamin A deficiency, they are at great risk for repeated infections. One can always turn to supplements, but I would rather have someone get this nutrient through food. I will never quit saying “food is medicine.” You can find it in grassfed butter, liver, and pastured egg yolks. If the animals producing these products are not eating their appropriate diet, however, these are not present in nearly the same quantities. This is the reason I hit home the idea of food quality being worth every penny.
Vitamin D. Vitamin D is my favorite to talk about because most patients come to me with standard blood work including vitamin D. This is a testament to the agreement among most all health professionals how important it is! We have the most research on Vitamin D; therefore, we know it plays key roles in the expression of over 200 genes and the proteins associated with those genes. We need it for mineral absorption and bone health. Vitamin D is essential for healing via its pathways that help cell growth. AND, it is important in immune system regulation. Vitamin D is so closely linked to autoimmune diseases that it has been suggested the deficiency may be the CAUSE (via environmental trigger) of lupus, diabetes type 1, MS, rheumatoid, psoriasis, and IBD. We see geographic implication too when we consider RA. We know for a fact that stats show higher rates of RA the further away from the equator. Why would this matter? Because most Americans are relying on sunlight as their source for Vitamin D production. It is synthesized from cholesterol found in the cell membranes of skin cells when we absorb UVB rays from the sun. Someone reading this may be thinking “Great! I’ll go get some Vitamin D supplements today!” I wish it were that easy. Vitamin D works alongside other fat soluble vitamins in addition to plant nutrients and hormones. Just taking a Vitamin D supplement doesn’t address the increased need for the other nutrients. This gets crazy and complex in the world of supplementation. You’d take 1,000 supplements and still not touch all the things you get from real food. Additionally, if you didn’t address the dietary aspects like wheat, then you are ingesting foods that actually reduce Vitamin D in the body! Lifestyle matters. There is no shortcut to going outside in the sun, ingesting healthy fat sources, and avoiding toxins and inhibitors. Let me repeat: there is NO DRUG OR SURGERY that can make up for a lifestyle issue. Period. *Vitamin D levels for someone with an autoimmune disease need to much higher than the general population; therefore, being within normal range is not adequate!
I’m going to skip Vitamin E and say a quick word on Vitamin K because this one tends to be gaining clout in the health industry. Vitamin K is also essential for bone and tooth health and studies are being done on its link to osteoporosis for this reason. It also plays a role in protecting against oxidative damage and regualtes the immune system. Unlike other fat soluble vitamins, you can get this from fermented foods in addition to pastured animal products! Bacteria produce this when they are doing their job and therefore, your bacteria in your gut can also make Vitamin K in your small intestines by converting K1 that they find in your leafy greens! Let’s hope you haven’t been taking antibiotics regularly, or you may be at a deficit here, too. Your bacteria levels are so important, and anything working against them is also helping the disease pathways catapult.
So, let’s just think about this full circle for a moment. You were born with genes that give you a predisposition for some of this. However, you don’t have it expressed necessarily unless you create the right environment. You create that environment by taking antibiotics, heartburn meds, staying away from the sun (or blocking it), lacking grassfed animal products in your diet, eating things like wheat (possibly every meal!), and we haven’t even talked about the connection of stress! or exercise! or sleep! or chemical exposure! You can now see why we have taken a massive wrong turn in our society when it comes to our food supply providing us nutrients, our lifestyles prioritizing stressful and depleting behaviors, and then our tools for correction are not addressing the underlying causes. That is why we are not getting better. That is why people get sick and stay sick. That is why, despite the fact that I am ONE PERSON, I am on a mission. Even if you read this and never do anything about it, I have done my job. I am not here to make a decision for you. But if you choose the same decision given all the information, then at least it’s informed decision making. That’s more important to me than anything.