Checks and Balances: Vitamin D, hormonal health and copper

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By Sara Russell, Ph.D., NTP, CGP
Founder, Feed Your Fertile Body!™ Program

Vitamin D is so ubiquitous in today’s healthcare that it has almost become the medical equivalent to Halloween candy. Yes, low levels of the vitamin are correlated with an increased incidence of certain illnesses, but is the vitamin D depletion a cause of illness, or yet another consequence of imbalances in the body? Katy Haldiman, the Paleo Nurse, puts it this way: “the evidence is building to suggest that low vitamin D levels are a consequence or a biomarker of poor health, and not necessarily the root cause of disease.” You can read Katy’s full article here.

Nutritional checks and balances

To understand why vitamin D alone can’t solve all problems, you need to understand its interactions with other nutrients. There is in fact a an ongoing and complex balancing act always playing out in the human body. Vitamin D supplementation lowers vitamin A, magnesium and potassium and increases calcium and copper in the body. In turn, increased copper means decreased zinc, and when copper is too high in relation to zinc, estrogen begins to be too high in relation to progesterone, potentially wreaking havoc with fertility, pregnancy and female hormonal balance as a whole. On a physical level, these hormonal imbalances may manifest as breast tenderness, PMS, menstrual pain and cramping, excessive bleeding and more. Emotionally, these physical symptoms may be accompanied by anxiety, depression, tearfulness, mood swings and even phobias and obsessive thoughts and behaviors. These are consequences of the vicious cycle of estrogen dominance and copper dysregulation which perpetuate each other.

A lot of women who have PCOS suffer from a combination of excess copper and estrogen, and it’s common for these women to be deficient in magnesium, zinc, vitamin A and/or potassium. Vitamin D can hardly be accused of causing PCOS, of course, but this condition and these nutritional imbalances rarely correct themselves if the client takes supplemental D.

A deficiency of vitamin A relative to D can cause immune dysfunction (particularly increased risk of viral infections), night blindness and keratosis pilaris, that is, a bumpy rash on the underside of the upper arms. Unfortunately, excess vitamin D can also increase the retention of lead, especially in children. So indiscriminate vitamin D supplementation can cause or aggravate certain imbalances in the body.

The excess soft-tissue calcium that accumulates as a result of inappropriate vitamin D Mom and baby in the sunshinesupplementation may cause kidney stones, cataracts, gallstones and bone spurs. On an emotional level, excess tissue calcium can cause or aggravate addictions to sugar, starches, alcohol and caffeine and is often associated with a great degree of shame and negative self-judgment.

There is a time and a place for targeted vitamin supplementation, and there are factors that are not covered in this post. But it isn’t for everyone at all times, and not everyone who tests low on a serum vitamin D test will benefit from supplementation. Please consult with me or another knowledgeable provider to assess whether supplementation is right for you.

Getting out in the fresh air and sunshine is a good habit that will expose you to physiological levels of vitamin D, and your body will definitely know when you’ve gotten enough.

“Should I take Vitamin D?”

The best tool for assessing your need for vitamin D is a hair tissue mineral analysis (HTMA). This non-invasive and highly affordable test can help assess your individual nutritional needs as well as the potential for rebalancing through an individualized supplement program. Because of Vitamin D’s impact on the transport of calcium, magnesium, potassium and copper, I recommend a hair test to anyone who is taking or considering taking it. I have interpreted hundreds of HTMAs and find them very useful in nutritional assessment and fine-tuning.

If you need guidance to assess whether supplementation is right for you, or you want to re-assess your current supplement plan, email me at to set up an appointment.

Resources for further learning


Rheaume-Bleue, K. Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox.

Thompson and Barnes. The Calcium Lie II.

Cutler, AH, Hair Test Interpretation: Finding Hidden Toxicities. Sammamish, WA, 2004.

Malter, R. The Strands of Health: A Guide to Understanding Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis. Cottonwood, AZ: Educational and Health Resources of Arizona, Inc., 2002.