I remember in high school my doctor told me I was low on Vitamin D and to try to go out in the sunlight more. It wasn't suggested that I start taking a Vitamin D supplement until about a year ago when I complained of my struggle with my chronic fatigue to my adult GI doctor. He decided to draw lab testing various elements other than just my Iron and B12. This time he checked my Folate, Vitamins K and D to be on the safe side. Following the results, I was directed to start taking Folate and Vitamin D to bring them back into range and help combat my chronic fatigue. I was started on a high dose of 50,000 IU a week of Vitamin D for a couple of months with my level to be rechecked. With improvement to my Vitamin D level, I was able to change to 1,000 IU daily to maintain my level improvement and I was able to find this amount over the counter at a local grocery store in the pharmacy section.
It seems as though it is a lot easier to be deficient on Vitamin D than one may realize. We process Vitamin D through sunlight, diet, and supplements but we often are not in the sun enough to maintain adequate Vitamin D due to a variety of reasons such as season, cloud cover, air pollution, skin color, and location to equator and there are a limited number of foods with Vitamin D. There is also the risk of skin cancer with prolonged sun exposure to consider. So it may be likely that a supplement needs to be added to one's daily regiment in order to maintain an appropriate Vitamin D level.
Vitamin D acts as a hormone that functions in the intestine, kidneys, and bone to help stimulate transport of calcium and phosphorus to reduce the release of the parathyroid hormone that reabsorbs bone tissue. Both functions help us to build and maintain strong and healthy bones. Calcium and Phosphorus are both minerals that serve important functions and can be dangerous at too high or too low of levels. Calcium also needs Vitamin D for proper absorption. Vitamin D also helps maintain our muscle function and immune system to fight off illness and infection. Some studies suggest Vitamin D may also help to prevent cancer as well as other diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, dementia, and multiple sclerosis. Vitamin D is essential to help protect bones from becoming too thin, brittle, or misshapen as children are at risk of rickets and adults are at risk of osteomalacia and adequate Vitamin D can help prevent osteoporosis in adults as well.
Infants who are only breastfed are at risk of Vitamin D deficiency as breast milk contains a small amount of Vitamin D. Therefore, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfed infants be given a liquid multivitamin or 200 IU daily for their first two months of life and 400 IU afterwards until they are drinking formula or milk that are fortified.
The highest diet source for Vitamin D is cod liver oil followed by sources such as Swordfish, Salmon, Tuna, Fortified Orange Juice and Milk. Other sources at smaller amounts include Fortified Yogurt and Margarine, Sardines, Beef Liver, Egg Yolk, Fortified Cereals, and Swiss Cheese. Vitamin D is fat soluble therefore opting for fat free or low fat with Vitamin D options will result in poor absorption.
Your doctor can easily check your Vitamin D level with a simple blood test and recommend if you need higher or lower amounts of Vitamin D. The Institute of Medicine recommends for the average adult under the age of 70 to intake 600 IU a day and 800 IU a day if over 70. Some professionals suggest these recommendations remain too low for what is actually needed.
The body may have difficulty absorbing or processing Vitamin D due to issues such as:
- Kidney or Liver Diseases
- Cystic Fibrosis
- GI diseases/conditions
- Gastric Bypass Surgery
- Cholesterol Lowing Drugs
- Seizure Control Drugs
- Frequent illness or infections due to lowered immunity, particularly respiratory tract infections
- Bone and Back Pain
- Impaired Wound Healing
- Bone Loss
- Hair Loss
- Muscle Pain
High Vitamin D can cause:
- Nausea, Vomiting, Constipation, Poor Appetite
- Increased Thirst and Urination
- Weight Loss
- Heart Rhythm Problems
- Kidney Damage
- Pancreatic Cancer
- Ataxia - a condition that can cause word slurring, stumbling
Even if you are not exhibiting signs of Vitamin D deficiency it can be helpful to request a Vitamin D level check just to be on the safe side.