A vitamin D deficiency

Happy Monday everyone!

I am temporarily blogging here on my old domain (with the .wordpress.com), because I’m working on moving over to self-hosted. I am hoping to be done in the next couple of days, but we will see. To sum up my emotions regarding this transition, I go from frustrated to excited very quickly. I am trusting it will all be worth it! 

Today I thought I’d share a little bit about vitamin D, the micronutrient often called the “sunshine vitamin”.

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After hearing one of my professors go on for four semester about how everyone should have their vitamin D levels checked, I finally went to the student health center to have the test done, which was a blood draw that measured my 1,25(OH)₂D levels.

Well, what do you know? Along with 40% of the world’s population, I am deficient. As a healthy eater, I thought maybe my chances would be better, but it turns out I’m doing any better. For reference, sufficient levels are considered 40-80 ng/mL and mine was 19 ng/mL. My practitioner put me on a supplementation regimen to hopefully correct the deficiency (50,000 IUs once weekly for 12 weeks following 2,000 IUs daily).

So what’s the deal with vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is taken in through sun exposure, a few foods, and dietary supplements. Unlike other vitamins, vitamin D is difficult to get through the diet.

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For adults ages 19-70, 600 IUs (or 15 micrograms) are recommended daily, though some researchers believe that number is a lot higher. One cup of fortified milk provides 2.5 micrograms and an egg yolk provides 0.9 micrograms. You may be able to reach the goal if you are a fish lover- 3 ounces of canned pink salmon has about 11 micrograms and 3 ounces of canned sardines have about 4 micrograms. Nonetheless, chances are you will have difficulty eating enough of these items throughout the week to reach your goal. If you are vegan, it’s basically impossible to get enough through foods.

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But what about the sun? The sun has the potential to provide all your vitamin D requirements, as it has for the history of mankind. “It has been estimated that up to 15 minutes of daily sun exposure on the hands, arms, and face around 12 pm throughout the year at 25 degrees latitude (Miami, FL) and during the spring, summer, and fall at 42 degrees (Boston, MA) latitude may provide a light-skinned individual with 1,000 IU of vitamin D” (source).

The problem is that most of us don’t get enough sun. I know I don’t. I’m usually inside at work or in class when the sun is out, especially during the winter months. Additionally, for older adults and individuals with darker skin, it is more difficult to synthesize enough vitamin D through the sunlight. Application of sunscreen markedly reduces the amount of vitamin D synthesized as well. The further north you are the less likely the UVB light will be strong enough to provide the needed amount of vitamin D. For many people going outside for 15 minutes and then going back and applying sunscreen may seem too much like a hassle. Do you think you get enough sun?

What is vitamin D’s role in the body anyways?

-vitamin D plays a role bone mineralization through the regulation of calcium and phosphorus. Long-term vitamin D deficiency could lead to brittle or soft bones. The condition of soft bones in children is known as “rickets” and in adults “osteomalacia.”

-vitamin D regulates cell differentiation and growth. There have been some studies that have linked low vitamin D status/intake and/or low sun exposure to breast cancer and colorectal cancer.

-emerging research shows a link between vitamin D status and risk for autoimmune diseases.

(Vitamin D is currently a huge area of research. It’s been linked to more things than I’ve mentioned here.)

Deficiency is most usually asymptomatic. Some people experience muscle soreness or fatigue. (Here’s hoping I experience less aches and pains during running once I’m sufficient!) The effects of deficiency will likely not show up until later when symptoms of osteoporosis or osteomalacia begin to manifest.

With all that said, I am really glad I made the investment to have my levels checked, so I can hopefully prevent any serious bone damage from occurring. Even though I don’t take any nutritional supplements, it’s clear now that vitamin D should be the exception. The vitamin D deficiency epidemic isn’t well known, even though it effects over 40% of the population.

If you are able, I suggest getting your levels tested. It may not be an issue now, but long-term deficiency has great consequences.

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19 thoughts on “A vitamin D deficiency

  1. This is really interesting Kate. I take a vitamin D pill each morning and try to get enough sun. I actually have a bad sunburn right now so I imagine my levels are topped off by now hahaha. My favorite way to get the D is mushrooms! If you leave them in the sun they get even more vitamin D as well. How crazy is that?
    I hope your transition is going well. What are you having trouble with?

  2. Really interesting! Do you now take a supplement? I bet I am…I’m always stuck inside during the work week!!

  3. This is so interesting. Love learning more about nutrition and what we need! I am thinking about starting to take vitamins or a multi, can’t hurt right? Have a great Monday! Best of luck with the transition to self-hosting too

  4. I am very low in vitamin D. My doctor had me start taking 2000mg a day. Problem is I’m so forgetful and don’t always take them (like this morning – so thank you for this reminder!). I have to constantly remind myself it is not just for mood and normal health but it is so so so crucial to my bones. I worry about my bone health later in life. Thanks miss masters graduate 🙂

    1. I’m bad about remembering supplements too. If you were deficient the doctor maybe should have given you a more therapeutic dosage (though I am not a doctor obviously).
      Bones are often forgotten but so important! I’m glad I could be a helpful reminder!

  5. Uh oh… I think I’m definitely a candidate for deficiency. I am probably one of the palest people I know, as I tend to avoid the sun if I can. The Aussie sun = sunburn.
    I was diagnosed with osteoporosis back in 2013, but since then have reduced the condition to osteopenia. I wonder if that means I had adequate levels… anyway, it might be a good idea to get them checked up! Thank you!

    1. Taking a supplement is likely worth it.
      That is great news that you have improved your bone health.
      I’m pale too and tend to burn if out for too long! I think I’m going to try to put on sun screen on after being out for 15 minutes!

  6. Oh man its official, I think I might start to steal some of my mom’s vitamin D pills haha. For some reason I always thought I was fine but my mind kind of knew I wasnt eating a sufficient amount and we all know Canada doesn’t offer vitamin D year round!
    Thanks for reminding me about this!

  7. How interesting. I seldom think about vitamin D, but the truth is, I don’t get as much sunlight as I should. Since I’m already have low-bone density because of history of eating disorder, I should really be more careful. Thanks for the informative post!

  8. This is a great post! Thank you for sharing. I try to get as much healthy vitamin D as I can each day. When I feel like I am lacking, I try to eat foods dense with vitamin D or take a supplement if I really need to!

  9. Oh my. Thanks for the reminder to start taking my supplement again and also the detailed explanation! I didn’t know nearly as specific facts before so learned quite a bit. I’m also surprised by just how common the deficiency is. I assumed I was a candidate due to being one of the most pale people around as well as the ED but 40 % of the world’s population?!

  10. Wow I never knew that so many people are vitamin D deficient! I do have to say that I love the sun, but my fair Irish skin isn’t as much of a fan. I do spend a considerable amount of time walking when I’m in school, but when I’m at home it’s a little different. I do know that the sun makes such a difference to my mood!

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