As you’re probably aware, Vitamin D has been a popular topic during the last few years. Most of what we need in our younger years can be achieved through sun exposure – even as little as 10 minutes of exposure is said to be enough to prevent deficiencies according to Mayo. What we’ve been learning recently is that when measuring the level of vitamin D in our patients, a great many are deficient.
Does this mean that we’re not getting enough sunlight? Well perhaps in Seattle that might be the case (especially if you wear lots of sunblock) because there are less sunny days here. It might also mean that we need to be taking in more vitamin D in our diet from it’s natural sources such as fish, eggs, fortified milk, and cod liver oil.
What happens when you don’t get enough vitamin D? Well if you read the media, you’ll find sources that suggest a link to vitamin D deficiency and the following:
B) High Blood Pressure
C) Multiple Sclerosis
D) Certain Cancers
F) Chronic Fatigue
E) Chronic Pain
F) Osteoporosis and even Rickets
G) Peripheral Vascular Disease
H) Rheumatoid Arthritis
J) Alzheimer’s Disease
K) Prostate Cancer
L) Weight Gain
M) Tooth Retention
N) Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
O) Muscle weakness
Many of these associations have been found through observational studies, and thus aren’t necessarily the best studies to determine whether a deficiency in vitamin D actually leads to these diseases. Studies are ongoing. We do have fairly substantial evidence even now that a deficiency of vitamin D can lead to poor calcium absorption and that can predispose to developing osteoporosis (low bone density). Without enough calcium in the bones, they become more fragile and trauma such as a fall can cause bone fractures more easily.
How do you know if your vitamin D level is too low? If you’re getting a healthy diet rich in vitamin D, and at least 10 minutes of sunshine every day, you’re probably not deficient. Risk factors are: Obesity, dark skin (blocks the UV light), the elderly (have reduced capacity to synthesize vitamin D in the skin when exposed to UVB radiation), breast-fed infants, patients with inflammatory bowl disease(Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative Colitis), cystic fibrosis and even certain medications including those used to prevent seizures.
The test is called 25-OH vitamin D and can be performed when ordered by your medical provider. If indicated, I routinely order this test on my patients to establish their vitamin D levels and help them increase the levels of vitamin D to the recommended range.
Can I get too much vitamin D? Yes, if you take too much you can get a syndrome called Hypervitaminsosis D. The symptoms include constipation, decreased appetite, dehydration, fatigue, irritability, muscle weakness and vomiting. I recommend talking with your medical provider about managing vitamin D levels.
This document is for informational purposes only, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual patient. If you have questions please contact your medical provider.
I hope that you have found this information useful. Wishing you the best of health,
Scott Rennie, DO