Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, has gotten a lot of attention lately and most people brush it off as the newest “trendy” supplement Vitamin D is a nutrient that our bodies produce in response to the sun. If you don’t get much sun exposure, don’t consume dairy or rely on a vegan diet, then you are likely vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D can be found naturally in some food sources like egg yolk, some fish, fish liver oils, shrimp, and some fortified grains and dairy products. However, depending on your system or various lifestyle factors, you may still have a deficiency, and it’s not something you are going to want to ignore. The reason Vitamin D has gotten so much attention is because there is some new research out that shows just how crucial this nutrient is to our health.
There are so many people that have vitamin D deficiency, and don’t supplement anything for it…and many of them are aware of the deficiency! Some newer research suggests that in women, prolonged Vitamin D deficiency can lead to breast cancer! Scary right?! How frustrating and upsetting would it be to know that you were just diagnosed with breast cancer and taking one little supplement daily could have prevented it or greatly reduced your chances of developing it?? If you have ever been told that you are deficient, and you’re not taking it…go get yourself some! Depending on the severity of your deficiency, your Doctor can prescribe a prescription strength Vitamin D, and your insurance will kick in and help cover it 😉
The symptoms for vitamin D deficiency are usually very subtle…enough to where the average person may not be alerted that there is even a problem. However, vitamin D deficiency can cause: bone pain, muscle weakness and tenderness, severe asthma in children, cancer, cognitive impairment, increased risk of death for those suffering from cardio vascular disease, and depression (and the reason most people suffer from “seasonal depression”). Some research also suggests that Vitamin D deficiency can cause or imitate fibromyalgia. Vitamin D can also be integral in treating and preventing many different issues, including type 1 or type 2 deficiency, hypertension, MS, and blood sugar metabolism.
For most people the cause of Vitamin D deficiency is lack of sun exposure or some type of gap in diet…however, if you have more melanin in your skin (more melanin=darker skin) then your body has a more difficult time producing vitamin D in response to sunlight. Other factors that can effect your ability to absorb vitamin D are: kidney function…in some people their kidneys lack the ability to convert vitamin D into it’s active form (this is a common problem in older age); digestive impairment…in some people that have issues with their bowels, it can effect the bodies ability to metabolize vitamin D (common conditions that this includes are Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, and Inflammatory Bowel Disease). One of the final causes of deficiency is caused by being overweight…vitamin D is extracted from the blood by fat cells. So people with a BMI of 30 or greater are at much higher risk of vitamin D deficiency.
If you KNOW you have a deficiency, simply getting a little extra sun (10 minutes of exposure for those that are fair skinned) or increasing your consumption of vitamin D rich foods, may not be enough. Besides, if you use sunscreen, it impairs your bodies ability to produce it…and we all know that there are risks to sun exposure as well. So, for many people their best option for raising their vitamin D levels is to supplement it. There are different forms out on the market, and they do make a difference in quality and absorbancy. Vitamin D-3 is the best form to take supplement with, because this is the form that our bodies produce in response to sun exposure…vitamin D-2, tends to not function as well in the body. Some oral supplements may just simply be labeled “Vitamin D”…however if you turn the bottle over and look at the actual nutrition label for the supplement it should give you the source of the supplement. If the source is labeled as Cholecalciferol this is Vitamin D-3, however if it is labeled as Ergocalciferol this is vitamin D-2.
Many of the patients we see in our office have a Vitamin D deficiency. So we carry our own vitamin D supplement 😉 If you know that your vitamin D is low, don’t ignore it. Take a supplement to raise it, and you should feel better.