Several years ago I was diagnosed with Vitamin D deficiency and treating this deficiency has made a huge difference! My blood levels were tested recently and I was well within the normal range which is great. However, a family member was recently diagnosed with Vitamin D deficiency as well, so I started investigating the causes and appropriate treatment in order to help them navigate the issue.
First, lets take a look at what Vitamin D is and the role it plays in the body. Vitamin D, although called a vitamin, is in fact a hormone made from the cholesterol in our bodies when exposed to sunlight. Every cell in our bodies has a receptor for this hormone. Vitamin D can be obtained from the diet but it is extremely hard to get what you need from diet alone. Furthermore, the two foods that are rich in Vitamin D, fatty fish and fortified dairy, are not foods I would recommend eating because the saturated fat and cholesterol that also accompanies these foods. So how do we get adequate Vitamin D? We insure exposure to the sun (approximately 15 minutes per day of exposure to the arms and face) or we supplement.
Vitamin D plays a several roles in supporting our health. The primary role is to promote the absorption of calcium and phosphorus in order to increase bone strength. In addition, Vitamin D decreases our risk of cancers like breast, prostate and colon cancer. It also decreases the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and multiple sclerosis. Finally, Vitamin D has been shown to improve mood, improve the immune system and improve lung function.
The are signs of vitamin D deficiency include:
- Bone pain
- Getting sick frequently
- Impaired wound healing
- Bone loss
- Hair Loss
- Muscle pain
Regardless of symptoms, the only true way to know whether or not you have a deficiency is to have a blood test performed by your doctor. Levels below 30 nanomoles/liter are considered deficient. Most healthcare professionals will recommend levels of 50 nanomoles/liter. However, there is evidence to suggest 100 nanomoles/liter is the optimum level as explained in this video from nutritionfacts.org. So what does that mean in terms of how much Viatamin D to take in order to reach these optimal levels? The recommendation is all over the board, but as Michael Greger states in his video from nutritionfacts.org, the optimal range is between 2,000 ad 4,000 IU daily with the average person taking around 2000 IU daily and the elderly and obese taking closer to 4,000 IU daily. If you are deficient and begin supplementation I would recommend a follow-up blood test to make sure you are supplementing adequately. Always consult your physician when making changes like this but consider checking your levels. Vitamin D deficiency is a lot more prevalent than you might think!