Vitamin D deficiency is something that around 42% of Americans are afflicted with. There are not many natural sources of this vitamin. Some professionals believe that vitamin D should actually be considered a hormone and not a nutrient. The reason for this is because vitamin D has to be activated by the kidneys before your body can use it. The main way to naturally get vitamin D is from sunlight. When the sun hits your skin you start to make vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 then needs to go to the liver and be turned into 25-hydroxyvitamin D. This then goes to the kidney and gets activated into the functional form of 1,25-dihydroxy vitamin D.
Why We Need Vitamin D:
Vitamin D is responsible for regulating the amount of calcium and phosphorous in your body. There has been correlations between vitamin D deficiency and higher risk of auto immune diseases. Beyond calcium and bone health, it seems that vitamin D also helps improve your immunity as well.
The amount you need is based off your age:
- Infants need 400 IU daily
- Adults need 600 IU daily
- Elderly (over 70) need 800 IU daily
We don’t recommend taking more than 2,000 IU daily unless your blood levels of vitamin D have shown to be low.
How to test your Vitamin D levels:
The most accurate way to test your vitamin D levels is by a blood test. They will check your 25-hydroxy levels. Normal levels are 20-50 ng/ml. A level less than 12 ng/ml indicates a vitamin D deficiency.
Symptoms of deficiency:
Vitamin D deficiency seems to have a correlation with some autoimmune disease such as thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and diabetes.
Low Vitamin D levels have also been associated with increased risk of dementia and mood disorders like depression.
People can develop rickets if they do not have enough vitamin D. This is a bowing of the leg bones due to soft bones. Weakening of the bones can be due to a vitamin D deficiency as well.
What Causes Deficiency:
- Not getting enough sun exposure. You need about 30% of your skin exposed for about 10 minutes to get enough Vit D
- Malabsorption issues. These can be due to GI tract disorders like Crohn’s disease and celiac disease. Bariatric surgery can also effect absorption of vitamins and minerals
- Older age: as we age our body synthesizes vit D at lower rates and therefore cannot generate enough vitamin D to keep adequate levels in the body.
- Certain medications interact with vit D absorption:
- Some diabetes medication
- Some anti-seizure medications.
Natural Sources of Vit D:
- Egg yolk
- Oily fish
- Red meat
- Fortified foods: milk, cereal, yogurt, orange juice
Vitamin D Supplements:
You might be wondering what type of supplement you should be taking for a vitamin D deficiency. Here is some information on how to interpret the labels.
Vitamin D2: comes in the form of ergocalciferol and is derived from plant based sources.
Vitamin D3: Comes in the form of cholecalciferol and is derived from animal sources.
Both vitamin D2 and D3 still have to be processed in the liver and then the kidneys to be activated. Research shows that vitamin D3 may lead to more efficient 25-hydroxy vitamin D in the liver. Therefore, we recommend you get the D3 form in your supplement.
A good multivitamin on the market is made by SmartyPants company. They are a well rounded gummie brand
Vitamin D toxicity:
Vitamin D toxicity may occur with excessively high doses. Symptoms could include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, constipation, dehydration, fatigue, and confusion. Toxicity is rare and higher doses of vitamin D (50,000 IU) should be monitored with a health care professional.
We hope this has helped you understand vitamin D a bit more. If you are concerned about your vitamin D levels you can ask your PCP to get this checked via a blood draw. Make sure you are taking a daily multivitamin that contains vitamin D.