You may have heard, or read, more recently about the many conditions and diseases that can be associated with Vitamin D deficiency. In fact, it seems like you are at risk for just about every major illness, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, if you are deficient in Vitamin D. With all these findings, I would like you to know about the many symptoms of vitamin D deficiency and what you can do to lower your risks for complications.
Vitamin D – A Master Vitamin/Hormone is Missing
You wouldn’t think that Vitamin D deficiency in Americans could be possible here in our technologically advanced country. But growing statistics show that to be true. Vitamin D is one of your body’s master vitamins that actually act as a steroid-type hormone, capable of turning on and off the activity of various genes in almost all your body’s systems. Yet, Vitamin D is apparently sorely missing from our diets, which may result in a higher risk for serious illness.
In previous studies dating back to 2005, researcher Dr. Michael Holick, author of The UV Advantage, reported that 40% of Americans are Vitamin D deficient, 42% of African-American women are Vitamin D deficient, up to 60% of all hospital patients are Vitamin D deficient, up to 80% of nursing home patients are Vitamin D deficient. A more recent study out of Northwestern University, One Size Doesn’t Fit All: African American Men in Northern Regions Need More Vitamin D has shown that African-American men are 3.5 times more likely to be Vitamin D deficient. Dark skin as well as obesity blocks the UV rays needed to make Vitamin D.
In another paper by researcher Christine N.Arnold, Vitamin D Deficiency in the United States: How Common is it? , Utah State University, 2010, Vitamin D deficiency is stated to be more prevalent in the U.S. than previously estimated. Groups at highest risk include older people, obese people, adolescents, people with darker skins, and people with limited sun exposure. Her conclusions were that you need at least 1,000 IU of Vitamin D a day through either your food or a supplement, and longer exposure to bright sunlight.
Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
The truth is, most Americans don’t get anywhere near the recommended 1,000 IU of Vitamin D a day. In addition, they spend very little time in the sun, and when they do their skin is mostly covered with sunscreen. A simple blood test called a 25-hydroxy Vitamin D can determine if you have a Vitamin D inadequacy or deficiency. Vitamin D insufficiency can reveal itself in these symptoms:
- Bone pain
- Muscle weakness
- Depression – Vitamin D deficiency recently linked to cognitive impairment
- Weak immune system – frequent colds, infections
- Chronic skin breakouts – psoriasis, rashes
- Swollen, bleeding gums
What Are Your Risks?
Research has shown that Vitamin D deficiency can be found in people with serious diseases like heart conditions, types 1 and 2 diabetes, several types of cancer including breast and prostate, asthma, psoriasis, mood and depression, and more. In fact, a study out of Bayhealth Medical Center in Dover, Delaware, Treating Vitamin D Deficiency May Improve Depression, June 2012, recently reported that women with moderate to severe clinical depression symptoms improved after their Vitamin D deficiencies were treated.
In addition, in a recent study out of Commonwealth Medical College in Pennsylvania, Vitamin D Deficiency Common in Cancer Patients, 2011, it was reported that more than ¾ of people with severe, advanced cancers were deficient in Vitamin D. The researchers concluded that ‘vitamin D has a role in either the prevention or the prediction of outcome of cancer.’
Replacing Missing Vitamin D
The first thing I recommend is to get your Vitamin D levels checked with the 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood test to determine where your levels are. Levels lower than 30 nmol/L are deficient; 30-49 are inadequate, and 50-125 are sufficient. If you are in the inadequate to deficient ranges, you need to replace Vitamin D to sufficient levels. Here’s how:
- Eat Vitamin D rich foods. Try to eat oily fish 3 times a week. Or, take a cod liver oil supplement. Also, Vitamin D enriched milk and /or other foods are available.
- Vitamin D supplements. If your diet is chronically deficient in Vitamin D foods, get at least 1,000-2,000 IU Vitamin D (in the D3 form) a day.
- Sun exposure: I recommend my patients spend 15 minutes a day in high noon bright sun without sunscreen to help your body make about 10,000 units of Vitamin D.
It’s amazing all the mischief that low/deficient levels of one vitamin can do. That’s why it’s so important to get optimal amounts of Vitamin D to greatly decrease your risk of getting not only serious disease but even less severe, chronic conditions.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
Natural Health News
Vitamin D Status United States 2001-2006, http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db59.htm
How Common is Vitamin D Deficiency in the U.S., http://faq.testcountry.com/HOW_COMMON_IS_VITAMIN_D_DEFICIENCY_IN_US__ANY_STATISTICS_OR_SURVEYS_ABOUT_POPULARITY_OF_VITAMIN_D_DE/1677.htm
Vitamin D Deficiency in the United States: How Common Is It? http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1038&context=honors