Learn to Recognize the Symptoms of a Vitamin D Deficiency

When I was a kid the only thing I knew about Vitamin D was that my milk was fortified with it. That was back in a time when kids played outside for hours in the sunshine. Although our parents may not have realized it, sunshine was exactly what we needed to get enough Vitamin D.

That’s because our bodies produce Vitamin D after exposure to sunlight, more specifically a specific wavelength of light, UVB. Rather than being a true vitamin, Vitamin D is actually a hormone produced by the body. And you’ve got to get out in the sun to produce enough.

Although that sounds simple, it might be more challenging than it appears. The way our planet rotates on a tilted axis, there are times when we are closer to the sun and times when we are farther away. For people who live in the Northern States, it will be difficult to get enough vitamin during wintertime as there are fewer UVB rays. In fact, at many latitudes, only the UVA wavelength is present during winter.

Is a vitamin d deficiency leaving you at risk for sleep apnea, cancer or diabetes?

Vitamin D, which works hand in hand with calcium and is vital for keeping the bones and muscles strong and healthy. It’s foremost role is to assist in calcium and phosphorus absorption in the bones, and to assist in cellular function. Vitamin D also helps prevent certain diseases. These can include diabetes (type 1 and 2), multiple sclerosis, and certain forms of cancer. This explains why Vitamin D is so essential to the proper function of the human body.

Long work hours, and concern over sun exposure and skin cancer has led to a nationwide Vitamin D deficiency. Although this condition affects millions of people, most are completely unaware of the problem. Even children are vulnerable, as now they spend more time indoors and play outside less.

What are the symptoms of a vitamin d deficiency?

Vitamin D deficiency symptoms may not be very obvious in the early stages. Muscle weakness and bone pain may indicate low vitamin D levels. A deficiency may cause sleep problems such as insomnia, light sleep, sleep apnea, weight gain and more. It may also contribute to the development of diabetes and kidney stones, along with irritable bowel. As you can see, the symptom are diverse and could be attributed mistakenly to a number of different health conditions.

Who is most at risk of a vitamin d deficiency?

People with dark skin require additional sun exposure because UV ray penetration is reduced with darker skin. Generally, elderly people are at a higher risk of deficiency, as are people with conditions such as celiac and inflammatory bowel disease, obese people, and babies of vitamin D deficient mothers (particularly those babies who are breastfed).

However anyone can find themselves with low vitamin D levels. A simple blood test is all it takes to reveal if your levels are in the healthy range. Because vitamin D deficiency is so common, it is a test we routinely recommend to all our nutrition patients. It is automatically included in all our comprehensive nutrition programs. In spite of the many blood tests we review, rarely do we find patients whose levels are in the healthy range. To the contrary, many of our patient’s blood levels of vitamin D are frighteningly low.

How much vitamin d do you need each day?

The recommended amount of vitamin D varies depending upon the source you are consulting, and it is only an estimate, as each person may have different requirements. However, The Institute of Medicine recommends that people between 19 and 70 year of age, have a daily vitamin D intake of 600 IU, while those over 70 should aim for 800 IU per day. We believe those numbers are low. In our clinical experience we find that it often takes 10,000 IU taken each day for a month or two before patients reach a healthy blood level range. At that point we may decrease the daily dosage to a maintenance dose of 5000 IU. An inexpensive blood test can determine the right maintenance dosage or you.

What is the best natural source of vitamin d?

The best natural Vitamin D source comes from direct sunlight (not filtered through a window or anything else that would block the UVB rays). It’s estimated that a person needs ten to twenty minutes of sun exposure each day (without sunscreen) dressed in shorts and a tank top to produce an adequate amount of vitamin D. For most of us, that’s not likely to happen.

Vitamin d rich foods

Even though milk is supplemented with Vitamin D, you can’t rely on milk alone to insure an adequate supply of the vitamin. Since milk only has 100 IU of the essential vitamin, it would mean drinking 50 glasses of milk each day.

Other foods that contain Vitamin D include eggs, certain fish, beef liver and kidneys. Additionally some processed foods are fortified with it, such as soy milk, breakfast cereals, and orange juice. Since foods contain so little of the vitamin it’s not possible to obtain our entire vitamin D requirement from food alone.

Choosing the right vitamin d supplement

If you know, or suspect that you have a deficiency, a high quality supplement can help bring your levels into the healthy range. There’s one caveat. The quality of the supplement you choose may make a difference in it’s effectiveness. On numerous occasions our patients’ primary care doctors have recommended supplementation with over the counter products. Often these patients have been diligent in taking their supplements only to find that following a lab work recheck, they have little to no improvement in their blood levels of vitamin D.

That is why we stock professional grade vitamins (available only to health care practitioners) from highly respected manufacturers.

Action plan

You’ve read that vitamin D deficiency poses a serious risk to your health. So what’s the next step? If you’d like to know if you have a vitamin deficiency, our office offers a easy way to find out. Sign up for Dr. Mixon’s Vitamin D screening and you can have a simple blood test at almost any LabCorp or LabQuest in the United States*. Within a week, we’ll call you with  the results. Based upon your blood work Dr. Mixon will recommend an appropriate dose of our professional grade Vitamin D.

Thankfully, it can be very easy to overcome a Vitamin D deficiency once you know if you’re at risk. Just one small capsule a day will ensure your body has the help it needs to keep your bones and muscles strong and healthy, fight cancer and diabetes and help you get a more restful night of sleep.

*We are not able to offer this service in New York, New Jersey, or Rhode Island.