Saturday, August 9, 2008

Vitamin D Deficiencies

I had a call from the nurse in my doctor's office this week. She told me that the doctor had prescribed Vitamin D supplements of 50,000 units to be taken once a week for twelve weeks. Apparently the blood test that they had taken a few weeks ago showed that I had a deficiency in the vitamin. At the end of that time, I have to have another test to see if the level is up to normal. If it is then I will just have to have a more moderate supplement daily.

I had no idea that I would have such a deficiency because I take Centrum that contains 100% MDR of D and also a calcium supplement that contains another 100% MDR of Vitamin D. That means I am getting at least 800 units of Vitamin D a day. But it should also be Vitamin D3 and not Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) which has been found to be less effective that Vit D3 (cholecalciferol). I notice that my Centrum vitamin only contains the Vitamin D2. My Kirkland brand Calcium + D has the Vitamin D3

It is very interesting to see that the lack of Vitamin D comes about mainly because of our poor diets (not eating dairy products that are fortified...milk, no cod liver oil or fatty fish 3 x week) and lack of sun exposure. We have been warned so much of the dangers of skin cancer from the sun, that most of us avoid it by either staying indoors or using heavy sunscreens.

The deficiency is tied to osteoporosis, fatigue, fibromyalgia, migraines, abdominal pain, obesity, muscle pain, auto immune disorders, cardiac problems, etc. Since it technically is not a vitamin but actually a hormone that the body produces naturally, it really is quite critical in our body's metabolism.

As most of you well know, it is produced through moderate sun exposure without the use of sun blockers, etc. The little bit of exposure a person needs will not cause skin cancer. We do not get enough Vitamin D, either, in most of our diets. If you are not a milk drinker, then most likely you are deficient. And they have found that the 400 units that use to be the MDR, is not longer. adequate. Although a child needs are much less, an adult needs more like 2000 units a day,which they say is not hard to come by if you are fair skinned and have sun exposure. Our bodies can usually produce enough Vitamin D through our exposure to the sun, and it is stored in all of the cells of the body. The exposure that people use to get in the summertime was adequate enough to last throughout the winter months.

People who live on the equator and who have sun all year round, have naturally darker pigmented skin. They absorb less of the sun's rays but because they were exposed all year round, nature seemed to have a perfect balance. However, if they now live in areas where there is less sunlight, they now have greater deficiencies that even those with lighter skin pigment.

I guess, even living in Hawaii, did not give me enough exposure. I spent most of the day indoors and when I was outside I wore a hat and had sun screen on what skin was exposed. And even now, I certainly do not drink even a half glass of milk a day, more likely 1/4 of a cup. We do take fish oil supplements for the omega 3 fatty acids, but that doesn't contain enough D to count.

As children, my mother used to give my brother and I daily doses of cod liver oil before the milk was fortified with Vitamin D. It wasn't terribly bad to take, as I recall, but I don't know how old we were when we stopped taking it. We also played outdoors all day long. The doctors who are investigating the deficiencies in the population here in the US say that we have gradually all migrated indoors and even some children today, do not get the recommended sun exposure because they don't play outside anymore.

And, more people have stopped drinking enough milk that has been fortified with Vitamin D. Besides that, to even get the former recommended MDR, a person has to drink one quart of milk a day. A six ounce serving of yogurt, that has been fortified, usually gives only 20% of the 200 units once required. If you get your calcium from eating cheese you should know that most cheeses are not fortified.

Anyway, here are a few of the URL's I looked at this evening. There are many, many more. If you have any of the above symptoms that are not attributed to other causes, you may want to have your doctor check you for Vitamin D deficiency. You should not try to self medicate yourself with a supplement in the extremely high dose as I am taking. The 50,000 unit capsule is by prescription.