The Importance of Vitamin D

Vitamin D is very important because it helps your body metabolize calcium and phosphorous (muscle, bone, and dental health), thought to support your immune system; prevent diabetes and multiple sclerosis, and functions of the heart. When there is not enough vitamin D you have Vitamin D Deficiency.

You can get vitamin D from milk, and other dairy foods, a Vitamin D supplement, and being in the sun.   When you have a severe deficiency of Vitamin D your bones can become soft.  In adults this is called osteomalacia, and in children rickets.  Research is showing vitamin D supplements can prevent multiple sclerosis (MS) or keep symptoms of it from worsening. They have found the farther away a person lives from the equator the greater the chance they will have MS.

Deficiency can be caused by a poor intake of foods having vitamin D, not enough sun exposure, digestive disorders that cause poor absorption of vitamin D, such as Crohn disease, pancreatitis, and cystic fibrosis. Deficiencies can also be caused by being overweight, having stomach or small intestine surgery, and having kidney or liver disease. Breast fed babies are also at risk for deficiency.

Those at greatest risk are the elderly, those who do not expose themselves to the sun, those with broken bones, those with osteoporosis, those who have a disease of condition that prevents proper absorption of vitamin D, dark skinned people, those on steroid and seizure medications, and those who are overweight.

Symptoms include bone, and muscle pain. Frequency of falls, bone fractures, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and constipation. Deficiency can be diagnosed by a blood test.  Test results differ in males and female.  The optimal range for Women is 18-78 pg/ml, and Males 18-64 pg/ml per the 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D test.  For the 25-hydroxy D test 20-30ng/ml indicates insufficiency, while less than 20 ng/ml is deficiency.  Over 30ng/ml is considered optimal for this test.  High levels of Vitamin D can be seen in those over taking supplements, hyperparathyroidism, high calcium levels, kidney stones, sarcoidosis and kidney disease.

Treatment includes improving diet with foods that contain vitamin D (fortified dairy, cereal, juice, fish, and eggs), Infant formula, and dietary supplements of vitamin D and calcium. Exposure to sunlight is important, but use caution to prevent sunburn or if you are at risk for skin cancers. Using a tanning bed is not recommended. If found to be deficient the treatment for an adult is typically vitamin D 50,000 IU three times a week for three months and then a daily over the counter daily use of up to 4,000 IU once daily. For healthy individuals that have normal vitamin D levels, daily International Units or IU’s recommended are as follows:

Infants: 400 IU once daily

Children (>1 year old): 600 IU once daily

Adults: 600 IU once daily

Elderly: 800 IU once daily

Pregnant and breast feeding: 600 IU once daily

Each of these is to be taken with your largest meal of the day for the best chance of absorption.

Talk to your primary care physician to get tested.

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