Hypovitaminosis D, or vitamin D deficiency, is actually more common than you would imagine. Vitamin D is not a typical vitamin. It is actually a steroid hormone that your body is designed to produce in response to sun exposure, not get from your diet. So you can imagine why many are deficient, since excess sun exposure and skin cancer are huge health concerns.
The CDC reported data from 2001-2006 showed that a quarter of their 5,000 American person sample had inadequate Vitamin D levels and 8% were considered dangerously deficient. Unfortunately, experts are still arguing about what levels of Vitamin D are actually optimal for health.
The best way to find out if you are actually lacking enough Vitamin D is to get a blood test that checks your levels. A functional medicine healthcare practitioner will usually look at these levels, since they correlate with many other health issues, including leaky gut syndrome.
You may have low vitamin D levels if…
- You feel depressed or sad. Serotonin, your brain’s feel good hormone, rises with increased sun exposure and falls with its decrease. Those with low vitamin D levels have a higher predisposition to being depressed. I personally experienced this while living in a Eastern European winter with consistent grey skies and wanting to be indoors due to the cold. I started feeling sad and crying a lot, until it hit me… oh I’m not getting any Vitamin D! Purchased some at the local pharmacy and boom, sadness gone.
- Your bones ache. Vitamin D plays an important role in building your bone matrix. Bone aching, and more commonly in combination with fatigue, are classic signs of a deficiency. My partner in crime has experienced this symptom. While we were living in London in the wintertime, his big toe started aching. My chiropractic self kicked in, but nothing turned out to be wrong with his toe, per say. Until he realized, oh no Vitamin D. Started taking it and boom no more toe ache.
- You have gut troubles. Those with problems absorbing fat via the gut (Crohn’s disease, Celiac, inflammatory bowel conditions, wheat sensitivities, leaky gut syndrome, etc) will have trouble absorbing Vitamin D, a fat soluble vitamin, from the diet. I make sure I take Vitamin D daily, except if I get beach time, to help maintain my levels due to poor gut function.
- You have a sweaty head. This is a classic, early symptom of low Vitamin D levels. I’ve never personally experienced this one, but it is quite common.
- You have darker skin. Skin pigment acts as a natural sunscreen. Those with darker skin need MORE sun exposure to produce the same amount of Vitamin D as those with lighter skin.
- You are overweight. Since Vitamin D is fat soluble, those with higher fat levels need more Vitamin D.
Health Concerns: Low Vitamin D levels are ASSOCIATED with the following conditions…
- Cognitive impairment in adults.
- Severe asthma in children.
- Increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
If you don’t spend much time in the sun or always are careful to cover your skin (sunscreen inhibits vitamin D production), you should speak to your functional medicine practitioner about taking a vitamin D supplement, particularly if you have risk factors for vitamin D deficiency.
A report from the Institutes of Medicine, has changed the upper safe limits for Vitamin D consumption. 4,000 IU daily are considered safe for adults, although many practitioners will suggest higher dosages depending on your individual situation.
What type of Vitamin D should I be taking?
It is important to note, that if you decide to supplement with Vitamin D… you want to purchase VITAMIN D3! D3 is the bioactive form of Vitamin D and the one your body is able to use. Do not purchase Vitamin D2 (which is commonly used as an additive in Vitamin D fortified foods). Check the label. D3 baby!
What Vitamin D should I get?
If you have gut issues, it is important to know that your supplement should also contain Vitamin K. Vitamin K production is impaired in those with intestinal issues, since it is synthesized in your intestines. Vitamin K is an important co-factor involved with blood clotting. Vitamin D consumption without Vitamin K, in those with gut issues, can result in long-term body calcification. Taking them both together is a common solution. I recommend this combination to my patients. If there are no concerns of gut issues, a speciality liquid solution is recommended.
So get out there in the sun and make some D! And get stocked up on supplementation for those times when you can’t get in the sun!