Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in very few foods, added to others, and available as a dietary supplement. It is also produced endogenously when ultraviolet rays from sunlight strike the skin and trigger vitamin D synthesis.
Your body can make its own vitamin D from sunlight. It’s amazing how quickly adequate levels of vitamin D can be restored by sunlight. Just 6 days of casual sunlight exposure without sunscreen can make up for 49 days of no sunlight exposure.
Vitamin D is important for good health and strong and healthy bones. It’s also an important factor in making sure your muscles, heart, lungs and brain work well and that your body can fight infection.
Some of the functions of the body that vitamin D helps with includes:
- Immune system – which helps you to fight infection
- Muscle function
- Cardiovascular function – for a healthy heart and circulation
- Respiratory system – for healthy lungs and airways
- Brain development
- Anti-cancer effects
- Maintain normal levels of Calcium and Phosphorus
What causes Vitamin D Deficiency?
- When your KIDNEYS cannot convert Vitamin D to its active form
- When your digestive tract cannot adequately absorb Vitamin D
- Less exposure to sunlight
- Inadequate consumption of the vitamin over time
Health Risks linked to vitamin D deficiency
- Heart Disease and Blood Pressure
- Cognitive impairment in older adults
- Severe asthma in children
- Osteoporosis and Rickets
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Dementia & Alzheimer’s
- Weak immune system
If your body doesn’t get enough vitamin D to keep it healthy, this is called vitamin D deficiency. Severe vitamin D deficiency can sometimes cause a condition called as, Rickets in children and Osteomalacia in adults.
Do you need Vitamin D Testing?
Today we know the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency is widespread, and for this reason testing is easily justifiable for all people. Everyone stands to benefit from knowing what their levels are and, if not optimal, supplementing their vitamin D3 intake. But we also recognize that for whatever reason, not everyone will choose to get tested.
Who are at Risk?
- Breastfed infants
- Older adults
- People with limited sun exposure
- People with dark skin
- People with inflammatory bowel disease and other conditions causing fat malabsorption
- People who are obese or who have undergone gastric bypass surgery
People who have or are at higher risk of the following health concerns should seriously consider getting their vitamin D levels tested.
- Family history or personal history of cancer
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Autoimmune conditions (such as lupus, ankylosing spondylitis, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis)
- PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)
- Diabetes mellitus (both types 1 and 2)
In addition, anyone who experiences symptoms of:
- Musculoskeletal pain including joint pain and low back pain
- Muscle weakness
- Poor balance
- Systemic inflammation
Tests for Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D tests generally assess the total volume of 25-Hydroxyvitamin D (25OHD), which is the form of Vitamin D circulating in blood.
Vitamin D tests may also provide information on the levels of Vitamin D2 and D3, which comprise total Vitamin D levels.
A level of 20 ng/ml to 50 ng/ml is considered adequate for healthy people. A level less than 12 ng/ml indicates vitamin D deficiency.
- If you tested low and want a higher level, you need to get more sun exposure or take a larger daily supplement.
- If you tested and are right where you want to be, continue your supplement and sun exposure routine. Keep in mind that your level in the summer is probably higher than in the winter, with more sun and UVB. So you may need to supplement more in the winter than in the summer to have the same vitamin D level.
- If you tested high and want a lower level, you need to take a smaller daily supplement.
- You do not want to have a level over 100 ng/ml and in fact anything over 150 ng/ml is considered toxic.