Vitamin D….”The Sunshine Vitamin”


Did you know that Vitamin D deficiency is a global health problem? With all the medical advances of the century, Vitamin D deficiency is still an epidemic. Over a billion people worldwide are vitamin D deficient or insufficient. Shocking isn't it?

Vitamin D is produced by the skin when exposed to ultraviolet B radiation or obtained from dietary sources, including supplements. Getting outside and enjoying the sunshine every day is a good way to help the body produce much needed Vitamin D. However, due to fear of developing skin cancer and other damage to the skin, so many of us avoid the sun. One should really be spending 15-20 minutes each day in the sun with 40% of the skin surface exposed. This is likely unattainable for most people especially
during the colder winter months.

Who is at risk?
• People who work indoors
• Those who wear extensive clothing
• People who regularly use sunblock
• People who are dark skinned
• People who are overweight or obese
• The older population or those who consciously
avoid the sun

Vitamin D3 deficiency can lead or contribute to the following:
• obesity
• diabetes
• hypertension
• depression
• fibromyalgia
• chronic fatigue syndrome
• osteoporosis
• neuro-degenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease

Vitamin D deficiency may even contribute to the development of cancers, especially breast, prostate, and colon cancers. Vitamin D3 is believed to play a role in controlling the immune system (sick anyone), improving mood (anxiety and depression), protecting the brain against toxic chemicals, and potentially reducing pain. Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency can be subtle. You may experience some tiredness or some general achiness. We often dismiss the symptoms because so many things may cause them. Here are some signs that you may have a Vitamin D deficiency:

• Muscle Weakness or generalized body fatigue
• Bone pain (Vitamin D deficiency interferes with replacement of old bone tissue and can lead to osteoporosis)
• Constant Respiratory Illness (more common in winter because we aren’t out in the sun)
• Depression (Vitamin D affects serotonin levels and your mood)

Many patients and physicians think that adequate Vitamin D intake can be obtained via diet alone. This assumption is wrong. With the exception of fatty fish, the Vitamin D content of most foods, including fortified dairy products, is relatively low to nonexistent. I recommend reading your food labels to gain further insight on this. (food labels are a whole other issue) If you suspect you have a Vitamin D deficiency you should see your healthcare provider for an exam and simple blood test. While taking an over-the-counter supplement can potentially help, it is often not sufficient if you have a true vitamin deficiency. You may need a prescription to get the amount you need to adequately correct the deficiency.

1. Calvo MS, Whiting SJ, Barton CN. Vitamin D intake, A global perspective of current status. J Nutr. 2007;135:310–7. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
2. Iqbal R, Khan A. Possible causes of Vitamin D deficiency. J Pak Med Asso. 2010;60(1):1–2. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

East Memphis Direct Primary Care offers screening of Vitamin D and many vitamin deficiencies as part of your membership.

Marie S. Ford, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC

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