The Pacific Northwest is a stunning place to live, but with short dark days and long nights, many of us suffer from Vitamin D deficiency and may not even know it.
Vitamin D deficiency is common with an estimated nearly 1 billion people worldwide and about 42% of US adults suffering low levels. Also referred to as the ‘Sunshine Vitamin,’ Vitamin D is produced in the body when skin is exposed to sunlight; it is also found in a variety of foods such as fish, egg yolks, some mushrooms, and fortified dairy and grain products. The vitamin is important for the development and maintenance of strong bones. Research continues to show the importance of Vitamin D in protecting against a wide variety of health issues.
Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency occurs for a variety of reasons, but primarily from limited exposure to sunlight or a lack of dietary consumption. Other, less common causes, are the kidneys being unable to properly convert Vitamin D to its active form or malabsorption of Vitamin D in the digestive tract. Malabsorbtion most commonly effects those with Chron’s Disease, Cystic Fibrosis, and Celiac Disease.
There are many risk factors for Vitamin D deficiency including: melanin content, age, weight, diet, and sunlight exposure.
Please note, the skin cancer reducing benefits of wearing sunscreen year-round when outdoors far outweigh the impact it has on absorbing Vitamin D when outside.
For many people, the symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency are subtle.
Signs and symptoms may include:
- Increased illness or infection.
- Bone pain or loss of bone mineral density.
- Slow healing wounds.
- Hair loss.
- Muscle pain and soreness.
Benefits of Vitamin D
Vitamin D plays a key role in the body’s ability to absorb calcium and promotes bone growth and health. Vitamin D deficiency may result in soft bones in children, also known as Rickets, and fragile and/or misshapen bones in adults, known as osteomalacia.
Research studies have shown individuals with higher levels of Vitamin D may have lower risk of disease, although it has not been proven that Vitamin D deficiency causes disease. The Vitamin D Council suggests that Vitamin D treatment may be found helpful in treating or preventing a variety of diseases and conditions including: autism, autoimmune disease, high blood pressure, flu, and osteoporosis.
Testing & Treatment for Deficiency
The most accurate way to measure your Vitamin D level is a blood test, called the 25-Hydroxy Vitamin D Blood Test. Your healthcare provider will take a small sample of your blood and run analyses to determine your level of Vitamin D. The normal range of Vitamin D is between 20 to 50 nanograms/milliliter (ng/mL); a level less than 12ng/mL indicates a Vitamin D deficiency.
Fortunately, once diagnosed with Vitamin D deficiency, it’s generally a simple fix to get levels back into the normal range. Your doctor may recommend one or a combination of the following: take a Vitamin D supplement, change diet, and increase your sun exposure,
If you’d like to learn more about Vitamin D deficiency, NWPC is here to help with resources, testing, and lifestyle recommendations. Please remember to check with your insurance provider to determine if testing your Vitamin D levels is covered.