Susan B. Sloane, BS, RPh, CDE, has been a registered pharmacist for more than 20 years and a Certified Diabetes Educator for more than 15 years. Her two sons were diagnosed with diabetes, and since then, she has been dedicated to promoting wellness and optimal outcomes as a patient advocate, information expert, educator, and corporate partner.
It is estimated that approximately one billion people worldwide have a vitamin D deficiency. I am one of them.
This is something I was clearly unaware of when I went for my annual physical last year and received a call from my doctor saying my vitamin D level was dangerously low. He wrote me a prescription for a strong dose of vitamin D to be taken weekly for two months. Then, a repeat blood test would be taken. I have since remained on 50,000 units of vitamin D once a month, with blood tests every six months.
Honestly, I was unaware of how bad I felt until I began taking vitamin D and started to feel good. I had more energy and better mental acuity, and just felt happier overall.
Now, you should not read this and just grab some vitamin D; too much of this vitamin can be toxic. Always consult your healthcare team.
What is all the commotion about vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat- soluble vitamin, which means it stores what the body doesn’t use. This also means that too much vitamin D, as previously stated, can be a bad thing. You receive vitamin from the sun—hence the nickname "the sunshine vitamin"—but also from foods like salmon, some dairy products like milk and cheese, some cereals, and egg yolks. You can also find vitamin D at any grocery store as a supplement.
Preliminary studies have shown that deficiencies of this vitamin can cause varied symptoms, ranging from lethargy to depression. This is why blood tests are essential for those on high doses of vitamin D, like myself.
Why is vitamin D important?
Vitamin D is important for bone development and the proper functioning of the muscles, intestines, pancreas, and brain. Emerging evidence also supports the possible role of vitamin D in disease prevention, and some studies have suggested vitamin D may lower the risk of diabetes.
The mechanism of disease prevention seems to be related to vitamin D’s ability to decrease cell proliferation, stopping the growth of new blood vessels (important in cancer prevention), and its anti-inflammatory effects.
Additionally, many people with diabetes struggle with weight loss, and obesity is a risk factor for heart disease, depression, stroke, and diabetes, just to name a few. Results of a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition have found vitamin D to be associated with successful weight loss.
At the annual meeting of The Heart Failure Society of America, a study was presented on vitamin D. It showed patients with inadequate levels of vitamin D are significantly more likely to die of heart failure.
Could you be deficient?
If you work in an office and don't get out and see the sun for 15 minutes or more a day, and if your diet doesn't include foods fortified with vitamin D, you could be deficient. If you can, take a short stroll outside during lunch to catch a few rays, and look at how you can tweak your diet to include more foods with vitamin D.
In general, a normal range of vitamin D is 30 to 74 ng/ml. A baseline level of vitamin D will help you and your healthcare team determine if vitamin D supplementation is right for you.