Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Vitamin D Deficiency

On this last day of 2011, I can officially say that a blood test finally revealed something abnormal about me:

I have a Vitamin D deficiency.

As I've been learning (and should have remembered from junior high nutrition class), Vitamin D is one of the few nutrients we really can't get from foods.  It's called the "Sunshine Vitamin" for a reason -- sunlight hitting our bodies triggers Vitamin D production.  I highly recommend you read this article from the National Institute of Health. It gives a great overview with a ton of research cited.

It's true that I have very little exposure to sunlight and that's not by choice.  My work office has NO natural light in my corner.  Last year I definitely noticed a little SAD (seasonal affective disorder) but didn't think much beyond.

Apparently, a Vitamin D deficiency is also more common in northern climates.  You can't get a decent intake of the vitamin when you're wrapped up like a mummy 4 months out of the year.

That same article suggests that those who are overweight also struggle with deficiencies.  It's thought that the extra fat we carry "locks" up the nutrient so it can't get to where it's going.

No matter how the deficiency came to be, it causes multiple issues.  The main symptoms are fatigue, muscle weakness, and bone pain.  Vitamin D also affects your bone health and immune system, generally leading to osteoporosis.  This is definitely a concern for me because virtually ALL of the women on my maternal side have osteoporosis.   

I think the combination of my probable birth control reaction and this Vitamin D deficiency would go a long way to explain my health issues.  

Both could be contributing to my fatigue and muscle weakness, which are preventing me from exercising properly.  You (likely) have no idea how frustrating it is to feel as if your body is conspiring against you when you want to be active.  I start off tired and sore, become even more exhausted and in pain once I've exercised, and then need several (3+) down days to recuperate.  That's totally ineffective for weight management.

So what's the game plan, you ask?  Vitamin D does occur in a few foods, sometimes naturally (fish) and often fortified (dairy).  I unfortunately do not eat anything that lives in the water, so fish is out.  Now that it's winter here in Iowa (despite the lack of snow), getting some sun is also not an option.  I keep finding contradictory research about the potential of tanning beds and since I've never gone tanning before, I'll likely skip that as an option.

What I can do are these four things:
  • Take a supplement.  My doctor asked me to get a 5,000 IU dose for Vitamin D.  Now, there's also tons of research out there that gives a wide range of IU numbers for a "correct" dosage.  I suspect my doctor wants me to take this high level only temporarily, as a way to get my levels back up in a hurry.  We are, in fact, going to be retesting them in a month.
  • Eat more eggs.  1 egg yolk has about 10% of your DV for Vitamin D.  On a frugal note, eggs are also incredibly cheap, so it's easy for us to incorporate them more.
  • Drink more milk.  I used to drink bucket loads of milk as a child.  I still enjoy the stuff.  But I think worries about calories and my dehydration issues have caused me to eliminate it.  Except that 1 cup of milk offers 25% of your DV (though not all brands do).  Now I'm simply adding a glass to dinner in the evenings and will consider smoothies with a milk base more.
  • Eat more yogurt.  The brand we use has 20% in each serving.  Good thing yogurt is also inexpensive and easy to eat plain or in smoothies.

I feel rather good about this new health direction.  I know that eliminating birth control and adding a vitamin isn't going to make me magically drop weight.  However, if the two can give me enough energy and chase away muscle pain, it's going to make such a HUGE difference.  

Here's to hoping that January 2012 is going to see some improvements for me!

What kind of vitamin routine are you on?


  1. I learned from a Doctor once that consuming too much sodium depletes your body's stores of vitamin D, magnesium, and calcium. it might be another thing to try out and see if it helps you feel better. I'm so glad you are getting your health issues figured out!


  2. That's really interesting d'Artagnan. I admit, I'm probably more of a sugar fiend than salt, but you never know until you actually track your calories. Which is one thing I'm making mandatory for 2012.