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Not Enough D


I’m pretty healthy if I do say so myself.  I try to watch what I eat (most of the time), I exercise several days a week, I see my doctor regularly for check ups, take my medication as prescribed and wear sunscreen.  I used to get 2nd degree burns from the sun and sun poisoning all the time as a small child.  When we lived in Louisiana my mom actually had to keep me indoors between 12 and 3 because they are the worst hours for the southern sun and even the best sunblock wouldn’t keep me from getting burned.  My dermatologist told me I’m a perfect candidate for skin cancer due to my sun history.  I’ve already had one suspicious mole removed.

So now I’m hyper vigilant with my sunscreen usage to avoid the terror of that week-long wait to find out the mole was only pre-cancerous and not actually cancer.  I normally look like this pale ghost…

Perfectly pale.

The sunburn I’m currently sporting from my race is a rare occurence and not one I’m proud of.

Three shades of red.

But it turns out my dedication to protecting my skin from cancer might have had some unforeseen consequences.  At a normal doctor’s appointment about a week ago my doctor noticed my pale complexion and asked if I was always that pale. I joked with her and said yeah my cousin is a ghost.  But she was a bit concerned and ordered a vitamin D test.

The best known benefit of vitamin D is its role in helping calcium build strong bones. But that’s far from the whole story. Vitamin D helps regulate the immune system and the neuromuscular system. Vitamin D also plays major roles in the life cycle of human cells. (source)

According to WebMD levels over 30 are normal for Vitamin D.   Mine were at 21.  That’s a failing grade in my (and my doctor’s book).  So I’ve been ordered to get more D in my diet.  Since my skin is so prone to burning she doesn’t recommend getting more sun exposure although 15 to 20 minute of sun exposure a day without sun block is enough for the average person to get enough D.  Sun block also block vitamin D and not just the bad UVA and UVB rays so exposure while wearing it doesn’t count.  This is why people living in the great white north Northern United States are usually vitamin D deficient.  Harsh winters prevent decent sun exposure year round.  Also african-americans will need to spend more time in the sun unexposed to receive the same benefits due to darker skin.  So my pale skin would allow me to get the D quickly but also causes burning easier…oh the curse.

Other ways to get more vitamin D in your system are through diet.  There aren’t many foods that provide vitamin D so diet alone is not sufficient.

These are the vitamin D super foods you could add to give yourself an upper hand.

  • Salmon (especially wild-caught)
  • Mackerel (especially wild-caught; eat up to 12 ounces a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are low in mercury)
  • Mushrooms exposed to ultraviolet light to increase vitamin D
  • Cod liver oil (warning: cod liver oil is rich in vitamin A; too much may be bad for you)
  • Tuna canned in water
  • Sardines canned in oil
  • Milk or yogurt — regardless of whether it’s whole, nonfat, or reduced fat — fortified with vitamin D
  • Beef or calf liver
  • Egg yolks
  • Cheese

Most american dairy products are fortified with vitamin D as are many brands of orange juice, yogurt, margarine, and ready-to-eat breakfast cereals.  I prefer to get my vitamins from real foods so I’m not likely to eat Cookie Crisp no matter how much vitamin D they promise me.  And I don’t like eating hydrogenated oils so I’ll skip the margarine too.  We’ll see if I can convince Hunni that sardines would be a great addition to our next make your own pizza night 🙂

But for those of us who are really deficient one of the best ways to get in your vitamin D is in supplement form.

Because my levels are so low my doctor recommended that I take 2000IU of vitamin D3 and test my levels again in 3 months.  The average person could benefit from 1000IU a day.  While D3 is the best for absorbtion since it replicates the vitamin D your body makes with sunlight but D2 is perfectly fine (and cheaper).  Be careful not to take more than 2000IU a day.  Too much of anything is still too much.  Overdoses of vitamin D are rare with food or sun exposure.  Most come from overzealous vitamin takers.  Symptoms of a vitamin D overdose are nausea, constipation, confusion and kidney stones.  Looks like I won’t know if I take too much by the symptoms since some of those are symptoms of my IBS as well.  Other things caused by too much vitamin D are abnormally high blood calcium level and abnormal heart rhythm.

As a woman I’m taking this vitamin D issue really seriously.  I don’t want to end up with osteoporosis or muscle weakness and pain as I age.  So adding another pill to the bunch didn’t really bother me one bit.

Have you had your vitamin D level checked before?

14 Comments leave one →
  1. Meg permalink
    06/04/2010 6:52 AM

    My husband had his VD checked as well and he is low too, so he is also taking vitamins.

    I think at my next check up I will have mine checked as well.

    • 06/04/2010 9:51 AM

      Good idea Meg! I am going to have Hunni get his checked too just to be safe.

  2. 06/04/2010 8:20 AM

    it’s great that you found out you were deficient. what changes did your dr think would happen for you once you increased your intake/took the supplement? anything you would see or feel?

    • 06/04/2010 9:51 AM

      She didn’t tell me major changes but she told me I should have a bit more energy since I was really fatigued.

  3. 06/04/2010 9:31 AM

    you know, I’ve never had mine checked. I go for checkups and eat pretty balanced, but I don’t think I’ve ever had it checked before.

    • 06/04/2010 9:50 AM

      Couldn’t hurt to get it checked just to have a base line. I never thought about it before either.

  4. Phatterri permalink
    06/04/2010 7:28 PM

    You could have been writing this post about my I had my Vit D checked a couple of months ago and was told that I was at 5. I was put on 50K pills once a week for three months and then have to go for follow up testing. Thanks for the helpful info on supplementing Vit D levels.

  5. 06/04/2010 8:01 PM

    What an important post! Thanks for shedding some light on this whole Vit D issue. Dr. Oz says that if you live north of Atlanta you should take a supplement!

    Glad you got your levels checked out.

  6. 07/04/2010 8:40 PM

    Huh… things you don’t think of getting checked!


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