MS and Vitamin D Deficiency

Jackie Zimmerman | Jul 27th 2016 Apr 10th 2017

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More than a billion people in the world are vitamin D deficient. That can lead to serious health effects, so let’s take some time to learn about vitamin D and what to do if you’re deficient.

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What is vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is found in a few foods but mostly produced by the sun and absorbed into the skin. Vitamin D helps calcium absorb into our intestines and also keeps our bones strong. Vitamin D also helps with cell growth, immune function and helps to reduce inflammation. Pretty cool, right!

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What causes a vitamin D deficiency?

The number one reason most adults are vitamin D deficient is because we simply don’t get enough sunlight. Many of us work inside and use sunscreen when we are outside. Those who live in in the northern hemisphere often run the risk of being vitamin D deficient because there are fewer hours of sunlight than in other areas of the world. People who are pregnant, obese or dark skinned may need more vitamin D than the average person and may also need to take supplements to get their required daily intake.

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What does it feel like?

Have you ever noticed in the winter months that you may feel a little down in the dumps? Or maybe you’re significantly more tired and have a general weakness about your body? You could be vitamin D deficient!  Vitamin D deficiency often has physical side effects that include fatigue, depression, joint pain, troubled cognition and overall weakness.

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How to prevent it

The best way to prevent a vitamin D deficiency is to spend time outside. Just 20 minutes a day with 40 percent of the skin surfaced exposed is the recommended daily amount of sunshine to maintain your vitamin D levels. For those who cannot increase their sun intake, daily supplements are recommended to keep their levels normal.

The Endocrine Society offers a chart for recommendations of daily intake for those who are at risk for vitamin D deficiency.

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Other ways to increase vitamin D

Aside from the sun and supplementing, there are other ways you can increase your vitamin D intake. Egg yolks, fatty fish such as salmon, fortified dairy products and beef liver are also excellent sources of vitamin D. For those who can’t raise their levels via the sun, foods or oral supplements, vitamin D injections are available with doctor recommendation.

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Why it’s important

Aside from just feeling all around crummy, a vitamin D deficiency can result in some serious health problems including obesity, diabetes, hypertension, depression, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and neuro-degenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease.

Scientists speculate that a vitamin D deficiency could even cause the development of breast, prostate and colon cancer. Not to mention that low vitamin D levels have also been linked to osteoporosis and bone fractures.

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Testing for vitamin D

Vitamin D tests look for the total volume of 25-Hydroxyvitamin D (25OHD)—the form of vitamin D circulating in your blood. If you or your doctor decide to test your vitamin D levels, you can have your blood drawn at any credible lab or you can even do a home blood test. Results should look at the number of nanograms (ng) per milliliter (mL). If your levels are 50-100 ng/ml you’re in the normal range. If below 50 ng/ml you need to start supplementing, and if levels are over 100 ng/ml you need to talk to your doctor.

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Vitamin D = essential

Vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common health problems among adults, but it doesn’t have to be. There are easy steps you can take to keep your levels up and also maintain your health for the future! Whether it’s from the sun or supplements, remember to give your body the vitamin D it needs to keep you happy and healthy.