Vitamin D

I went tanning five times to turn my pasty winter coat a darker shade of white for my December wedding and as it turns out, I probably should have gone even more. Not because my skin didn’t respond to the UV rays — it did, and I looked great — but because my doctor just discovered that I’m vitamin D deficient.

Let me backtrack. I live in the Northeast, where Mother Nature has placed a near-permanent cumulus cloud overhead filled with rain, snow and misery. I’m no meteorologist, but that statement is generally true. The sun rarely shines here. It’s depressing.

A few weeks prior to the doctor visit in mid-February, I began feeling a little bit depressed and a little less driven in bed. I had chalked up the gloominess to the winter blues and would not have visited the doctor about it, but I already had an annual physical scheduled. And because of a recent quarrel with my wife over the non-aesthetic benefits of tanning, I asked my doctor to check out my vitamin D levels as part of the routine blood test that’s usually conducted to check cholesterol.

So the culprit for my winter ills is, I believe*, a lack of vitamin D, which is called the sunshine vitamin because humans produce it in response to sunlight. Among many other things, vitamin D deficiency is associated with depression and is common among cancer victims (there are two forms of D; D3 comes from meats, dairy, fish plus your own skin). Hey now! On the flip side, adequate levels correspond with improved mental energy and higher testosterone levels, and may lower the risk of heart disease.

The doctor called me with the results a few days after my exam. Yes, about the sunshine vitamin. My level checked in at a meager 17 nanograms per milliliter, which translates to "Man, you need some more f*cking vitamin D!"

But seriously, that’s well below where anyone or any guy should register. Dr. Michael Holick of Boston University, a leading expert on vitamin D, told the New York Times in 2010, “We want everyone to be above 30 nanograms per milliliter, but currently in the United States, Caucasians average 18 to 22 nanograms and African-Americans average 13 to 15 nanograms.”

I wondered how I became part of Club Deficient, which doesn’t even make me unique: A recent study showed that nearly half of Americans are part of the tribe. But I was surprised to learn the results because I drink a ton of milk (a great source of vitamin D!) and eat mounds of vitamin-rich yogurt because it requires no preparation and tastes good enough.

At least I used to be a milk and yogurt monster. My doc told me at a previous visit to drastically cut down on the milk and yogurt I consume because both pack a surprising amount of sugar. It’s lovely how one problem begets another, eh?

But before I delve too deep into the mythology of vitamin D deficiency, treatments and symptoms, go check out some of the causes and some more reasons why you’ll be well-served to get your blood tested for it and make sure you’re at a healthy level.

As for me, the doctor said I should take a supplement and offered some foods that would help me on my way, including fish, eggs and cereal. I bought store-brand chewable tablets that taste like chocolate. Not bad, and the bottle cost only $4.99.

I’ve also made sure to get out more during the workday to catch whatever rays the Northeast offers this time of year. Lack of vitamin D is not exclusively a winter problem, by the way — many people subsist on diets low in “D” and work the kind of hours year-round that prevent them from basking in the sun during the week, let alone stepping outside.

Now I’ll confess here that I’m the type of person who can enter the Web-MD labyrinth with a shooting pain in the leg and exit with self-diagnoses including bacterial meningitis, hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) and sickle-cell anemia. But, this time, I dealt in the realm of real, and I believe my treatment regimen has helped lift the winter blues cloud in favor of a more upbeat me.

My name pretty much requires that.

* I can’t say with certainty that vitamin D deficiency contributed to or caused these ailments, but 1) a blood test showed I was vitamin D deficient and 2) research indicates that depression and low testosterone levels are associated with vitamin D deficiency.

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Comments to Vitamin D

  • One of the major causes of Vitamin D deciniefcy is insufficient exposure to sunlight. For this reason, people with indoor lifestyles as well as people living in regions with less sunlight are more likely to have lowered vitamin D levels. Certain health conditions and medications may also inhibit absorption or increase metabolism of the vitamin.Your mom can raise her vitamin D level by spending at least 20-30 minutes in the sun every day or taking pill supplements. Depending on the specific cause of her deciniefcy, the strength of the supplement will vary:-Inadequate sun exposure: 50,000 IU per week for 8 weeks-Malabsorption caused by health conditions: 50,000 IU every day or every other day-Medications that increase vitamin D metabolism: 50,000 IU every 2 weeks for 8-10 weeksFoods rich in vitamin D, such as pickled herring, canned boned salmon, and mackerel, will also help.While red meat does combat iron deciniefcy, other dietary staples such as bread and other starches inhibit the absorption of iron. Additionally, excessive blood loss and certain chronic diseases may also lead to lowered iron levels. During their childbearing years, women lose twice as much iron as men from menstruation and pregnancy. Consultation with a doctor will help your mom to uncover the particular cause of her iron deciniefcy. In the meantime, meat and ferrous sulfate supplements will increase the iron in her system.

    Mauricio 17/09/2015 10:25 am Reply

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