Vitamin D Deficiency

Written by: SphynxCatVP
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This is probably the number one supplement I tell people in this community to take. After all, most of us avoid the sun on a regular basis, for fairly obvious reasons :) - it shouldn't be any surprise to find out most of us are vitamin D deficient to varying degrees. There is a rather LARGE list of references at the bottom of this article - I highly recommend perusing everything in there if you have time so you have more complete information on Vitamin D and it's role in your health - you'll see that I'm not exaggerating anything.

What is vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is produced endogenously (internally) by the body when exposed to adequate amounts of ultraviolet rays (for most people, this means sun exposure, though there are UV lamps that will do this as well.) Because vitamin D is made by the body in this manner, it's sometimes referred to as "the sunshine vitamin". Vitamin D is first converted by the liver into 25(OH)D (25-hydroxyvitamin D, or 25-hydroxycholecalciferol), and then then converted by the kidneys into 1,25(OH)2D (1,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol). This conversion process is governed by four things: the levels of 1,25(OH)2D, the parathyroid hormone, and the circulating levels of both calcium and phosphate in the body.

Besides exposure to UV sources, vitamin D is also available separately as a dietary supplement, as well as some fish and dairy items.

What does vitamin D do?

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus from the diet, and promotes re-absorption of calcium from the kidneys, which increases the flow of calcium in the bloodstream. This, in turn, promotes normal mineralization of bone and prevents conditions caused by low calcium such as hypocalcemic tetany (a low calcium condition in which the nerve reflexes of the patient are overactive - spasms and cramps are frequently seen in the hands, feet, voice box, etc.)

More recent research reveals that vitamin D has many other roles in health, including regulation of nerve and muscle function, as well as proper functioning of the immune system and reducting inflammation. Vitamin D is also beneficial for breathing capacity - especially for COPD and asthma patients! - and even some chronic pain issues. Vitamin D plays an important role in the maintenance and function of many organ systems such as the heart, pancreas and endocrine system. It also regulates cell multiplication, differentiation, and death - hence it's beneficial role in preventing cancer. (See links below)

How does vitamin D deficiency happen?

Vitamin D deficiency may happen as a result of any combination of the following factors:

  • Abnormal metabolism (defects in production)
  • Anticonvulsant drugs
  • Chronic kidney conditions (1,25(OH)2D is produced in kidneys; if kidney function is impaired, so is 1,25(OH)2D production.)
  • Continual or frequent smog (interferes with sunshine exposure)
  • Glucocorticoid drugs (such as Cortisol, Hydrocortisone, Prednisone, etc.)
  • Excessive cloud cover
  • Heavy sunscreen use
  • Inadequate exposure to sunlight
  • Lattitudes farther away from the equator (less sun, less vitamin D production)
  • Liver dysfunction (25(OH)D is produced in the liver; if liver function is impaired, so is 25(OH)D production.)
  • Malabsorption
  • Resistance to effects (mutational problem)
  • Statin ("cholesterol buster") drug use

What are the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency?

In anyone, of any age, vitamin D deficiency can cause:

  • Bone pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Muscle weakness

Vitamin D deficiency either causes, or is a contributing factor to the severity of, the following:

  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Asthma severity
  • Cancer
  • Congestive Heart Failure
  • COPD severity
  • Dementia
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Disturbed muscle function
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Heart disease
  • Hyperparathryoidism
  • Hypocalcemia
  • Hypertension
  • Inflammatory / Irritable Bowel
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Osteomalacia
  • Respiratory problems severity
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Rickets
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder
  • Tetany, hypocalcemic
  • Tuberculosis severity

How is vitamin D deficiency diagnosed?

Vitamin D deficiency can be suggested by various symptoms such as muscle pain and weakness and being overly prone to exhaustion and tiredness.

D deficiency can be more accurately tested with the use of a simple 25(OH)D (25-hydroxyvitamin D, or 25-hydroxycholecalciferol) blood test. This is the most effective way of testing actual circulating levels of vitamin D in the body because this form has a half-life in the body of about 15 days.

The 1,25(OH)2D3 form has a short half-life (about 4-6 hours), and is made on demand, so checking this form on a blood test is NOT an effective way to test a person's vitamin D levels.

If bone problems are suspected (common in the elderly, kidney/dialysis patients, etc.), there are a variety of diagnostic tests used to measure calcium levels, parathyroid hormone levels (PTH), bone density, bone turnover (how well/fast the body is making new bone) and other things so that medical staff can use to determine whether vitamin D is a factor.

How is vitamin D deficiency treated?

It depends on the severity of the symptoms being exhibited by the patient at the time. If there are no major symptoms, then just supplemental vitamin D is necessary.

If there are major issues, then other treatment may be necessary, depending on the severity. If bone loss has lead to collapsed vertebrae, for example, back surgery may be necessary to relieve pain and hopefully restore mobility.

The body makes at least 10,000IU of vitamin D on full-body exposure to the sun for 30 minutes. (With variables depending on your distance away from the equator.)

Target vitamin D levels

An ever-increasing amount of doctors (evidenced by PubMed dosage links below) - are now stating that the 25(OH)D should be between 50 ng/ml (125 nmol/L) and 80ng/ml (200 nmol/L) - so that's the target range to shoot for, with however much vitamin D you're taking. (Older medical materials state that anyone with a 25(OH)D level below 30 ng/ml (75 nmol/L) is deficient.)

Vitamin D overload/toxicity

The main symptoms of excess vitamin D result from excessive calcium: Lack of appetite, nausea and vomiting to being with, followed by excessive urine, abdominal pain, weakness, nervousness and itching.

Treatment is simple: sun avoidance and reducing vitamin D supplementation. "Bone builder" drugs are given if necessary, however due to their typical gastric upset issues, simply letting time go by is often the safer approach as long as the symptoms don't warrant acute treatment.

Toxicity doesn't being to occur until after chronic (months to years) daily ingestion of 40,000IU/day or more. (The key word here is CHRONIC, long-term use at that level, not short term high doses.)

Essentially, toxicity does not normally occur by accidental overdose - only by deliberate ingestion of large doses for extensive periods of time, or by manufacturing issues (in either case, the symptoms will give you plenty of warning to slow down consumption, or try a different brand.)

What does this have to do with the real vampire community?

According to the data released so far (as of August 2009) by Suscitatio Enterprises for "question 037" of the VEWRS, some of the more commonly cited ailments among real vampires (at a level higher than the general population) - especially when they haven't been able to feed for a while - include:

  • Asthma
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Chronic pain
  • Depression
  • Hypoglyemia
  • Migraines and other severe headaches
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Scoliosis

Many of the other ailments cited also deal with the cardiovascular and endocrine system, as well as other issues such as Seasonal Affective Disorder. All of these are all influenced by levels - or lack thereof - of vitamin D in the body.