Vitamin D is a nutrient that most of your patients know is important, but may not know they are most likely deficient
Vitamin D is a nutrient that most of your patients know is important. What they may not know is that they are most likely deficient, especially if they are in a colder climate.
It’s estimated that 42% of Americans are deficient in vitamin D.1 This can have many negative effects on your patients’ health. Learn how to help recommend this crucial supplement to your patients.
What is vitamin D?
Often called “the sunshine vitamin” because it’s often produced in the body when sunlight hits the skin, vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that comes in three primarily forms — D1, D2 and D3.
The body can naturally produce vitamin D when exposed to UV rays. However, not all climates or lifestyles allow people to get an adequate amount of sunlight and therefore produce enough vitamin D. These patients should boost their levels with food or supplements.
Not doing so can lead to a variety of health problems.
Absorption of calcium and optimal parathyroid health
Vitamin D is important to keep bones health and strong. It helps with the absorption of calcium and therefore the prevention of osteoporosis.2 Being deficient can increase the chances of this disease as well as cause fractions due to low bone density.3
It also helps with regulating the parathyroid gland. If there isn’t enough calcium or vitamin D intake, the body “borrows” calcium from the skeleton to keep the levels of calcium in the blood regulated.
Strong teeth and bones
Not having sufficient levels of vitamin D can lead to soft bones, also known as osteomalcia or rickets in children.3
This is because vitamin D is critical to help the body absorb and use calcium and phosphorus to build healthy bones.
What happens if you are vitamin D deficient?
Not getting enough vitamin D can be very detrimental to your patients’ health, but there are a few ways to tell if they are deficient.
Some symptoms of vitamin D deficiency are2:
- Aches and pains
- Severe bone or muscle pain
- Stress fractures, especially in the lower body
- General sense of feeling under the weather
- Getting sick often
- Back pain
- Slow wound healing
- Hair loss
- Mood changes
There are a few patients who are higher at risk for vitamin D deficiency, including2:
- Being elderly
- Being overweight/obese
- Not eating fish or dairy, eating a vegan diet
- Having dark skin
- Living in an area with little year-round sun
- Staying indoors most of the day
- Always using sunscreen
While it’s important to advocate for the use of sunscreen to prevent skin cancer, some exposure to sunlight is necessary to create your own vitamin D. It only takes about 15-20 minutes of sun exposure, three days a week to achieve sufficient levels. However, some may not be able to do this, especially in the winter months.
Besides keep your bones healthy, there are a few other crucial benefits of getting enough vitamin D.
Helps with depression
Studies show that vitamin D may help with mood disorders such as depression in some patients. One study showed that higher doses of vitamin D reduced depression symptoms.4
It’s a low-cost and relatively low-risk way to try to reduce depression symptoms, especially those suffering from seasonal depression.
There have been a few studies that have indicated the benefit of vitamin D in preventing some diseases.
One study showed it reduces the risk of heart disease.5 Another showed that vitamin D can aid in reducing the chances of getting the flu.6 Vitamin D has also been shown to reduce the risk of multiple sclerosis.7
In addition to preventing other health problems, these studies show just how important vitamin D is to the body.
Boost weight loss
If your patients are trying to lose weight, vitamin D is a good addition to help support their goals.
A research study showed that a calcium and vitamin D supplement helped participants lose more weight than those who took a placebo.8 A similar study showed that it improved overweight participant’s heart disease risk markers.9
Recommended doses of vitamin D
With so many benefits, it’s a no-brainer to recommend vitamin D to your patients. There are some foods that contain vitamin D, such as salmon, eggs, shrimp, fortified dairy or orange juice and sardines. However, supplements are often the best bet for consistent vitamin D levels.
A blood test should be done to determine how deficient a patient is in vitamin D. But the standard dosage recommendations are as follows:2
- Children/teens: 600 IU
- Adults under 70: 600 IU
- Adults over 70: 900 IU
These levels may need to be adjusted based on deficiency levels and individual patient’s health needs. And while it’s rare, it is possible to get too much vitamin D if taken at too high a dose, so be sure to discuss dosages with your patients.
The sunshine vitamin is a critical part of a healthy, functioning body. Be sure to recommend your patients get enough of this important vitamin.