Vitamin D Deficiency Causes and Cures
Several years ago I found myself suffering from extreme fatigue for no apparent reason, and experiencing pain in all my major joints, also for no apparent reason. I found myself unable to function, and fearful that something medically serious had taken control of my failing body. The fatigue and pain continued to increase daily, forcing me to a doctor’s office. After running blood tests, it was determined that my vitamin D levels were seriously low.
Take 8 Pills and Call Me in a Month
The doctor gave me a prescription for 50,000 I.U.’s of vitamin D to be taken twice a week followed by testing again in a month. Only experiencing very minimal improvement, the doctor continued this regimen for another month. By the middle of the second month I had found two things to be true. First, if I took the pills on Sunday and Wednesday, then I felt pretty good on Monday and Thursday. And second, the pain returned with a vengeance on Tuesday and Friday. This cycle repeated itself the following week. I called the doctor’s office and explained to them what was happening and that I felt this was not working. And since I had only one more week on this regimen perhaps we needed to consider other options. What do you think happened?
That’s right! They brushed me off and told me to continue taking the medication just as the doctor had prescribed. Now I ask you this, why would I want to do something even if a doctor is telling me to when it only makes me feel better 2 out of 7 days? And we are talking about the kind of fatigue that sends you to bed because movement hurts, and pain that keeps you from sleeping. What I didn’t share with you earlier is the incident that finally forced me to go see the doctor in the first place.
One of Those Embarrassing Moments
I had literally been forcing myself through sheer will power to accomplish the things I was able to accomplish each day. But that forcing always came at a price - sometimes a steep price. I had gone outside and was pulling weeds in one of the raised vegetable beds in my yard. After just a few minutes, I was so tired, I just curled up beside the bed to rest. The cool grass felt very refreshing to my aching and tired body. When my neighbor who was driving by saw me laying out in the yard . . . well, you can imagine . . . it was embarrassingly obvious that something needed to be done.
After 7 1/2 weeks, I felt that I had done my part, but also felt that my doctor was letting me down. So I decided to take things into my own hands. I began reading articles about how much vitamin D was enough and how much was too much. One thing I discovered was that although vitamin D is a water soluble vitamin, vitamin D toxicity is very rare. So I had very little to fear in that realm, especially since the doctor was prescribing 50,000 I.U. at one time and that was considered to be safe. After much study, I decided to take 20,000 I.U. two times a day.
What Causes Vitamin D Deficiency?
After just a couple days I started experiencing major improvements in my symptoms, and after 3-4 weeks, my energy levels resumed and my pain levels returned to my normal every day aches and pains. But doctors have never figured out what caused the problem. My studies had indicated that normal causes for vitamin D deficiency were:
- Not enough time out in the sun - the sun provides most people with adequate amounts of vitamin D in less than 20 minutes per day. Vitamin D is sometimes called the sunshine vitamin because it is created by the body’s reaction to sunlight.
- Having naturally dark skin
- Milk allergies –most milk is fortified with vitamin D to help with the absorption of calcium
- Vegetarian diet – Most natural sources of vitamin D are animal based: fish, fish liver oils, and egg yolks
- Problems with the kidneys can prevent them from converting vitamin D into a useable form
- Medical problems such as Crohn's disease, cystic fibrosis, and celiac disease affect the body's ability to absorb vitamin D
- Obesity - fat cells pull vitamin D out of the blood making it unavailable to the rest of the body
There are also other substances that affect the body’s ability to absorb vitamin D. These include:
- Antacids – can make vitamin D less available for the body to utilize
- Calcium Channel Blockers – prescription medications used to treat high blood pressure and heart conditions can decrease the body’s ability to produce vitamin D
- Cholestyramine – this cholesterol-lowering medication interferes with the body’s ability to absorb vitamin D
- Phenobarbital, phenytoin, and other anticonvulsant medications – may accelerate how the body uses vitamin D.
- Mineral oil – interferes with the body’s ability to absorb vitamin D
- Weight loss products containing orlistat may interfere with the body’s ability to absorb vitamin D
- Foods containing olestra may also interfere with the body’s ability to absorb vitamin D
Not Alone in My Vitamin D Deficiency
I had none of these causes to blame for my deficiency. After several months, I tapered off the vitamin D supplementation and was doing fine . . . for about a year. The symptoms returned and the doctors still had no explanation and no other treatment other that what had previously been tried. And we know how well that worked. But I tried it her way for a month, after which point I returned to my way and soon once again obtained relief from my symptoms.
But what amazed me was that over the next few months, I ran across several other women ranging in ages between 25-60 who were also vitamin D deficient for unknown reasons. And up until I had first experienced it, I had never heard of anyone having this problem, at least not in the U.S.
Health Problems Caused by Vitamin D Deficiency
How important is vitamin D? Obviously for me, I experience fatigue and joint pain. But not having enough vitamin D can also lead to a disease called rickets. Rickets causes soft bones and bone deformities. Remember, earlier I mentioned that vitamin D helped with the absorption of calcium. Not having enough calcium causes soft bones, osteopenia and osteoporosis.
My studies found that bone pain (joint pain) and muscle weakness (extreme fatigue) can indicate a vitamin D deficiency. Maybe you could say that I was one of the lucky ones. For others, the symptoms can be much more subtle and sneaky. Low blood levels of vitamin D have been linked to include:
- Increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease
- Cognitive impairment in older adults
- Asthma in children
Additionally, research is also suggesting it to have an impact on the prevention and treatment of:
- diabetes (type 1 and 2)
- high blood pressure
- glucose intolerance
- multiple sclerosis.
Pretty serious stuff any way you look at it.
In March of 2011, I saw an article that stated, “24% of people in the U.S. are at risk for inadequate blood levels of Vitamin D.” It also stated that only 1% of the population had blood levels that were considered to be too high. But I still saw nothing new for the cause of my vitamin D deficiency. The article did indicate that males were less likely to have a deficiency.
So I still remain in limbo, as do the other ladies I know who share in my perplexity. But I have been able to control the problem with the regimen that I have laid out for myself. I do occasionally take breaks from my supplementation in order to reduce my chances of toxicity. It has probably been six months and I can tell that it is time to begin again.
A Light Comes On
As I write this, I've had a revelation. I see that I might be at risk for some of the symptoms that are more subtle, and I think it will be wise for me to continue my vitamin D supplementation indefinitely but at a lower dose. I fear if I wait until it becomes bad enough to exhibit such drastic symptoms that I am putting myself at risk for some of those more subtle problems.
If you find yourself suffering from vitamin D deficiency, I wish I had a better answer for you. I wish the doctors had a better answer for me. But, if you feel that you are in the 24% of people who are at risk, and you are noticing any of these symptoms, please see your doctor. Don’t wait until your neighbor sees you laying out in the yard!
Vitamin D Deficiency Can Become Life Threatening
Author's Note: I was just diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2013. Upon further investigation, I have discovered that my deficiency could be the cause. Just do a search on the internet and you will find many instances of this being documented. I have provided a few links for you below:
These are just a few. There are many more. It certainly makes me wonder.
- Vitamin D Deficiency: Symptoms, Causes, and Health Risks
Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones, and a lack of it can cause serious medical problems. Learn how you can get plenty of vitamin D, and how to treat a vitamin D deficiency.
- Most Americans Get Enough Vitamin D
Two-thirds of Americans are getting enough vitamin D, according to a new analysis by researchers from the National Center for Health Statistics.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2011 Cindy Murdoch