Friday, April 19, 2013

The Sunshine Vitamin

Sunshine.  That was one of the terms of endearment my Dad used when talking to me.  It was also part of my CB (remember CB radios?) moniker - "California Sunshine Girl".  Over the years, the sunshine part just stuck.  I'm not exactly sure how that name came about...I believe it came from a "groovy" t-shirt I had when I was seven or eight years old and it said "California Sunshine Girl" on it with a rainbow, an outline of the State of California, flowers and a VW bus.  I think.  Either way, now that my Dad died, no one really calls me that anymore.  Even if someone did, it wouldn't be the same.

Anyway, I want to talk today about Vitamin D.  Commonly known as the "Sunshine Vitamin", Vitamin D is important for our overall good health and keeps our bones strong and healthy.  What most people don't realize is that Vitamin D is also important in making sure our heart, lungs and brain function properly and helps fight infection. 

We are unique in that our bodies can create our own Vitamin D just from exposure to sunlight.  Unfortunately, most of us don't produce adequate amounts of it and Vitamin D deficiency is a growing epidemic in the United States.  

At my yearly physical in 2009, my doctor and I were discussing at great length, my symptoms of fatigue, feelings of depression, heart palpitations and weight gain.  She had read a recent study regarding the correlation between Vitamin D deficiency and the symptoms I described.  She ordered a blood test to measure my levels - the acceptable level of Vitamin D in the blood varies depending on which report you read (between 30 and 70 is ideal) but my doctor wanted to see mine over 50 nanograms per milliliter.  When the test results came back, my level was 17.  

I started on a prescription-strength dose of Vitamin D and took 50,000 IUs a week.  The recommended daily dose is 400 IUs/day.  I took that prescription for more than a year.  The highest my levels ever reached was 26 and that was back in 2010.  When my level was tested back in January, I was at 23.

My sister and I share many of the same symptoms - fatigue, feelings of depression, being overweight.  When I found out that low levels of Vitamin D could be the cause for this, I immediately told her to get her level checked.  She was at a 13.  I told my doctor and she said that was the lowest she'd ever heard of. 

I also found out that my Mom had really low levels of Vitamin D and was taking a weekly supplement.  Hi.  Why didn't I know this? 

If you are feeling symptoms of fatigue, depression, hazy thoughts - basically the same symptoms as Seasonal Affective Disorder, you could be Vitamin D deficient.  It can be fixed with as little as 10 minutes a day of exposure to sunlight and a supplement.  400 IUs a day is really all you need and you will feel better.  Unless you have extreme symptoms of deficiency - then you should talk to your doctor.

Now, for me, Vitamin D is more important than ever.  There is evidence to support the important role Vitamin D plays in promoting - both directly and indirectly - regulatory and suppressor T-cell populations.  Controlling these is essential in managing autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto's Disease.

I'm taking a super emulsified Vitamin D supplement in liquid form - 10,000 IUs daily. Despite it's bright yellow color, it tastes like fish oil.  When I take it, I tell myself it's like drinking sunshine.

Maybe I am the Sunshine Girl after all.


  1. I have been following your blog and I love it. You are such a good writer. I am learning so much from you and your experiences. Thank you for sharing the ups and downs of your life! I think I'll try to get a little sun today....if the clouds would just get out of the way. ;)

  2. When the sun is shining there should definitely be a law requiring employers to free their employees for a sunshine break! Our entire nation would be better off for it. I wonder if your body just does not produce its own vitamin D to be that low. I will be interested in finding out what your levels are next time you get tested. I thought you were heading to California to see your Mom, but all along it was to get more vitamin D. that works.