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Vitamin D Deficiency Causes and Cures

For more than 13 years, Cindy founded and owned a company that provided caregiving services to adults, mostly the elderly with dementia.

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
  • Cancer

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.

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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.


Resource Sites:

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

Comments: "Vitamin D Deficiency Causes and Cures"

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on July 21, 2020:

Xanton, getting levels checked when you supplement D is important. It can build up in your system. Unlike certain vitamins, the body cannot rid itself of excess.

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on July 21, 2020:

Thanks for sharing this info, Laurie.

Jennifer C from Ontario, Canada on January 15, 2019:

I live in an area where there is not a lot of sunshine. Sometimes we go days without any. These dark days really take a toll on me. I start to feel very fatigued to the point where I can hardly function.

Thank you for this article. It's a bit of an eye-opener for me. I'm thinking I should start taking vitamin D supplements.

karen jansen on May 23, 2018:

just HAD A LIFELINE SCREENING AND GIT RESULTS BACK AND SAID I AM LOW IN VITAMEN D. WHAT DO I DO? AM IN THE SUN QUITE ABIT.AM 77 AND TAKE SEVERAL MEDS. HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE,HIGHMCHOLESTRIAL, RELAXER TO SLEEP,BABY ASPERIN AND NEMENDA

Laurie Party on October 08, 2017:

I was having joint pain in my knees, shoulder and neck and numbness in my arm when I would bend over. It was too the point I could bearly move my neck and was in constant pain. It was so hard to hold my head up it was causing me problems at work. Sometimes, I could hardly lift my cup to take a drink. When I went to the doctor, my vitamin D levels were low but still within normal so my doctor dismissed that as being the problem. She sent me for xrays, mri/mra and a neuroligist which none revealed anything wrong. She then sent me to a physical therapist. Which didnt help at all. I then started doing my own research and decided to try the vitamin D. Within days I started feeling better; however, I was still having some back pain/aches. I then decided to add a magnesium supplement, which made a huge difference. When I stopped taking the vitamin D, my levels went from 65 to 30 in just two months. So, the question was why. I had gone to the doctor for a tick bite, that produced a rash with the bulls eye, but when tested, I only had produced 4 out of 5 markers which would indicate lymes; however, with my symptoms, she indicated she believed that I still had it and that this was a reactivated lymes. She had put me on antibiotics years ago for a tick bite. My research revealed that there is no test for lymes that is truly accurate, but I did find that those who have lymes deficient in Vitamin D, Magnesium, Zinc, B6 & B12.

Heather on August 19, 2016:

How did you convince your doctor that changing the dosage might be the answer?

Xanton on December 20, 2015:

Step by step guide:

1. Check your d-levels.

2. If insufficient = take does of 5000ie+sun atleast 30mins everyday in summer. In winter= take 6-8000Ie of d3/day. If levels below 20ng/ml, use 10-15k d3/day for 2-3 weeks to get a spurt to reach your optimal levels faster, which should be 60-80 ng/ml all year round.

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on May 09, 2014:

Thanks JT. It is very important for sure.

JT Walters from Florida on April 28, 2014:

Hi Homesteadbound,

This is an exceptionally well researched and well written article. I did not understand the need for vitamin D and what health issues vitamin d deficiencies caused. Thank you for educating me.

JT

Chuck Bluestein from Morristown, AZ, USA on March 20, 2014:

Nichole A, See my post above. Florida is not a tropic or sub-tropic area . Hawaii is a sub-tropic area. If you go to a doctor they can measure your vitamin D level and if it is low, give you 50,000 IU a day to bring it up.

Also the D'Action Group says that to avoid the problems of not enough vitamin D, people need "lifeguard levels" of vitamin D. Lifeguards are out in the sun 5 days a week for most of the day.

Also if you are outside in a bathing suit in Florida during the summer around noon for 2 hours, you would get around 35,000 IU of vitamin D.

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on March 20, 2014:

Nichole - you are not alone. I continue to take 10,000 IU every day and still run on the low side. And from what I have been reading lately, our body absorbs even less as we age, so that is something else to consider.

Nichole A on March 08, 2014:

I looked everywhere for information like this! After several recent miscarriages I was sent to a fertility specialist and had a battery of tests performed. The conclusion was hypothyroidism and vitamin D deficiency. I was blown away by both diagnosis's but as for the vitamin D... I can't see how it is possible for me to be deficient! I live in south Florida (where it is 80 in January quite frequently). I am outside at the pool, beach or playground with kiddos at least twice a week, but often it's more frequent, and only use sunscreen if I have been out for hours and feel like I need it. I'm getting PLENTY of "bikini style" sunshine and I'm white with blond hair and blue eyes (but freakishly never burn). I will say that I grew up in Maine and always dealt with SAD (winter depression) so maybe it will take a lifetime of sunshine to make up for it?! Thanks for the info and glad I'm not alone!

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on January 28, 2014:

Thanks for the info, Chuck!

Chuck Bluestein from Morristown, AZ, USA on January 14, 2014:

The closer to the equator that people live, the less cancer they get due to vitamin D. All primates, except humans, live in the tropics or sub-tropics. In the U.S. the only sub-tropic area is Hawaii. They live longer than people in the other states.

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on January 13, 2014:

I have not found a specialist that I have been able to turn to. I understand your concern ... especially the more I learn about cancer and its causes. Wishing you luck. If you figure out what kind of specialist can help you, please come back and let us know.

Peace2 on January 09, 2014:

This article and the commenting feedback have been very educational for me. I have recently been diagnoses with extremely low levels of Vit. D. -- not surprised since I live in the NW and avoid the sun due to past history of cancer. Not sure what test was used and was told to take 3,000 mg Vit. D per day for 2 months. Researching this condition is making me a bit nervous due to having breast, ovarian and thyroid cancers in past 15 years. I really want to get ahold of this issue and get my levels to normal. Are there particular specialists that can deal with this? -- my physician is an internist.

Chuck Bluestein from Morristown, AZ, USA on August 09, 2013:

It was about the statement saying that you need 20 minutes of sunshine a week to get enough vitamin D like it does not matter where you live. From Marion Langley.

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on August 08, 2013:

I am not sure what statement you are referring to Chuck, but I live in Texas and we get plenty of sun.

Chuck Bluestein from Morristown, AZ, USA on June 30, 2013:

That statement is a Rain Man statement. They asked Rain Man how much a candy bar costs and he said about $100. They asked how much a car costs and he said about $100.

If you live at the latitude of Boston and lie naked outside all of the time 24/7 for 3 months around the first day of winter, you get no vitamin D. At the latitude of Montreal, there are 5 months of the year where you can not get any vitamin D. Depends on many factors that determine UV index.

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on June 30, 2013:

What a wonderful compliment, Marion! I could think of nothing that I would want my writing to do than to help someone think about something in a way that they had not before. Thanks so much for stopping by. I do agree with you. There has to be something different, because this did not used to be a problem. I have vitamin D problems with a tan line. Definitely getting enough sun ....

marion langley from The Study on June 29, 2013:

As a mom I was running across a lot of articles in parenting magazines about the kids getting enough vitamin D. Seemed like Vitamin D supplements were flooding the drugstore isle. I looked up how much sunlight was needed to make sufficient qualities and it was 20 minutes over the course of a week. We get that walking too and from our cars I imagine. There must be something interfering with our absorbtion! You got me thinking; thanks for writing.

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on May 27, 2013:

Skyjonahmom - I am no medical expert, but it would never hurt to get a second opinion, especially since you seem to be receiving conflicting information.

Skyjonahmom on May 16, 2013:

I got blood work done at a health fair. I found out my vitamin d level was a 12. I have been tired and my legs hurt. My doctor said it is a bit low and put me on 2000 iu a day. I asked if this would help me gain back some energy and he said most likely not. He said it just gets low in the winter. The doctor said my energy levels are low because of something else maybe a sleep disorder? Help! Should I get another opinion? I don't think I have a sleeping problem.

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on May 11, 2013:

I am so glad that you found relief, calajbehr.

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on May 11, 2013:

So sorry to hear about your puppy. It is often harder to see animals suffer because they are so dependent on us.

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on May 11, 2013:

Thanks so much mercuryservices.

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on May 11, 2013:

I was taking prescription Vitamin D twice a week, but found myself suffering from severe pain and extreme fatigue. It did not help me in the long run, I hope that it does help you. I wish you luck in this journey. It is truly a hard one to travel. The fatigue and pain is so very debilitating.

cbpoet from Las Vegas, Nevada on May 08, 2013:

Very interesting hub. I lived for five years in Iowa as a child and had a puppy who developed rickets. Thanks for sharing some interesting facts on what deficiencies could have caused this terrible disease.

Carla J Swick from NW PA on May 08, 2013:

Hi, I had Vitamin D def. as well with a blood level of 4. I live in NWPA so I'm pretty sure it was lack of sunlight. I felt like I was in a coma. Prescription D worked wonders. Thanks for sharing. cjb

Anna on May 07, 2013:

I recently found out I have low Vitamin D. The doctor found it out via blood test. I had symptoms of always being tired ( I am 28) so I shouldn't be tired like that. After a full night's rest, I felt I could sleep all day. That is not how I usually am, so it prompted me to go get things checked out. They have put me on a vitamin D prescription that I have to take once a week for a year. They have not stated why it is low or if this will even fix it. I will say this I feel better up until 2 days prior to taking it again. I can feel my fatigue getting worse which has signaled to me that it is getting low. It is quite annoying but hopefully this prescription will help in the long run..."hopefully!"

Alex Munkachy from Honolulu, Hawaii on May 05, 2013:

Good research and well written hub.

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on May 05, 2013:

Barbat - I think it is harder to stay on top of our nutrition as our soils become depleted and we are not able to get the nutrition we once could from foods. This requires us to find other ways to supplement.

I don't write as much as I once did because life has gotten in the way, but I hope you do enjoy what you find here.

B A Tobin from Connnecticut on May 04, 2013:

The pleasure is mine! It is funny how I got all wrapped up in the nutrition of a reptile and while I take the normal multi vitamin and also supplements, as well as eating healthy foods, I see now how we (humans) must be even more aware of our own needs and body reactions. Thank you again for sharing with everyone! I will be looking for more of your writing. Thanks once more and take care!

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on May 04, 2013:

Barbat79 - pleased that you found this information to be invaluable. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on May 04, 2013:

Chuck - I do believe that if at all possible we should get all of our nutrition from natural sources such as food, and in the case of Vitamin D, from the sun. I live in Texas, so I have the ability to receive plenty of sun, but my body does not absorb it as it should. It may have at one point, but it no longer does. I do not believe that a tanning bed via the salons is the answer because that is too much UV exposure. I grew up in a farming community and many of the farmers suffer from skin cancer, so the extended exposure to UV rays is not advisable making tanning beds inadvisable. So that leaves only supplementation which is working for me and others that I have heard from. Thanks for sharing your views on this.