Ask a Nurse - Vitamin D Deficiency

by Cathy Parkes November 28, 2022 Updated: December 21, 2022 1 min read

In this episode of Ask A Nurse, Registered Nurse Cathy Parkes BSN, RN, CWCN, PHN answers your questions about vitamin D, such as “What is Vitamin D’s role in the body” “Who is at increased risk for low Vitamin D levels” and, “How can I increase my levels of vitamin D?”

Cathy explains the importance of vitamin D in bodily functions and recommended daily amounts for adults. She describes the symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency, risk factors that place an individual at high risk for low vitamin D levels, and how to get your vitamin D levels checked.

Cathy describes food sources that are rich in vitamin D, along with other ways to increase your vitamin D levels.

Finally, Cathy shares the risk for vitamin D toxicity and the symptoms of toxicity.

Full Transcript

Hi, I'm Cathy with Level Up RN.

In this episode of Ask a Nurse, I will be answering your questions about vitamin D. For example, "what is vitamin D's role in the body?" and, "who is at risk for low vitamin D levels?" and "how can I increase my levels of vitamin D?"

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that is essential for the absorption of calcium. So it's definitely important for strong bones. However, vitamin D is also essential for nerve function, muscle function, as well as immune system function.

The recommended daily amount needed for adults between the ages of 19 and 70 is 20 micrograms, which is 800 IU, or international units.

A deficiency in vitamin D can lead to osteoporosis, as well as other bone disorders such as rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. A lack of vitamin D is also associated with chronic illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, depression, as well as diabetes.

Individuals at higher risk for a vitamin D deficiency include older adults, those who do not get much sun exposure, people with darker skin and individuals with conditions that limit their fat absorption. So for example, ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease.

Vitamin D deficiency is extremely common in the US, and studies suggest that approximately 42% of Americans have low levels of vitamin D. So it's definitely worth asking your primary care provider about checking your levels of vitamin D.

And speaking of your primary care provider, if you're not currently getting your annual well checks, making an appointment for well check is a first good step. At that appointment, your provider can order routine blood work to check your vitamin D levels, and if your levels come back low, then a vitamin D supplement may be recommended.

Dietary sources of vitamin D include fatty fish, such as tuna, salmon, and trout. Fortified milk, cereal, and other foods also contain vitamin D. And your skin actually produces vitamin D upon exposure to the sunlight. The tricky thing is is that UV radiation causes an increased risk for skin cancer. So if you are out in the sun for more than a short time, sunscreen is recommended.

In addition, as I mentioned before, vitamin D supplements are readily available. And if recommended by your doctor, they can easily be found at your grocery store or at Costco.

Be sure to check with your provider before taking a vitamin D supplement because too much vitamin D is not a good thing. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, so it is stored in your body for a long period of time. So when consumed in excess, it can result in toxicity.

Too much vitamin D can cause nausea and vomiting as well as muscle weakness, dehydration, and kidney stones.

Okay, I hope this episode of Ask a Nurse has been helpful for you. If you have any health concerns or questions that you would like me to cover in a future episode, definitely leave those in the comments. Stay informed and stay well.


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