I first discovered I had a vitamin D deficiency during an annual medical exam in June. A very specific 25-hydroxy blood test indicated my levels of this crucial vitamin fell far short of the norm. Even after my doctor expressed concern and said that I’d need more vitamin D, I brushed it off, noting that I’d simply spend more time outside, soak up some rays and change my diet.
Then comes news this week that low vitamin D levels are linked to risks of Parkinson’s along with other serious ailments.
And it turns out that my self-proposed lifestyle changes weren’t going to be enough — at least not in the short term. My doctor insisted my lack of vitamin D required more aggressive treatment. On June 10, I started taking a prescription of 50,000 units of vitamin D once a week for 12 weeks. I then need another blood test in July.
Her no-nonsense attitude confused and puzzled me. What’s the big deal about vitamin D deficiency?
Plenty. Research, she told me, indicated that a vitamin D shortage in the body is linked to increased risks for Alzheimer’s and heart disease, multiple sclerosis and more.
Early Warning Signs of My Vitamin D Deficiency
For six months to a year, I’ve had many symptoms of this condition, but I’d ignored them or made excuses. First, there was the muscle pain and severe fatigue. My energy levels didn’t increase, even with regular exercise, and I suffered a stress fracture after an easy workout. (Bone fractures, I’ve learned, can be among the early symptoms of vitamin D deficiency.) The muscle pain made it nearly impossible to sleep at night. I wondered if at least one of my symptoms — a partially numb left hand — was an early symptom of Parkinson’s. Most seriously, pain in my left foot was so intense that I was treated at St. Vincent Indianapolis Hospital for a potential blood clot in my leg.
Then there was my job. I spend most of my day inside, writing and working on articles. Many days, my only exposure to sunlight was when I rushed outside to grab the mail, scurrying inside to get back to work. I knew I wasn’t alone. I have friends who get up before dawn, go to work and come home after dark. Except on weekends, they rarely see the sun.
My diagnosis was a shock — and a wake-up call. My doctor didn’t mince words. Yes, I needed the supplement. Yes, I should also get more sun exposure. Yes, I should up my intake of foods rich in vitamin D and make other lifestyle changes.
I was also told to cut back on sunscreen. I was advised to strike a healthy balance, using sunscreen when I was going to be outside most of the day but also going without it for short periods of time.
Hoping for Positive News at the Next Doctor’s Visit
So where do things stand now? Aside from taking the meds, I now try to walk outside for at least an hour a day. Before that I wrote and exercised inside almost nonstop. I’ll also need to keep an eye on my weight. Fat cells pull vitamin D out of the body, leading to potential difficulties in metabolizing this crucial vitamin. If the medical supplements and more sun exposure don’t work, I’ll be tested to discover if my digestive tract and kidneys affect my metabolism of vitamin D.
Since I’ve made the lifestyle changes suggested by my doctor, I’m eagerly waiting for this month’s blood test to discover if I have adequate levels of this crucial vitamin and — hopefully — for my doctor to tell me I no longer lack vitamin D.