Treating Low Levels of Vitamin D » Nursing Jobs Blog – Nurses Insights at Nursing Jobs.org

Treating Low Levels of Vitamin D

November 2nd, 2015  |  The Blog

Last week’s post asked, Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D? This week’s discussion about vitamin D turns to the highs, the lows and the treatment plan available.

Vitamin D is the buzz in the world of medicine. Most healthcare providers recommend that a patient take a vitamin D supplement, if their blood level is proven to be low, because past research reported that it is important to sustain bone health. New research reports that a vitamin D deficiency might cause damage to the brain and other body organs.

The Problem

Why is there such a growing vitamin D deficiency in the US? There are some simple and obvious reasons, which include but are not limited to:

  • Dietary sources of vitamin D are quite limited
  • Widespread use of sunscreen
  • Wearing long-sleeved, long-leg clothing when outside
  • The popularity of swim shirts when at the beach or the pool

Insufficient Vitamin D Level Downsides

Symptoms of a low vitamin D level include tiredness and general body aches but most people are totally asymptomatic. Low levels of vitamin D are associated with:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Heart disease
  • Some cancers

Without sufficient vitamin D, the body only absorbs 10-15% of dietary calcium. When the vitamin D levels are proper, the body absorbs about 30 to 40 % of dietary calcium. Bone health is strongly impacted by low levels.

Women with low levels during the first 26 weeks of pregnancy have a greater chance of preeclampsia.

Too Much Vitamin D Downsides

When vitamin D levels are high, the symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Sore eyes
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle problems
  • Hypercalcemia or too much calcium in the blood

The normal level of vitamin D in the body is up to 21 nanograms per milliliter. Vitamin D levels that are too high are worse than having too low of a level. Levels higher than normal can case arteriosclerosis or hardening of the arteries, which increases a person’s risk of heart disease.

The Treatment of Low Levels of Vitamin D

The key to addressing potential health problems is to maintain adequate vitamin D blood levels. There is a simple blood test to check the vitamin D level. Patients should talk to their PCP to be tested so they can be appropriately treated.

If the serum level is low, there are vitamin D supplements available. Eating foods rich in vitamin D include fish, eggs and vitamin D fortified milk.

There are limited foods that contain vitamin D, which include oily fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel), eggs, some breakfast cereals, fortified milk and fortified fat spreads. Vitamin D that is ingested through the GI tract, rather than that which is absorbed through the skin from sunlight, is processed by the body in the same way that it is from sunlight.

Try to absorb the vitamin from the sunshine. At least 10 to 15 minutes of exposure to sunshine is needed to maintain adequate vitamin D levels.

The Bottom Line Message

Most people should acquire enough vitamin D from sunshine and do not need to take a supplement. Patients should check with their PCP for professional guidance and recommendations.

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