Unexpected Vitamin D Deficiency despite a lot of Sun?

Unexpected Vitamin D Deficiency despite a lot of Sun?

“How is that even possible? I just got back from 3 months at the South coast of Spain?”

At that time I was living in the Netherlands and had been traveling to the sun in winter time. I was in the GP’s office to get the results of my general medical test and just didn’t understand how I could have a Vitamin D deficiency despite a lot of sun I had been in.

The doctor explained to me that an aging skin does not absorb as much Vitamin D as a younger skin and suggested taking supplements. Until then, I was very reluctant to take any supplement at all. I thought that a healthy diet should be sufficient.

Well, it was my choice; to stubbornly follow my original beliefs or to look at the scientific results and act accordingly.

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Why do we even need Vitamin D?

mushrooms

Vitamin D helps to absorb calcium from food or supplements into the body. Making it important for the growth and maintenance of strong bones and teeth. In addition, vitamin D plays a role in the proper functioning of the muscles. And even more important is its effect on the function of the immune system.

At the time of writing this, half the world is under the spell of the COVID-19 virus. And I keep wondering why there is so little attention from the governments in a healthy lifestyle in general and the immune system in particular.

We still don’t know much about the virus, but we do know that many of the people who died were overweight and a lot were already suffering from chronic diseases. All the more reason for me to give extra attention to my immune system.

Not that I am overweight, nor do I have any disease. I am doing my best to maintain a healthy lifestyle, although at times the anxiety around the virus gets to me and makes me lose my positivity.

Who is at Risk of a Vitamin D Deficiency?

Those who live up north are at risk

The following groups are at a higher risk of insufficient Vitamin D levels:

  • Elderly and aging people
  • People who are overweight or obese
  • Those who live in areas where the sun doesn’t shine much
  • People with a dark skin
  • The ones who don’t eat enough fish or dairy
  • Those who are always indoors
  • People who always apply sunscreen

I am a true believer of informing myself as much as I can (aren’t we lucky we live in the time of the internet?) and gaining knowledge by testing. So I want to suggest you to get a general medical test if you think you might have a Vitamin D deficiency.

Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency

  • Pain in joints and muscles even without pressure;
  • Fatigue;
  • Lethargy;
  • Weakness;
  • Get injured by a push or bump;
  • Muscle tremors or cramps;
  • Waking up sweaty at night due to anxiety attacks or nightmares;
  • Hyperventilation in stressful situations;
  • Hypersensitive or bleeding gums.
Solgar Calcium Magnesium VitamineD3

According to Gert Schuitemaker, a Dutch pharmacist and orthomolecular doctor, the risk of cancer and autoimmune diseases is reduced by taking vitamin D.

In earlier research, he explained how people with a vitamin D deficiency can protect themselves against osteoporosis, cancer and cardiovascular disease. And possibly also against diabetes, rheumatism, multiple sclerosis, depression and tuberculosis.

Schuitemaker believes that the recommended daily allowance of 10mcg vitamin D should be increased to 25mcg in ‘normal’ times as soon as possible.

In this COVID-19 time it should even be 75mcg because of the positive impact of vitamin D on the immune system.

Testing is important to gain knowledge

When I first took a general medical test I was 63 and I regret I waited that long. The main reason was that I don’t like to visit a doctor. Why would I ask for a test when I am healthy?

But if I had been tested more often and from a younger age on, I would have known much better what ‘is part of me’ and what is different from previous results.

Nowadays I have a test at least once a year.

What strikes me – I am living in Spain nowadays – is that the way of presenting test results and the recommended values differ from country to country. And also from lab to lab. This makes it hard to decide what the right values are.

For me this means that we have to stay critical about results and to keep on educating ourselves.

Food with Loads of Vitamin D

Fatty fish is healthy

At the end of the conversation with my GP about my vitamin D deficiency, I asked him which food contains a natural supply of Vitamin D. His reply was “none”. Say what?

A lot of doctors only want to know about the benefits of pharmaceutical medication and not about ‘food as medication’. What struck me most was that the GP was very young. I expected that the present training institutes would be aware by now of the benefits of prevention instead of waiting for someone to become ill. 

Thank goodness there is a lot of food that contains Vitamin D. Unless all the food agencies and nutritionists are lying of course. 🙂

  • Fatty fish, also great for providing omega 3. For instance wild salmon, mackerel, sardines and canned tuna.
  • Cod liver oil
  • Mushrooms
  • Egg yolk
  • Almonds
  • Almond milk. Unlike fortified milk, almond milk contains a natural supply of Vitamin D.
  • Fortified food, like milk or orange juice with added Vitamin D

Food containing Vitamin D that I don’t eat or drink myself for various reasons, but are good sources:

  • Soy milk. The film soy milk puts on the inside of our stomach and intestines prevents nutrients from being properly absorbed by the body. Yet for me the main reason not to drink it, is that most of the soy crop comes from the Amazon area. A lot of tropical forest is cut to make way for soy plantations.
  • Liver. I don’t eat cow, sheep, goat, horse or game.
  • Cheese. Dairy gets me eczema. So although I love cheese, it’s better for me not to eat it.

75% of the world population is lactose intolerant and 2 to 3% has a milk allergy. So I am not the only one having problems with dairy. 🙂

Can we Overdose ourselves on Vitamin D?

An intake of too much vitamin D for a long time can cause damage to the heart, kidneys and blood vessels. Symptoms include nausea, drowsiness, loss of appetite and constipation.

I am not mentioning any intake amounts here, because the way of measuring and representation is different in countries. The main action is to get checked by a GP whenever you are in doubt. Please don’t take any risks.

Am I still taking supplements of Vitamin D?

As long as my tests show that my values are on the low or average side I am taking my supplements. My main reason for wanting to have values that are on the high side is that I don’t eat or drink dairy. So I also have Calcium/Magnesium tablets. Vitamin D and Calcium are essential together to function at their best, Magnesium is necessary for an optimal effect of vitamin D. 

And as long as the pandemic continues I am all the more motivated to continue my intake in order to help my immune system.

As brand, I always choose Solgar for a number of reasons as you can read in my review.

Do you take any Vitamins? And if so, which ones? Let me know in the comment box.

28 thoughts on “Unexpected Vitamin D Deficiency despite a lot of Sun?”

  1. This is such great information. I live in the desert and get a lot of sunshine. most of the summer is spent indoors because it is just too hot. I swim in an outdoor pol almost every morning before it gets too hot. Do you think I am doing enough to get vitamin D naturally?

    Reply
    • Hi Catherine, I saw a picture of you and you’re waaayyy younger than I am 🙂
      So, yes, I do think you get a lot of vitamin D the natural way.
      To be absolutely sure you should test it of course. I deeply regret I didn’t have tests when I was younger. That way I should now know better what belongs to me personally.

      Reply
  2. Great article

    I am vegan and I also want to say that vegans are also at risk of not getting enough vitamin D.
    I will bookmark this post so I will be able return to it and use these foods.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Thabo. You’re right, vegans need to be careful too. Even more so for a deficiency of vitamin B12 than for vitamin D, because the latter can also be absorbed by the body if you spend a lot of time in the sun. While vitamin B12 can be absorbed almost exclusively through meat, fish, eggs and dairy.

      Reply
      • Hopefully, people who choose the vegan route do the research to find these types of things out before they switch.
        I know that I have many things that I need to watch out for, as, like you, I don’t eat red meat of any kind or dairy, along with many strange intolerances an allergy test revealed to me.
        Have you ever heard of someone having allergic sensitivity to bananas and potatoes?
        Potassium is a big issue in my diet.
        I do supplement on a daily basis for a lot of things that are probably a little short in my diet.
        Thanks for the good read, it was well served.

        Tyler

        Reply
        • Ai, no, I have never heard of being allergic to bananas and potatoes. What a pity for you, Tyler, bananas are delicious – at least for me. 🙂
          I have a lot of allergies but they are all related to dust and other external sources. Cat hairs, my own hair, mites, things like that. I am lucky enough to not have any food allergies.

          It’s great that you have found a way to solve your deficiencies with supplements. Supplementing your food this way in addition to a healthy diet to stay healthy is better than medication!

          Reply
  3. Really useful information. I am vitamin D deficiency myself. So will definitely follow your advice.

    Thanks for the useful information.
    Habib

    Reply
  4. Yes! A great article about vitamin D. People who have trouble sleeping despite living healthy might also have a vitamin D deficiency. Every time I stay inside too long I get very tired until I just get a little bit of Vitamin D in from the sun, and also getting too little sun makes me sleep bad. I also did not know that aging skin absorbs less Vitamin D. Very informative. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Chantelle. We’re learning all the time, isn’t it great. 🙂
      Sunlight is so uplifting, don’t you think? I really love to have lunch or a break, sitting in the sun on my terrace. I am so lucky to have 300 sunny days out of our 365.

      Reply
  5. Such a great insight again Hannie in regards to becoming/staying healthy and strong. Like you in the past, I’m not a fan of taking supplements, however your articles are starting to make me rethink my approach and position towards my diet and aging healthy.

    Reply
    • Yes, Klaas, we both know how I thought about supplements in the past 🙂 Big shift, isn’t it?
      I am so glad we have inspired each other to be more mindful with our food and what we put into our mouths.
      xxx

      Reply
  6. This is great information. I have been vitamin D deficient in the past but have forgotten to recheck. I didn’t realize that wearing sunscreen affects vitamin D production as well. Thank you for this valuable information.

    Reply
  7. Hi Hannie,

    Reading your article makes me feeling grateful for my company because they arrange medical checks for every employee each year, and everyone is required to complete the check. After the check, doctors will come to our office and explain the red numbers on your paper if you got any.
    For me, the doctor simply suggests me to take some vitamin C, so I follow the instruction on a daily basis to avoid getting colds.

    Vitamin D is a topic that has been discussed a lot in my country, but I still prefer to take as much sun as possible to get the enough amount. Once my skin is not working well for it, I would consider taking the supplements you listed in this article.

    Thanks for sharing,
    Matt

    Reply
    • Oh Matt, aren’t you lucky. I sure wish I had medical checks when I was younger 🙂
      In which country are you and what is the discussion about?
      Thanks for commenting!

      Reply
  8. Thank you for this article. I stay in tropical countries and get more than the necessary sunlight. Do you think I can still be vitamin D deficient? Is there any obvious sign of the deficiency other than getting it tested?

    Reply
    • If you are younger than 60 you’ll probably not be vitamin D deficient, but I am no doctor.
      Commonly indicated signs of deficiency are:
      Getting sick or infected often / Feeling tired / Bone and back pain / Impaired wound healing / Hair loss / Muscle pain.
      Quite a list as you can see.

      Reply
  9. Defintely Vitamin D deficient! Before my doctor confirmed this for me, I observed that I was always feeling so tired no matter how much I rested. I live in Canada by the way, but was generally weighed down with work for my management role that left little time to soak in the sun. Age also played a huge part in the dynamics and like you, I felt that I could get all my nutrients from food intake. Now i know better.

    It’s good to be feeling my usual energetic self again. Great information!

    Ceci

    Reply
    • Thanks Ceci. Sometimes our bodies are wiser than we are, aren’t they 🙂
      If you are in the Northern hemisphere you’re more at risk of developing a vitamin D deficiency. And then being awfully busy – like you described – is setting yourself up for problems. I am so happy you were able to resolve that in an easy way.

      Reply
  10. I agree with you we should have a medical test once a year in order to let us know our healthy status. So that we can do something to maintain our health like you. I have learned how to avoid from deficiency of Vitamin D. Thanks a lot.

    Reply
  11. Thank you so much for this highly informative article! My mother, who is 59, currently has a Vitamin D deficiency and takes a Vitamin D supplement (along with a Vitamin C and iron supplement) to regulate her levels. She loves the good outdoors and spends a lot of time outside, but as you mentioned, she needs more to maintain proper Vitamin D levels. She and I both love to eat, so I’m so happy to see/hear that there are many Vitamin D-rich foods out there! I have saved your site and will definitely be back! God bless you!

    Reply
    • Great! Yes, good and varied food is so important. Like your mother I don’t get enough from just the food and the sun, so I am also glad with supplements. But I can’t stress enough how important it is to eat heathy food 🙂
      Thank you!

      Reply
  12. Interesting post on vitamin D. You are right we really need to strengthen our immune system as it is our first line of defence against pathogens. Just the other day I read about how the severity of covid 19 is associated with vitamin D deficiency, and that the deficiency could be the cause of death in covid 19 patients. However, the evidence is not conclusive. When we are young we don’t think about the future especially in terms of aging. It feels like we’ll stay young forever. Certain things can be prevented, like you say, we need to do some routine checkups so that we may detect early if there’s something that needs to be addressed to prevent unnecessary future sufferings

    Reply
    • Thanks, Maggie. That’s one of the main problems with the virus right now, isn’t it, lots of opinions that are not always backed scientifically. We can do no more than keep ourselves informed. 🙂

      Reply
  13. It is interesting to see that being exposed to the sun doesn’t always mean you get enough of the D vitamin. I didn’t know that elderly people absorb this vitamin more difficult when they are in the sun.

    Of the foods you listed, I often eat mushrooms, and my soy intake has increased a little bit (I never ate much of it before) because it helps me with some hormonal issues. It is sad that soy has such bad press and on top of that it is one of the reasons why the Amazon rainforest is being cut down, when soy actually has several benefits … I buy soy that is produced in Mexico, but I am going to ask where exactly they farm it. I read that it was farmed here in Mexico, but I am going to make sure, just in case.

    Ever since covid started I have been taking a multi vitamin supplement to keep my immune system strong. I am still taking it and I probably will continue to do so as long as covid has not been contained. I eat healthy, but I take the supplement to make up for vitamins I may or may not be missing from my daily meals, just in case again.

    I agree that governments should focus on guiding their people towards healthier diets and lifestyles instead of developing more and more vaccines. I find it worrisome that the covid vaccine was developed so quickly ….

    Reply
    • My thoughts too, Christine, that the vaccine is developed so quickly. Someone who has been working in a labatory explained to me that they have been working on a vaccine since the SARS and the Mexican flu outbreak, which could explain the speed.

      Still, I tend to not believe the ability of a vaccine to solve the problem. The next virus is on its way. There is a huge outbreak bird flu in the Netherlands. And with the way the chicken are dealt with, it’s an almost assured thing we’ll just have to wait for a contamination of humans.

      That’s why I am so convinced we have to change our way of living. Like you are. Eating healthy, taking good and responsible care of the earth, be gentle for animals. Well, I don’t have to tell you, because you know.:)

      Reply
  14. Hi Hannie,

    Well your experience almost mirrors mine.

    I’m not someone who has ever really been ill in my life, but in the spring on 2015 I felt absolutely terrible almost on a daily basis.

    In truth, both my parents had passed away within 6 months of each, and I had spent the previous 4 months in India.

    I was initially only supposed to be there for 4 weeks.

    I went with my father to spread my mum’s ashes in the country of her birth, but my father soon became very, very ill (to be honest, even though he had extreme heart difficulties anyway, I think he just couldn’t live without the love of his life).

    Unfortunately, he too soon passed as well.

    So, upon my return to the UK I just assumed that the way I was feeling was grief.

    However, things didn’t improve, so I visited my GP (which also happened to be the first time in nearly 25 years I was told).

    As it turns out, I had a severe vitamin D deficiency.

    I was somewhat amazed to be told this, as I had just spent 4 months of my life in a tropical climate.

    I generally went for a walk most mornings, so I was definitely getting out in the sun, so it was a mystery to me.

    My vitamin D deficiency was so bad that I was prescribed an extremely strong tablet that I could only take twice a week, and for a 6-week period.

    Funnily enough, I soon started to feel better again.

    I still take a daily vitamin D tablet to this day, but I also learned at the time that it was probably also due to the foods I was and wasn’t eating.

    Even going through your list now, there are things that I have only really started eating in the last 5 years or so.

    Plus, I also have some kind of an issue with dairy. I wouldn’t say I was lactose intolerant, but most dairy products don’t seem to agree with me.

    You would think that fatty fish would be high on my list, as I exercise so much, but I’ve never really been a fan of fish.

    With that said, this has changed in recent years.

    A great read Hannie, and pretty much everything you’ve said here rings true with my own experiences.

    Partha

    Reply
    • Oh, Partha, that must have been hard, losing your parents within such a short time period. I am so sorry! It’s happening at times, isn’t it, that people die shortly after one another. My great-grandparents died within a time span of 3 months. They were 86 and 85 and we too suspected they couldn’t live on without each other. Hard as it is for the ones left behind, in a way I also find it kind of romantic.

      So I am not the only one having been in the sun a lot and still have a vitamin D deficiency. I am not a creepy exception after all. LOL

      I wonder if there is a connection somehow: if you’re a meat lover – like you – you don’t like fish and vice versa. What do you think? And yes, I would have thought you valued fish, but you and me both know there are more ways to get to our needed amount of nutrients.

      Reply

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