I had been to the doctor's office so many times over the past year, and as I sat listening to her words, I felt confused and shocked.
She explained to me that I wasn’t getting any better and she was afraid I might have lupus or some other autoimmune disease. She wasn’t the first doctor to mention these words to me. I thought back a few years when I first started exhibiting these same symptoms, and they had mentioned lupus and autoimmune diseases then too. She handed me my lab paperwork, and I made my way over to the hospital where they took tube after tube of blood from my arm.
The past several months I had quit functioning as a normal adult. I spent most my days in bed, too exhausted to do anything. I had stopped going to buy groceries or run errands of any sort. It was just too much for me physically. I seldom cooked and relied on others for most the things I had always done myself. I rarely felt like doing anything with my 6-year-old son anymore either. It took more than I felt I had left to give just to go to a weekly soccer game to watch him play. Not long ago, I had played soccer regularly with him in the yard after school.
I had to wait a week for the doctor to get all my tests results from my labs back. Finally, the day came to see the doctor again and find out if I had lupus or not. To my relief, it was not lupus that was causing my symptoms, but a vitamin D deficiency. I had no idea how serious a vitamin deficiency could be up until that time.
Vitamin D helps in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus from the intestine, which helps build and maintain bone density to help prevent many medical conditions, such as, brittle bones, lack of energy, fatigue, and low immunity to illnesses.
"Some of the biggest health risks from a vitamin D deficiency are osteoporosis, autoimmune diseases, heart disease, cancer and diabetes,” Mandy Wright, board-certified family nurse practitioner told SheKnows.
Wright also noted, “It’s been shown that in individuals with decreased sun exposure and low vitamin D, they have higher incidences of some cancers: colorectal, lung, breast, prostate and thyroid.”
Studies suggest vitamin D supplements reduce cardiovascular disease, which is important to reduce the risk of stroke and heart attacks in women over 50, she added.
Vitamin D deficiency can cause a variety of symptoms, including muscle weakness, fatigue, pain, depression, head sweats and even gut problems, such as Crohn’s and inflammatory bowel disease.
It also helps fight off infections like cold and flu and plays an important part in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and in helping prevent autoimmune diseases like lupus and multiple sclerosis.
You can reduce your risk of developing a vitamin D deficiency by getting enough sunlight and eating certain foods, like salmon, tuna, mackerel, egg yolks, cheese, beef liver and milk that is fortified with vitamin D.
It is important to get 15 to 20 minutes of sun exposure at least three times per week to help maintain a healthy level of Vitamin D. If you need to take a vitamin D supplement, many health professionals recommend vitamin D3 over just plain vitamin D2 because at higher doses, D2 has been found to be less potent. The recommended daily allowance of vitamin D from the age of 1 until age 70 is 600 IU. After you turn 70, it is recommended to increase vitamin D intake to 800 IU. Although, the Endocrine Society recommends even higher doses of up to 2,000 IU per day in some adults.
Medical professionals are getting better at checking for vitamin deficiencies, but if you have any of these symptoms, be sure to talk to your doctor.
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