06 January 2011

This Post Brought to You by the Letter D

About a year ago I began experiencing dizziness and headaches.  When they escalated to the point that my vision was altered (I saw our silver DirecTV box as purple), I knew it was time to do something.  Lo and behold, my vitamin D levels were atrocious: less than 6ng/mL.  (It's recommended that your minimum level be 100 ng/mL.)  In case you're wondering how it got that low, I'll tell you.

You get vitamin D from two primary sources.  Firstly, from your dietary intake.  Now, in my case I've got to be careful about too much dairy.  The last thing a guy with a digestive disease needs is to exacerbate his woes with the binding power of cheese, you know?  On top of this, one of the myriad ways in which Crohn's disease makes my life peachy is by impairing my ability to absorb nutrients properly.  So, between taking in a conservative amount of D-heavy foods in the first place and then not getting out of them all that I should, I'm behind the 8-ball.

Sunlight is the other chief source of vitamin D.  I try to get outside, but during the winter my steroids-ravaged bones hurt entirely too much to be exposed to the cold.  This past summer was unpleasant, as well.  It seemed the only days where it didn't hurt to breathe from the heat were the days when it was overcast and threatened to rain at a moment's notice (thought it scarcely did).

I was therefore prescribed a supplement of vitamin D.  No big deal, just take some pills every Friday.  The last couple of months, though, I've felt it not lasting as long.  At the peak of performance, I could make it to Thursday before beginning to feel the need for replenishment.  Around Thanksgiving, I was at the point where I stopped feeling the boost on Tuesdays.  As of a week ago, the supplements only seemed to help for a day or two.  On Monday (3 January) I was re-tested.  My level?  20.x ng/mL.  Better than 5.x, but still a far cry from 100.  We're upping my supplementary intake to 50k units weekly.  Hopefully that'll do the trick.

In case you're wondering whether your vitamin D level might be low, here are the symptoms I personally experienced:

increased fatigue (which is saying something, because I'm rarely energetic)
frequent, abrupt dizziness/feeling lightheaded
difficulty concentrating, especially on text-based content (i.e., reading)
altered and/or blurry vision

If you notice these things about yourself for a sustained period of time, and especially if your dairy intake is already low (perhaps you're lactose intolerant) or if you don't see much sunshine (spend a lot of time at the office under florescent lights instead of the sun), then it might be time to see a physician.  Treatment is inexpensive and easy, so there's really no reason to resist addressing the problem.