Are you deficient in vitamin D?

February 23, 2012

Health, Health Concerns, Pain

Vitamin D is actually not a vitamin; it is a steroid hormone and considered a prohormone.

by Dr. Fred G. Arnold — 

It has been estimated that 1 billion people worldwide have a vitamin-D deficiency. According to several studies, 40 to 100 percent of U.S. and European elderly men and women still living in the community (not in nursing homes) are deficient in vitamin D. More than 50 percent of postmenopausal women taking medication for osteoporosis had suboptimal levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (below 30 ng/ml).

Vitamin D is actually not a vitamin; it is a steroid hormone and considered a prohormone. In fact, it is the most abundant prohormone in the body and is also known as calcidiol and calcitriol. Due to the fact that 90 to 100 percent of vitamin D is made in the skin from cholesterol under the influence of UVB radiation (via sunlight), it is commonly referred to as the sunshine vitamin. It is said that your skin can only make vitamin D when your shadow is shorter than you.

The wavelength of UVB and the amount of exposure is critical to the production of vitamin D. The main reason many people are deficient is because our exposure to sunlight is now greatly reduced, compared with our ancestors.

Remember that our forebears lived naked in the sun for several million years. Then 50,000 years ago, people migrated north and south to places with less sunlight. We put on clothes and began working inside and living in cities where buildings blocked the sun. More recently, we started traveling in cars where glass windows blocked even more of the UVB in the sunlight. Today, we apply sun block and/or actively avoid the sun altogether.

We must expose 80 percent of our body to the sunlight at least 20 minutes each day for adequate vitamin D production. Even in the desert, very few people get this much sunlight.

Vitamin D deficiency typically occurs when blood or serum levels are less than 30 ng/ml, although this measure can be dependent upon the study cited and definition used. In the blood, vitamin D is measured as vitamin D3-25 hydroxy.

Vitamin D deficiency symptoms and diseases

Since the industrial revolution, a significant reduction in sunlight exposure has occurred. This was at the same time that cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer seemed to have greatly increased. According to James E. Dowd, M.D., in his book The Vitamin D Cure, symptoms of vitamin D deficiency can include: fatigue, joint pain and/or swelling, muscle pain, cramping and/or weakness, chronic pain, uncontrolled weight gain, high blood pressure, restless sleep, poor concentration and memory, headaches, and bowel and bladder problems.

Health conditions associated with vitamin D deficiency include depression, seasonal affective disorder, fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, arthritis (osteoarthritis, gout, pseudogout, tendinitis, bursitis), osteoporosis, gum disease and tooth loss, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, autism and metabolic syndrome. Autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus erythematosus, type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis are associated with a lack of vitamin D intake. Vitamin D protects against cancers such as colorectal, renal cell, breast, prostate and ovarian cancers and others, including leukemic cells and retinoblastoma.

Vitamin D and painful conditions

There are numerous studies that link vitamin D deficiency to painful conditions. One such study in the British Journal of Medicine found pain resulting from low vitamin D levels to be related to painful conditions. Generally, the pain is symmetrical and starts in the lower back, then spreads to the pelvis, upper legs and ribs and is felt mainly in the bones and muscles.

Treatment with vitamin D and calcium resulted in a complete resolution of symptoms occurring within six to eight months. According to a Mayo Clinic study in 2003, “All patients with persistent, nonspecific musculoskeletal pain are at high risk for the consequences of unrecognized and untreated severe hypovitaminosis D.” This article recommended screening all outpatients with persistent, nonspecific musculoskeletal pain for hypovitaminosis D as a standard practice in clinical care.

Vitamin D is provided in tablet, capsule or oil-based liquid forms. I find that the oil-based liquid is best absorbed and raises serum levels the fastest. Also, benefits have been reported from using a transdermal cream. According to Dr. John Lyftogt, a pain-management doctor in New Zealand, the recommended dosage of transdermal cream is 40,000 IU, applied twice a day.

Vitamin D toxicity

Serum vitamin D is measured as vitamin D3, 25-OH, and because vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, there has been concern regarding toxicity levels in the body. Reinhold Vieth, Ph.D., is one of the world’s most prominent scientists studying vitamin D,  and he believes that the toxicity concern is unwarranted, bordering on hysteria and rampant in the medical profession.

According to Michael F. Holick M.D., Ph.D, “Vitamin D intoxication is observed when serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D are greater than 150 ng/ml.” Furthermore, he reports that doses of 10,000 IU of vitamin D per day for up to five months do not cause toxicity.

Vitamin D overdose causes excess calcium (hypercalcemia) in the blood. The main symptoms of vitamin D overdose are: anorexia, nausea and vomiting, frequently followed by excessive thirst and urination, weakness, nervousness, itching and ultimately renal failure.


Vitamin D deficiency and its associated health problems are epidemic and worldwide, especially in modern societies where clothes are worn on a regular basis. Serum vitamin D testing should be an integral part of each health evaluation and screening to help identify, treat and prevent numerous health conditions linked to its deficiency.


Fred G. Arnold, D.C., N.M.D., specializes in prolotherapy/pain rehabilitation services. He is a Diplomate of the American Academy Health Care Providers and is one of the few physicians in the nation with both a naturopathic medical degree and chiropractic degree. 602-292-2978 or

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 30, Number 4, Aug/Sept 2011.

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