You are probably deficient in Vitamin D, and it’s really easy to fix

You guys know I’m not any kind of doctor. This is just advice from a mom who knows how to Google stuff and type. So:

Vitamin D deficiency is incredibly common worldwide. Vitamin D is a hormone your body produces when it’s exposed to sunlight. If you don’t get enough sun, because you’re indoors a lot, or because you wear sunblock and protective clothing outdoors, or if you live north of the Mason-Dixon line, or you’re overweight, or you have dark skin, or you’re old — so, most people I know — your body is almost certainly not making enough Vitamin D, and you may be feeling a little or a lot garbagey because of it.

The best thing to do is ask your doctor to get tested. The second best thing (assuming you don’t have kidney problems, or other health problems! Ask your doctor!) is to do is to just buy a bottle of vitamin D3 and start taking some, and see what happens. I got a giant vat of D3 50 mcg (2,000 IU) gummies from Walmart and I started taking 3 of them (so 6,000 IU) with dinner. This is kind of a lot, and is more than is recommended, so I’ll ask to be tested next time I go to the doctor, and I’m keeping an eye out for negative symptoms like nausea and constipation. 

But my story is: In about a week, I started feeling better. I feel more alert and less brain-foggy than I have in a long time. I don’t have to struggle against falling asleep every afternoon. I’m feeling more energetic and upbeat in general. And I have been sleeping SO WELL. Like, my nighttime is not made up of series of confused, unhappy memories of getting up and lying down again and struggling with my sheets. I’m just unconscious. 

This is not the only thing I’ve been doing to try to have a different kind of winter. I really struggle in the cold months, and I also have various moderate but intractable health problems that get discouraging. I have PMDD and a little bit of arthritis and chronic migraines, and my birthright is a heaping helping of gloom. So I’ve been doing yoga, which helps a lot; I’ve been taking Prozac, which helps a lot, especially with the PMDD; and I’ve been working on resetting the way I eat, which helps a lot. I also have committed to making a morning offering before I check my phone, and that helps a lot. I’ve been using those nose opening sticky strips, which helps a bit. And I stopped drinking, and I don’t want to talk about it. But anyway, I have been trying to feel better, so I can do better, and I was starting to think, “Welp, I guess I’m just old, and this is how it is.” 

Turns out you can just eat a few gummies in the evening, and it helps a lot! I have bought vitamin D pills in the past, but I’m so burnt out on taking pills and keeping them straight, I just wasn’t motivated enough to add more. It’s a little silly, but gummies are sweet and easy, so it turns out that was enough to actually make me eat them every day. It’s not dumb if it works, right? Or even if it is dumb, it still works.

I’m making a whole big post out of this because I know (a) how much information there is out there about fixing yourself, and how overwhelming it can be and (b) how helpful it can be to get specific advice from someone you already sorta know and (c) how hard it is to make even one tiny little easy change when you feel like crap all the time. It’s probably true that it’s a combination of things that is helping me; but it’s so rare that something this easy makes a difference. 

What kind of improvement am I talking about? I got up this morning, flicked on the overhead bedroom light, saw the bulb had blown, and just . . . went and got a new bulb, climbed up on my bed, and put it in. I also cleaned off the light fixture, and while I was up there, I went around and wiped away all the cobwebs and dust on the ceiling and wall corners. Then I put the wipes away and threw out the used one, threw out the old lightbulb, and put the empty box in recycling. And I’m on my period right now. 

So no, I’m not running marathons suddenly! Let the reader understand. Some of us struggle with everyday stuff, especially in the dark months. If that sounds like you, maybe get some Vitamin D gummies. Put the bottle next to something you are definitely already going to do every day, so it’s easy to remember. Just try it. If you start feeling better in about a week, you’re probably taking the right level. If you do get tested, your levels may be VERY low, and your doctor may recommend taking high doses by prescription for a while, and then backing down to a maintenance dose. Do ask your doctor! Do not take mega doses without asking your doctor! It is possible to take too much Vitamin D and that will hurt you!

Again, me no doctor, so check with your doctor, especially if you have any kidney issues. (I asked a pharmacist to check for me and make sure it was compatible with all the other meds I take.) Take the vitamin with a little food or milk or something with fat for best absorption. Some people think it interferes with sleep, so maybe take it in the morning. (I don’t have this issue, so it works to take it in the evening.) And yes, I’m encouraging the rest of the family to take it, too. 

Good luck! Winter is hard. Life is hard. This might help. 

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16 thoughts on “You are probably deficient in Vitamin D, and it’s really easy to fix”

  1. I was low in D and did some research to discover a form of D which is more absorbable and can raise levels quickly— Calcifediol. I get it from a company called D.velop. I promise I don’t work for them. But you can easily read about that type. It is used by prescription, also, for some people.

  2. Interesting. I used to get pain in my joints and tailbone. My mother told me that it was from tomatoes and peppers which are related to deadly nightshade. As soon as I cut them out the pain went away! Sometimes I sneak peppers and sure enough, the pain lingers for a few days.

    I’ve heard that you shouldn’t take calcium, just zinc and magnesium and celtic salt. I learned that on an Instagram reel. It’s hard to know what to believe from that source, but I’ve been pleased with some of the things I’ve learned on it.

  3. I so agree to this, although I have trouble finding the right level of Vit D for myself because too much of it revs my anxiety for some reason (even when my blood levels are normal to low – I mean that the supplements themselves seem to have that effect).

    It’s amazing how some reasonably easy things can be the “darn I wish I’d known that sooner” solution to feeling better. I find that iron supplementation after pregnancy has been one of those things that I always forget for far too long and then have the smack my head moment of “wow, I feel crappy – I might actually be anemic!”

    One thing I’ve started very recently that I swear is having a whole host of super positive effects is drinking homemade kefir. So easy to make, and has been helpful for a host of mild GI sx, which I sort of expected, but also seems to have real benefit for stabilizing my mood & boosting immunity. I say this because I’m sailing through the typical cold-y season with little kids and for once NOT getting sick myself, and also feeling far more emotionally calm/not-anxious than is typical for this time of year! It is worth trying out! I’m not a particular stranger to fermented foods as I’ve done the typical yogurt and sourdough type things for a long time, but it turns out kefir might be the very easiest one of the whole bunch because it ferments at room temperature, is done in 24 hours (you just make enough for each day), and no baking required.

    1. Hey Abby, even though my D levels were very low (in the 20’s), I used to experience the Vitamin D overdose symptoms you’re describing. The problem was, my body wasn’t metabolizing the D. I NEEDED Vitamin K2. The Carlson brand of K2 (mk4) is good and not too expensive. I personally take The Relentless Improvement brand of K2 that is both mk4 and mk7.

      I keep my D level in the 80’s, which is right where I like it. The doc would rather it be in the 50’s, and recommended I take my daily dose of D down to 1000 iu’s, but I know how I feel better than he does so I still take my 5000 iu’s every day. I’ve been at this level for at least 5 years. These days, the doc leaves me alone about it.

    2. Thanks for sharing about the kefir – my 9 y/o daughter has had off & on GI issues for the past year or so that no one has been able to figure out so this would be a great thing to try. Thanks!

  4. Glad you are getting good results with this – I was bummed to get a diagnosis of osteoporosis when I thought I was doing all the right things, but as you point out, it’s hard to outrun your genes. I take calcium with D and am hoping to avoid being asked to decide about going on the meds such as Boniva, Fosamax and so forth as I’m trying not to take any more stuff than I have to, not because I think meds are necessarily bad but b/c I don’t want more than I seem to need in the interest of simplification and avoiding possible side effects as much as possible. Good luck with what you’re doing!

    1. Mary Jean! I also have the arthritis/osteoporosis genes but I feel better now than I did ten years ago in my 40s. Once I realized that the food pyramid was a huge lie, I decided to see what else medical advice was wrong about and did a deep dive into what could help what ailed me. And that included arthritis. I’m no doctor or nutritionist (just some random lady on the internet) so take what I say with a grain of salt.

      You probably don’t need calcium and it might even be making things worse

      You almost certainly need to be taking k2. Personally, I feel better with mk4 (even my teeth feel cleaner) than with the widely touted mk7, so I split the difference and take a capsule that has both.

      Just like D, most everyone is deficient in magnesium and would benefit greatly from a magnesium supplement but arthritic people *especially* need mag. Not mag oxide! It’ll just make you poop. Mag citrate or glycinate are ok. Everyone in our family takes mag taurine which is absorbed better than the others.

      I also use vitamin A (retinol) on my face. My joints (particularly my hands and knees) hurt when I don’t.

      After my 85 year old mother moved to Philadelphia in 2021, I got her on the mag taurine and k2. She is still hunched over and extremely arthritic, but bad as she is, she hasn’t deteriorated further these last two years.

      My sister and I who take the D, k2, and mag taurine, use retinol, and eat low carb have somewhat reversed our arthritis and we haven’t begun shrinking. Our other sister (we’re Irish triplets) follows traditional advice and is shrinking and you can see by looking at her gnarled hands, that her arthritis is already pretty bad.

      We all do what we can. Low carb is a bridge too far for Mom who likes her bread and sweets. OTOH, My mom says fish oil really helps her pain and mobility. I believe her but it makes me burp fish taste. If my pain and mobility were bad, I’d put up with it, but until then, no thanks.

  5. Just a lonely SAHM nursing the baby over here saying Thank you for being you. The things you write help me keep going.

    And I should probably start taking vitamin D.

    1. I wanted to chime in to this to say take the Vit D, if not you than for your baby! If you take high enough doses – 4000-6000 – it gets into your breastmilk in high enough levels to prevent Vit D deficiency in your baby (which is very common, and why docs have you either supplement babies with their own vitamins, or take high dose Vit D yourself!) Good for baby, good for you – win-win.

  6. This is great, Simcha. I had some blood work done in September as a first step in dealing with headaches and found out that a) I was significantly deficient in vitamin D and b) my iron levels were too high. Both of those things can make you feel tired and run down, which I did. Increased vitamin D and stopping my iron supplement have really helped my energy levels. And seeing a chiropractor twice a week for the past several weeks is really helping with my headaches; I’ve only had 1 since Thursday!

  7. I am a doctor (board certified in Internal Medicine, practicing for ~10 years) and in general, I agree with the notion that many people are vitamin D deficient (and most don’t know it), especially if you don’t get a lot of sun exposure and/or dairy in your diet.
    Based on my experience and what I know of the data, I would make a few comments (mostly in agreement/support of what you’ve said)

    1. It can be helpful and it does make some people feel better, but I’m careful to not oversell it. I’ve seen plenty of people who are deficient, and we replenish them successfully, and they don’t necessarily feel any better or even different. That being said, some people do!

    2. Even if you don’t feel better, it is probably good for people to get some extra vitamin D to make sure they aren’t deficient, particularly women who are at higher risk of osteoporosis. And not just older women! We want younger women to have good levels of vitamin D to build and maintain good bone health before they start losing it more quickly as they get older.

    3. That being said, there can be too much of a good thing, and that includes vitamins. I agree with you that people should check with their doctors to make sure their individual health situation is amenable to getting more vitamin D, and being mindful of the risk. If you are generally healthy, you probably don’t need levels check and will do just fine with a supplement of 1000 to 2000 units a day. Some people may need more, especially if they are very low, to get their levels back to normal, and then can go back to a lower dose to maintain it. I would not stay on higher doses (more than, say, 2000 units a day) unless a doctor is directly involved with monitoring levels to make sure you are not over-doing it, as I have seen people who take matters into their own hands who end up with toxic levels of Vitamin D.

    1. I think I may be among the “I started taking Vitamin D and nothing happened, other than hopefully lowering my increased risk for osteoporosis” people mentioned here. That said, I’m also a proud member of the Gummies as Ideal Vitamin Delivery System team!

  8. Yes! We get far fewer colds since we started taking Vitamin D. The only thing I’d add is that your body needs K2 (via mk4 and/or mk7) to metabolize the D. We use this one Lots of people say you only need the mk7 (and that’s the one widely available in stores), but if I only take one, I personally take the mk4.

    I used to be in terrible shape before I started taking supplements several years ago. What I notice now is that if I go too many days without using my Retinol (Vitamin A) cream on my face, my joints hurt. I only mention this because lots of people say that Vitamins A and D work together.

  9. Thank you so much for this, Simcha! Not just the vitamin D advice (which I agree with 100% after finally testing in the adequate range – I DO feel better) but for acknowledging that sometimes you just cannot take one more pill – con confirm in both my personal & professional life. Now to check out your yoga posts 😊. Thanks!

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