Vitamin D: Why You Need it!

Occasionally in polite conversation (i.e., between women…), the topic of Vitamin D deficiency may come up. Women, don’t bother talking to your husbands about vitamin D now; only March Madness is occupying their frontal cortexes (which tend to shrink this time of year—so you’re on your own!).


All that most of us remember—doctors included—about vitamin D from 8th grade health class is that it is necessary for normal bone health, right? Vitamin D is not one, but 5 different fat-soluble entities some of which we can consume in our diets. Others are actually made in our skin from cholesterol when we are exposed to adequate direct sunlight. That is why Vitamin D is often called “the sunshine vitamin”. At the same latitude, fair skinned people will absorb more sunlight than dark skinned people. It does follow that dark skinned individuals are more prone to Vitamin D deficiency than their lighter-skinned neighbors. Indeed, this is one of the primary supports to explain the loss of the protective dark skin in early man as he migrated north from sunny Africa to northern Europe and Asia.


Severe Vitamin D deficiency in children and adults lead to osteomalacia (“rickets” in children). This condition is fortunately quite rare in the developed world. More common is milder deficiency which is a world-wide problem in older men and women, especially in more northern or southern latitudes. These are the bow-legged, hunched-over older men and women one may often see laboring to carry a sack of groceries in Russia or Latvia or Lapland. Vitamin D is also integral to our immune system, and a deficiency of it may contribute to Gestational Diabetes, Toxemia, and small-birth-weight infants.


Most pertinent for most of us in rural Idaho is that low vitamin D levels can cause fatigue. Who doesn’t feel fatigued?? Yeah, that’s what I thought! I am not at risk for rickets or gestational diabetes (I hope), but I certainly wish I had more energy most of the time. I recently measured my own Vitamin D level and found it to be low. I now supplement with 5,000 units of Vitamin D3 daily and I am feeling better. It is also important to supplement Vitamin K in your diet to improve the absorption and utilization of Vitamin D. I do this by increasing green vegetables in my diet (spinach, kale, broccoli, etc.). We have a handout describing what foods these are and how much you need. We are glad to provide it to our patients!


Most of us in Idaho are Vitamin D deficient! Until we move to Jamaica that is not going to change. (Maybe together we can get group airfare rates—-relocate Rexburg to Kingston? —you bet! —my wife is on-board!). So if you are fatigued or if you simply want proper balance for your family’s optimal health, call and make an appointment (208) 356-8883. Vitamin and nutritional guidance is an important part the general preventative and restorative health approach we practice every day at Upper Valley Family Practice and Urgent Care. Come feel better! You and your family are WELCOME!!



  1. Curtis Spear

    Can you take too much vitamin D?

    • Dr Hopkin

      You definitely can take too much Vit D, but it is not common. I treat most adult deficiencies with 5,000 units daily by mouth and recheck levels in 4-6 months. There are patients out there who assume that “if a little bit is good, then a lot would be better!” Such a belief can get someone into trouble quickly. Symptoms of Vit D overdose are not very specific to that condition: they incude poor appetite, nausea, vomiting, weakness, weight loss, constipation, confusion, disorientation, and heart rhythm issues. Also on the list would be hypercalcemia (elevated serum calcium levels) and kidney stones. (Dr. Hopkin)

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