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Can Lack of Sunlight Make You Ill? Examining Vitamin D Deficiency

Carla J. Swick is a freelance writer who resides in NW Pennsylvania and works in higher ed technology.

Why Am I So Tired?

I had been emotionally comatose for some time, walking around as if I had lead in my boots. I could not seem to stay awake at my desk or in meetings. When spring came and I tried to do yard work, I felt like I was slogging through mud. The final straw came one day at work when I fell asleep sitting in front of my computer. Something suddenly woke me up. A noise: I was snoring.

When I visited my doctor, she suggested something I had not thought of previously – checking my vitamin D level. She said she was finding a lot of lower levels in some of her patients given that we live in Pennsylvania where the winters are long and bleak.

The phone call came as a bit of a surprise. My levels, said the nurse, were at 4. According to, “A normal range of vitamin D in your blood from the 25-hydroxyvitamin D test is between 30 and 74 ng/mL, or nanograms per milliliter.” I was immediately put on prescription strength vitamin D and the results were surprisingly fast.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D

What Does Vitamin D Do?

Just what does vitamin D do? According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “Vitamin D is a nutrient found in some foods that is needed for health and to maintain strong bones. Vitamin D is important to the body in many other ways as well. Muscles need it to move, for example, nerves need it to carry messages between the brain and every body part, and the immune system needs vitamin D to fight off invading bacteria and viruses.”

Vitamin D can be found in a variety of foods like fatty fish, even liver and cheese. U.S. Milk and many breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamin D. According to the NIH, "The body makes vitamin D when skin is directly exposed to the sun, and most people meet at least some of their vitamin D needs this way."

SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and the Latitude Factor

Harvard Health Publications sites a Swedish medical journal where they list factors that affect your vitamin D level. The first on the list is “The latitude where you live. At higher latitudes, the amount of vitamin D–producing UVB light reaching the earth’s surface goes down in the winter because of the low angle of the sun. In Boston, for example, little if any of the vitamin is produced in people’s skin tissue from November through February. Short days and clothing that covers legs and arms also limit UVB exposure.”

According to NIH, “Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is prevalent when vitamin D stores are typically low.” WebMD describes SAD as “a type of depression that affects a person during the same season each year… but it is more common in people who live in areas where winter days are very short or there are big changes in the amount of daylight in different seasons.

How Much Vitamin D Should I Take?

So how much vitamin D should you take? Dr. Frank Lipman, Founder of the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center suggests, “Most important is that you take vitamin D3, (cholecalciferol) the active form of vitamin D. Do not take vitamin D2 as it is not as biologically active nor as effective. . .The current recommendations from the Food and Nutrition Board of the U.S. Institute of Medicine: from 200 to 600 IU/day depending on one's age, are way too low.” Lipman recommends 2,000-4,000 IU daily depending on age, weight, season, how much time is spent outdoors, where one lives, skin color, and obviously blood levels. If there is any question on how much vitamin D you should be taking daily, contact your doctor.

Sunshine in a Bottle

Since my personal experience with low vitamin D levels, I keep a bottle in my cupboard and take it regularly especially during the winter months when sunlight in my state is in short supply. It helps keep the lead out of my boots and keeps me awake at my desk, like sunshine in a bottle.


"9 Things That Can Undermine Your Vitamin D Level." Harvard Health Publications. N.p., 30 Aug. 2011. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.

"Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin D." National Institute of Health: QuickFacts. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.

Gloth, FM 3rd, W. Alam, and B. Hollis. "Vitamin D vs Broad Spectrum Phototherapy in the Treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder." National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1999. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.

Lipman, Dr. Frank. "Vitamin D: What You Need To Know." The Huffington Post., 07 Oct. 2009. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.

Pritchard, Joseph. "Normal Ranges of Vitamin D and D2." LIVESTRONG.COM. N.p., 18 July 2011. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.

"Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) - Causes and Risk Factors." WebMD. WebMD, 03 Jan. 0000. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


Carla J Swick (author) from NW PA on August 01, 2013:

Thanks Lisa - it really helped me! Glad to have you following - much appreciated! Cjb

Lisa Brown from Michigan on August 01, 2013:


I am going to try vitamin D 3. I live in Michigan, and I don't eat dairy foods. I like what you said about it getting the lead out of your boots. I am going to like this hub on FB, and pin it too.



I'm now following your "Health" board, and your hubs.

Carla J Swick (author) from NW PA on January 20, 2013:

Thanks for sharing, Blondey - so true.

Blondey on January 20, 2013:

Hey thank you, I'm now taking more Vit D! And my level is good! vitamins are soooo important! great work!

Carla J Swick (author) from NW PA on January 20, 2013:

Tonette, thank you for sharing.

Tonette Fornillos from The City of Generals on January 20, 2013:

Hello Carla. Thank you for sharing your experience. Most people living in the winter land simply ignores this need. I see that vitamin D is that important, not for anything else. I should say, it's one of the most important things you ought not to forget from now on to remain healthy and of course, beautiful! :=) Thanks for the follow and a thousand smiles to you! -Tonette

Carla J Swick (author) from NW PA on January 06, 2013:

Blondey, thanks for your comment. There are many reasons to feel low in the winter (see my hub on the post holiday letdown, but I wonder if your doctor isn't prescribing enough D if your level is still low. I'd ask for actual levels. For instance, I was a 4 and they were able to bring it up to the normal range described in the hub. Here's hoping you feel much better soon. Winters can be hard for many people - I hope you soon feel well. Keep us posted after you see your doc. Take care.

Blondey on January 06, 2013:

Hi carlajbehr,

Thx for the follow, I enjoyed this hub as my doctor told me to take Vit D. It ook the D-3 1000 IU like once or twice a day but my level was still low. Then I stopped taking it altogehter. I've felt depressed during the winter..ugg. I'll be seeing my doc again Tue and well, when she checks my Vit D level, maybe she'll prescribe a stong dose. A woman told me she got a prescription for like 5,000 a day which is like taking 5 of them...I'm not sure how many to take, but I just took 8...just now. Gosh! We needs to keep up with our health. Golly imagine if that is why I felt so low this winter. Thanks for the info.

Carla J Swick (author) from NW PA on January 05, 2013:

Thanks Lis - it will make a difference. Here's to a healthy new 2013 for you. cjb

Lisa Brown from Michigan on January 05, 2013:

I'm glad you pointed out the difference between the D vitimin we don't need, and the D3 that we do. I'm going to make sure I'm getting enough of this and all my vitimins. Thanks for the inspiration to get healthy.


Carla J Swick (author) from NW PA on January 04, 2013:

Yes, PiDog, I was so surprized to find out that my coma-like state had to do with vitamin D. Thanks for reading the hub and sharing.

Carla J Swick (author) from NW PA on January 04, 2013:

Thank you, Froggy Fish - yes, I'm much better now. I appreciate you sharing. on January 04, 2013:

Sunshine in a bottle -catchy title Carla got me here.We're encouraged to cover up and use sunscreen in Australia (high incidences of skin cancer otherwise). On the other hand, I suppose we might be missin out on some of the good stuff .

frogyfish from Central United States of America on January 04, 2013:

Quite necessary information here. And your pitiful 4 level was just atrocious...glad you got the 'sunshine in a bottle'. (Loved that title!)

One further point is that K2 should be taken with the D...something about the calcium absorption, placque formation connection with the D...guess that should be explored further but I can't remember the specifics.

Carla J Swick (author) from NW PA on January 04, 2013:

Thank you, Made. I'm taking my D this winter too. I appreciate your input and look forward to reading more of your hubs as well. Thanks for voting and sharing. CJBehr

Madeleine Salin from Finland on January 04, 2013:

Me and my children are taking some extra vitamin D during the winter. We have long and dark winters here in Finland, and nowhere else in the world, elderly break their legs as much as in Finland. It's probably because of the low levels of vitamin D. I'm voting useful and sharing this hub.

Carla J Swick (author) from NW PA on January 03, 2013:

Ktrapp - best of luck to you. Also remember you can get the blood test to confirm if you are indeed deficient. I wish you the very best and that you do feel well for a healthy, happy 2013 year. Thanks for sharing.

Kristin Trapp from Illinois on January 03, 2013:

I just decided today to get better about taking some vitamin supplements. Vitamin D is one of the ones I am going to take starting at 4,000 IUs at first and then probably decrease it to 2000. I know I must be really deficient and am hoping to feel better quickly like you did. I do need to make sure I have D3 as you suggest.

Carla J Swick (author) from NW PA on December 17, 2012:

Yes, I've heard some say it's because of all the sunscreen we wear - it's hard to say. Thanks for sharing - interesting point.

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on December 17, 2012:

Low vitamin D levels must be pretty common. My doctor prescribed vitamin D for me a couple of years ago. I live in Georgia. We get plenty of sunshine, so it is sort of weird. It was in the summer too. Go figure. Thanks for the information!