I Got An F In Vitamin D

There’s “mom tired”—you know, tired from chauffeuring teenagers around or staying up until midnight waiting for them to come home—and then there are other kinds of tired. I know mom tired well. We cope with it by consuming large amounts of caffeine and sleeping in traffic. But I had no idea what was going on when, a year and a half ago, I felt beyond your run-of-the-mill mom tired. I was just plain exhausted—all the time.

The culprit: a deficiency of vitamin D. But it sure wasn’t easy figuring that out.

First I went to my primary doctor for a Complete Blood Count (CBC) panel. A typical CBC panel doesn’t include a blood test for vitamin levels; instead, it focuses on blood cell counts, hemoglobin, blood sugar, and hematocrit. We learned that I wasn’t anemic, my blood sugar level was fine, and all the other results came back in the normal range, too. The doctor sent me on my way with some quick advice: “Get some rest.”

I discovered that Vitamin D deficiencies can cause nerve damage (that can mimic hot or cold sensations in your veins), along with pain throughout your body.

But I knew in my super-tired bones it wasn’t just your garden variety tiredness, so I went to a homeopathic doctor who intuitively knew to run additional panels. When the results came back, they weren’t pretty: My vitamin D was at a level five. (For reference, a vit D level of five is considered deficient in the land of vitamin levels—insufficient levels fall under 30, while deficiency occurs when levels fall below 20.  A level of 60+ is ideal.)

In adults, vitamin D deficiency can not only lead to fatigue, but weak bones, muscle weakness, and bone pain. Armed with this information, I set out to raise my vitamin D level.

I had a few options for how to go about increasing it, but at 5, it was so abysmal that it would be hard to do. First up: I had to get out in the actual sun to absorb vitamin D (keep in mind that any SPF I wore would create a barrier here). This was the simplest step.

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Next, I was told to consume foods high in vitamin D—but very, very few foods include it. And guess what? I hate the ones that do—like liver, mushrooms, and salmon. Instead, I went down the supplemental route and started on a massive dose—for three months—of vitamin D3, which offers the highest absorption rate.

This raised my energy and my D level into the 20s. But because I started feeling better after a few months, I started letting the supplements slip. You see where this is going…

My body was not thrilled with my lack of self-care and I began to feel exhausted again—just six months after taking my supplements. In fact, I began experiencing a new sensation that felt like icy water in my veins. Naturally, I consulted Dr. Google (not recommended, it’s all doom and gloom; go see a real doctor) to determine if I was near death, and I discovered that vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency can cause nerve damage (that can mimic hot or cold sensations in your veins), along with pain throughout your body. (It’s hard to remember to take your vitamins, so let this be a warning!)

Back to the doctor I went, and she ran another panel. This time, my vitamin D level had dropped to a 12. On top of that, my folate and B12 levels were extremely low—all accounting for the feelings I was experiencing.

After a stern—but empathetic—lecture from my doctor, I started taking my supplements again and I’ve been eating foods that contain these vitamins, as well.

The key, I think, is having open communication, asking for what you need, and consulting other professionals for a second opinion.

I felt way better—as quickly as two weeks later—after taking the folate, B12, and D3 supplements. Now I can sit down in a chair and not nod off while watching TV. I have also sharply reduced my caffeine intake, and even doing that hasn’t diminished my energy.

It’s interesting that vitamin deficiencies go largely ignored. Because my original blood test didn’t come back resulting in anemia or with other positive markers for disease, my primary doctor missed crucial vitamin deficiencies. This simple oversight could have caused me to continue experiencing my symptoms, or even worse ones.

Related: Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Your Doctor About Vitamin D

Having a doctor look at you blankly and ask if you are “getting enough rest” is downright frustrating. But if we don’t come to our doctors with even the simplest details around our health issues, we could miss something. When I tell my doctor that I’m exhausted, this should trigger him to check for all sorts of things, including vitamin deficiencies.

The key, I think, is having open communication, asking for what you need, and consulting other professionals for a second opinion.

You also have to stay accountable. It can be easy to overlook, but taking your daily supplements can make all the difference. I learned the hard way so you don’t have to.