Laboratory Focus: Serum Vitamin D
Do you need to supplement with vitamin D? Today I want to talk about a very simple blood test that often gets overlooked, but is an important tool when it comes to evaluating our Vitamin D status. This test is known as Serum Vitamin D.
The winter months are a dreary and dark time. We are exposed to fewer hours of daylight during the winter months, and this results in less sun exposure. Vitamin D is converted to it’s active form in our blood when our skin is exposed to the sun’s rays. This active form of Vitamin D is important for many different reasons, including the support of our immune system as well as muscle and bone health. We also addressed the importance of Vitamin D during flu season here. In addition to these systems, Vitamin D also plays a defining role in our mood.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
When we have insufficient skin exposure to direct sunlight, and our blood levels of active Vitamin D inevitably decline, this can result in Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that occurs during the same season each year. Getting direct sun exposure during the winter months (5-20 minutes, 2 times a week) can help to increase Vitamin D, improve our mood, and prevent against developing SAD. Supplementing with vitamin D can also be beneficial when it comes to treating this concern.
But how much Vitamin D we need?
Laboratory Serum Vitamin D
Our Vitamin D status, and possible insufficiency, can be determined with a very simple and important test, known as Serum Vitamin D. Serum is the fluid that remains when coagulants and other materials have been removed from your blood. Vitamin D levels can be determined by examining this fluid.
There are two forms of Vitamin D measured in blood serum:
- 25-hydroxyvitamin D: The inactive form of Vitamin D.
- 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D: The active form of Vitamin D.
25-hydroxyvitamin D has a longer half-life (remains longer in our blood) and is thus commonly measured to assess and monitor vitamin D status.
Serum Vitamin D is a simple test, with no preparation in advance. It can be requested by your healthcare provider, including your Naturopathic Doctor.
Who is at risk?
Lower levels of sun exposure are a major reason why some people have low levels of this important vitamin. That being said, there are some other characteristics that predispose individuals to this condition.
- the elderly,
- those who don’t get enough sun exposure,
- people with darker skin
- people who take certain medications for long periods of time.
If you fall under any of these markers, talk to your health practitioner about your health and Vitamin D supplementation.
Winter is dreary enough! Feeling depressed and low because of seasonal changes can just make things feel more dark. If you think your vitamin D levels may need a boost, assessing your serum Vitamin D could be beneficial. Talk to a healthcare professional about whether or not testing and supplementation with Vitamin D is right for you.
Contact Dr. Linda Shih, ND, for more information at Spine Stretch Studio. I look forward to helping you on the road to wellness!