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Vitamin D Deficiencies in Seniors

You may already know that vitamin D deficiencies have become increasingly common in recent years, especially since more people of all ages are spending larger amounts of time indoors. But what you may not know is that seniors have an increased risk of vitamin D deficiency, not only because they may not be as inclined toward outdoor activities, but also because their bodies can’t synthesize vitamin D from sunlight as efficiently as people under the age of 50. This deficiency has become so prevalent, The International Society for Clinical Densitometry has called it “the silent epidemic of the elderly”.

There are a number of signs of vitamin D deficiency that shouldn’t be ignored, including:

  • muscle weakness
  • mobility problems
  • fatigue
  • chronic gut issues such as IBS
  • moodiness
  • weight gain
  • weakened immune system

A study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism states that at least 70 percent of seniors aged 65 to 88 have at least one physical limitation due to a vitamin D deficiency and are likely to experience further functional decline.

Unfortunately, too many people push off symptoms like this to “normal aging” and just accept the symptoms rather than bringing them to their doctor’s attention. However, not all doctors will check vitamin D levels unless requested and instead may automatically prescribe an unnecessary medication for the symptom. This, of course, will either help only for a short period or won’t help at all, and new health issues may arise from the medications.

Vitamin D is a necessary catalyst for serotonin production, the “feel good” brain hormone that affects our moods. A serotonin-deficient person could experience depression, mania and become prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), all of which are typically treated with dangerous psychiatric medications. Low vitamin D levels can also weaken the immune system and create an overall hormonal imbalance resulting in low brain serotonin and high gut serotonin production.

Proper vitamin D levels offer these protections as well as others:

  • maintain bone density
  • lower risk of heart disease, some cancers and diabetes
  • mobility maintenance
  • strengthened immunity
  • fall and fracture prevention
  • maintain independent lifestyle
  • lessen risk of Parkinson’s disease

Besides natural sunlight, certain foods contain higher levels of vitamin D; these include fatty fish (choose fish that are lower in mercury such as salmon, sardines, anchovies and trout, among others), egg yolks, almond milk fortified with vitamin D, cheese and beef liver.

It’s important at any age to know your vitamin D level, and it’s just as important to know how much vitamin D supplementation you should take, if any. Each person’s levels are different, depending on the foods they eat, their time spent outdoors, and more; too much of anything can be just as bad as not enough. Only through comprehensive individualized testing can the proper levels of vitamin D be reached and maintained for optimal health.

Find out what you need to know about your thyroid hormone or health disorder diagnosis today, and get health news updates via Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and The Wellness Essentials newsletter.

If you’d like to leave a question for me to answer in a future blog, you can do that via social media or email.

For more information about my clinic in Oradell, NJ, including Functional Medicine, Neurology & Nutrition, and The Grassroots Medicine Initiative, please call (201) 261-5430.

Thyroid Hormones Part 3: Misunderstood and Mismanaged

It is widely known by endocrinologists, physicians and the medical community that low thyroid function is always secondary to something else; yet the issue of the autoimmune attack is almost never addressed. Instead, patients are considered to be managed and treated properly when the TSH normalizes. In a sense the patient is having his or her TSH managed, but the underlying mechanism for low thyroid function (the autoimmune attack) is not. In many instances a doctor will even refuse to run thyroid antibodies because it is not seen as an effective agent of change for the prevailing method of treatment.

In conventional medicine, what I call The Replacement Model, a drug, or in this case a hormone, is meant to replace actual physiology. Any symptoms that remain after the normalization of the TSH marker are attributed to some other cause. In other words, the prevailing medical thinking is that since the TSH reads as “normal” on your lab report, or within laboratory range for prescribing medicine, not only should the symptoms be resolved, but the drug you are taking has worked as a perfect replacement for actual thyroid hormone! We know otherwise.

For example, if your thyroid condition is causing depression, which it commonly does, then the medical doctor or psychiatrist will give you antidepressants instead of trying to identify and correct the root cause. Why? Because if the TSH, which is the standard measure of thyroid function, is now in the normal laboratory range, how could the depression symptoms be related? On the surface it seems logical unless you yourself are suffering from this condition.

If you haven’t had this experience yet, you probably will. You will go into your doctor’s office because you STILL suffer with the same symptoms, and in an attempt to move you out of the office in the allotted 10 minutes for your visit, the medical doctor is going to shove an anti-depressant prescription at you and tell you that it will help alleviate some of the symptoms. The implication is that it’s all in your head!

Do you suffer from depression? Maybe. Perhaps you suffer as a result of the thyroid problem that is not being managed properly. Or it might be that you’re depressed because you have a chronic problem that no one is taking seriously and the only alternative you’ve been given are more pills. Either way, an anti-depressant isn’t the cure.

In most cases, since the actual autoimmune response is ignored, over time you will continue to lose more thyroid activity, and the requirements for your thyroid replacement hormone prescription continue to rise. Even more importantly, despite the fact that TSH is considered “managed” with replacement thyroid hormones, Autoimmune Thyroid patients will continue to have all the symptoms of low thyroid function. Why run extra tests if you are not going to alter the treatment based on the test results? This is considered “waste” in the HMO insurance model that has become so prevalent in this country.

Find out what you need to know about your thyroid hormone or health disorder diagnosis today, and get health news updates via Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and The Wellness Essentials newsletter.

If you’d like to leave a question for me to answer in a future blog, you can do that via social media or email.

For more information about my clinic in Oradell, NJ, including Functional Medicine, Neurology & Nutrition, and The Grassroots Medicine Initiative, please call (201) 261-5430.