Where The Sun Don’t Shine: Vitamin D and Vitamin B12

11 Jan

“Time and health are two precious assets that we don’t recognize and appreciate until they have been depleated”
~Denis Waitley

You’ve heard the term ‘sun worshippers’ referring to those people who live their lives in the sun scantily clad with the only goal of getting the darkest tan they can. As a photographer, I am also a sun worshipper, but for a different reason. I’m not so much worried about the sun itself, but it’s reflective light. Most day’s when I’m photographing, I’m either waiting on the light to change or hurrying up before it does. Seems like I’m constantly chasing the sun.

But now, more so than ever, it seems my relationship with the sun is leaning towards the former. There’s much to be said about soaking up the sun, and I am realizing more and more how true that is in my research and journey with B12 deficiency.

In addition to being diagnosed with B12 deficiency and Pernicious Anemia, I was also told I was Vitamin D deficient.

Sunrise at Crystal Beach, Galveston, TX . One week before hurricane Ike hit the Gulf Coast. © Sept 2008

Which is not too surprising since I lived in a city and latitude notorious for Vitamin D deficiency; Boston. At 42 degrees north latitude, there isn’t sufficient UVB radiation several month out of the year for adequate vitamin D synthesis. Which is the case for people living in other cities in that range and north.

The combination of being Vitamin B12 deficient and Vitamin D deficient, in retrospect, for me was a vicious cycle. How long this was going on, I’m not sure; but indeed well before I moved to Boston. In my research and reading thus far, I have yet to find solid information correlating vitamin B12 & D deficiency, or that one causes the other. But, I do know the symptoms are similar, especially in respect to fatigue and cognitive functions.

Technically, vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin which encourages the absorption of calcium and phosphorous. People who are exposed to normal quantities of sunlight do not need vitamin D supplements because sunlight promotes sufficient vitamin D synthesis in the skin. (Reference)

Even when I lived in sunny, Austin, Texas prior to living in Boston for a year, I went to work when it was dark and came home when it was dark. I was working 60-80 hour weeks, working late nights on emails, conference calls and meetings with our overseas suppliers and factories. I did get my share of Texas sunshine as I am more of an ‘outdoor’ girl by nature, but just not feeling well and healthy in general despite following several doctor recommendations and chiropractic visits, kept me from having the energy from doing as much outdoor stuff as I wanted. The effects of the B12 deficiency (and Vitamin D, I would think), including never waking up feeling refreshed after sleeping, made it hard to stick with an exercise plan and effort it takes to change to and stick with lifestyle of eating healthy.

Of course some days were better than others, and all my attempts were not futile, just short-term; not ever getting better at the big picture level. With ample amount of coffee and sucking it up and making myself do the things I needed to do despite how I felt, I got by. The important things got done. Other things didn’t. Some didn’t get done very well despite my natural tendency to be anal and somewhat of a perfectionist. Frustrating for me to say the least.

Recovering from Vitamin D deficiency
After receiving the diagnosis of the B12 deficiency and Vitamin D deficiency together from my doctor in Boston, I have to admit I honed in more on the B12 in my research and reading. Not that the Vitamin D didn’t seem important, just not as monumental as the B12.

Vitamin D? Yeah, yeah yeah….bring on the B12 I say!
I couldn’t be more wrong.

Along with the series of B12 injections I took a prescription dose, 50,000iu, of Vitamin D once a week for 12 weeks. Luckily, I only had to take it once a week, since the supplements are $3 each (yikes!). After I finished the prescription dose, I continue to take over the counter supplements combined with calcium twice a day.

I’m sure this happens to most people, but I start to pay attention when the same things continually, and randomly come across my plate. Which has been the case with Vitamin D just in the past few weeks. Articles I just happen upon reading, conversations with various people, blogs I’ve come across and a doctor’s visit I went on with my mom.

In one of my recent blog posts I explained that after my B12 diagnoses, I had my mom get checked for B12 deficiency. It worked out, thankfully, that she was able to see my doctor in Boston, but needed to take her treatment here in South Dakota, but was having trouble finding a doctor who was willing to treat her for the B12 or knew anything about B12 deficiency.

So from recommendations from friends, my mom found a doctor she was hopeful would be knowledgeable about the subject. So I went with her to her appointment; I wanted to hear what he had to say. In the discussion, he talked about the B12, but he told her that the Vitamin D was much more important at this point. I’m not sure it’s because she didn’t have as severe of symptoms of the B12 deficiency as I did or because she was also being treated for her thyroid. But regardless, made me reconsider my thoughts about Vitamin D. I left there wanting to do more research and reading about the ‘sunshine vitamin’.

According to the Mayo Clinic website:

‘Vitamin D is found in many dietary sources such as fish, eggs, fortified milk, and cod liver oil. The sun also contributes significantly to the daily production of vitamin D, and as little as 10 minutes of exposure is thought to be enough to prevent deficiencies.’


‘The major biologic function of vitamin D is to maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium, helping to form and maintain strong bones. Recently, research also suggests vitamin D may provide protection from osteoporosis, hypertension (high blood pressure), cancer, and several autoimmune diseases.’

Another good resource I found for information is WebMD.

Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency:

  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Weak bones (Osteoporosis)
  • Bone pain (Osteomalacia [similar to rickets])
  • Muscle weakness
  • Increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease
  • Severe asthma
  • Cancer
  • Type 1 & Type 2 Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Glucose intolerance
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Vitamin D Me Please!

As a result of the constant ‘in your face’ Vitamin D propaganda coming at me these past few weeks, as I mentioned earlier, has given me a new perspective and education about Vitamin D.

I continue to take my prescribed supplements faithfully, and with the weather being subzero lately living in the Midwest with the sun nowhere to be found, I have decided to also go to a tanning bed at least one time a week. I am aware of the controversy about skin cancer and tanning beds, but at this point I have to weigh my risk and reward.

I go in the tanning bed for 10 minutes at the most and will guarantee I will not be looking like some of the people I see coming in and out the tanning salon who have similar characteristics like my brown leather purse. Nothing like matching accessories. (Yikes!) No thank you. However, I will like the fact that I won’t be blinding the people anymore at the gym with white legs. I’m sure they’ll appreciate that as well.  🙂


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5 responses to “Where The Sun Don’t Shine: Vitamin D and Vitamin B12

  1. Harpraxis

    January 12, 2010 at 3:58 am

    I had the exact same issue. My brilliant doctor told me that the 50,000IU prescription one doesn’t really do much in most people though — because it’s vitamin D2, ergocalciferol, the form found in vegetables. Humans need to take D3, cholecalciferol, the form used by animals, as it’s hard to convert the D2 to D3. And she said to only take D3 in oil-filled gelcaps and preferably with a meal with fat in it, to aid absorbtion in the gut. The tablets aren’t well-absorbed in most people. You are supposed to keep your blood levels of D3 up at the top of the lab reference range, too. I need to take 5,000IU a day of D3 for that. It’s pretty cheap – about $5 for a bottle of 60 5,000IU gelcaps from online supplement shops.

    This cardiologist seems to support that idea:

  2. lisamjohnson

    January 13, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    That’s interesting…I’m glad you posted that…
    I’m taking Vita D…but they are the white tablets.
    I’m going to switch right away.

    Thanks for the link…I’m going to read more.

  3. Mick

    December 15, 2011 at 10:20 am

    you’ll start to notice the difference soon, vitamin D is one of the products I highly recommend that everyone takes, its so damn critical these days if you want to stay healthy

  4. Jod Falconbridge

    January 29, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    I think there is a direct link between the 2 vitamins, I think you need the Vitamin D to properly process the Vitamin B.


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