Vitamin D is a vital nutrient for healthy bones, maintaining balanced calcium, and immune function. But it is often low in people who have HIV. While this could be due to many reasons, it is certain that the HIV infection helps this happen and that this deficiency can harm your long-term health.
Where Does Vitamin D Come From?
Vitamin D is among the fat-soluble category of vitamins. But unlike others, it is only seen in a handful of food sources — such as fish, milk and cereals. But the majority of vitamin D is created within our bodies as a result of sun exposure.
The ultraviolet rays from sunlight produce a cholesterol-like molecule which is released into the blood. This chemical makes its way to your liver. Once there, it is changed into 25-hydroxyvitamin D. Which then goes to your kidneys where it is transformed into 1,25 dihydroxyvitamin D, what we know as vitamin D.
You can also get Vitamin D from multivitamin supplements or as a single source vitamin. There are even vitamin D prescriptions for people with illnesses that cause them to have dangerously low vitamin D levels.
Where Does Vitamin D Deficiency Come From?
People become deficient in vitamin D for a number of reasons. Some folks have diseases linked to the deficiency. Such as kidney and liver disease. These organs are vital for the metabolism of vitamin D. Celiac disease can also prevent proper absorption of vitamin D within the gut, leading to a serious vitamin D deficiency.
People who get little sunlight or have a poor diet may also get vitamin D deficiency. This is very common-place for elderly people living in assisted living facilities.
Also, certain anti-seizure medications, that change the way vitamin D is made in the body, is likely to cause a person to develop vitamin D deficiency.
Connection Between Vitamin D Deficiency and HIV
In a 2012 study inside the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, it was found that 85 percent of HIV sufferers have low vitamin D levels — the exact reason why this is the case is not known.
What’s more, there is evidence that specific antiretroviral medications interrupt the Vitamin D process in the body. This probably leads to vitamin D deficiency in patients with HIV.
Among these medications, Sustiva (efavirenz) is seen as a top suspect, as well all drugs that contain efavirenz. As of now, no other antiretroviral medicine has shown this level of connection with vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D Deficiency Treatment
By finding the amount of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in a patient’s blood, a doctor can know if that person has a healthy level of vitamin D.
And luckily, there is a simple way to restore vitamin D levels — by consuming over the counter vitamin D supplements, or by taking a doctor’s prescribed vitamin D dose. A normal dose that might be prescribed is 50,000 IU of vitamin D taken each week for 2 months.
After repairing your vitamin D, a doctor might go further and prescribe 400 to 800 IU of vitamin D3 every day. Some doctors say higher amounts of vitamin D should be taken daily to maintain a healthy balance.
Vitamin D supplementation is usually recommended when 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels are under 10 ng/ml.
What Should You Do?
When you visit your doctor again, discuss vitamin D. Ensure that deficiency is not an issue in your case, and that you are doing everything right to keep a healthy level of this vitamin. Also, be sure to tell your doctor about any other supplements you are taking, as well as any other drugs. So that he or she can get the whole picture of what could affect your vitamin D levels.