How important is vitamin D for our health?

Vitamin D deficiency is common in many parts of the world. Research shows that we need more vitamin D than has previously been shown and therefore the Swedish National Food Agency has raised the recommendations for daily intake. One reason why more people are deficient in vitamin D may be that the time we spend indoors has increased. Other important influencing factors include age, skin pigmentation, illnesses and whether you have access to foods fortified with vitamin D.

Vitamin D deficiency can have serious consequences, so it is a good idea to test your levels yourself to detect deficiencies in time. It is easy to test your own vitamin D levels with a self-test. Through a simple blood test, you can measure the level of the vitamin yourself to know if you have a vitamin D deficiency.

Why is it important to test vitamin D levels?

The main source of vitamin D is from the sun during the summer months, as our body produces the vitamin in the skin from the sun's rays. However, more and more people are spending much of their time indoors. Children and young people in particular spend too much time indoors, but also adults who may work in an office or spend a lot of time in front of a computer.

We can also get the vitamin through our diet. However, it is difficult to get enough from the diet alone and more and more people need supplements. Because too much can be toxic and can lead to other serious conditions if levels are too high, it's important to know that you have a deficiency before taking supplements.

What happens in the body if we don't get enough vitamin D?

All cells in our body that depend on vitamin D need a sufficient level of the vitamin to function optimally. Research shows that vitamin D deficiencies are more serious than previously thought, with increasing links to serious diseases.

While most people only know that vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteoporosis, there are now increasing links to serious diseases such as multiple sclerosis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, stroke, autoimmune diseases, influenza, various cancers, infectious diseases, Alzheimer's, obesity and higher mortality rates. Lack of the vitamin is not the cause in these cases but an important contributing factor.

Therefore, early detection of deficiencies is important both to improve bone health but also to improve general health and well-being.

Before vitamin D deficiency leads to any serious diseases, people may experience some symptoms that can be useful to find out the root cause. Symptoms can include extreme fatigue, low mood and irritability, depression, poor appetite, weak muscles and reduced stamina. Cramps can also occur if the deficiency is severe, but this is very rare in Sweden. Many of these symptoms are not necessarily linked to vitamin D deficiency but may be due to completely different causes. Therefore, it can be important to test for vitamin D deficiency before taking any extra supplements for this.

What is being tested with a self-test?

Vitamin D, which is actually a steroid hormone, consists of two different forms. One form is D2, which is found in mushrooms and fortified foods, and the other is D3, which is formed in our skin and is found in fish, meat and eggs, for example. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means that it is best absorbed through the gut if we consume some fat at the same time. From the gut, vitamin D is transported to the liver, where it is metabolized to 25-hydroxy vitamin D.

A blood test can therefore be used to measure the 25-hydroxy vitamin in the blood to determine the concentration of vitamin D in the body. Measuring the blood concentration of both D2 and D3 through this 25-hydroxy vitamin is considered the best indicator of vitamin D status.

How to do a self-test

A test kit contains everything you need to perform a test.

A sterile lancet is used to make a simple prick in a finger to obtain a drop of blood for a blood sample. Sometimes you may need to apply light pressure to your finger to obtain a drop of blood. Use a pipette to transfer the drop of blood from your finger to the test provided in the package. Then follow the instructions on how to perform the test. While the test is processing the blood drop, wait the time indicated in the instructions for use, neither longer nor shorter than the time indicated. Finally, you read the test and interpret the results based on what is described in the instructions for use.

Always read the instructions carefully before performing a test. A test is only reliable if all instructions are followed correctly. It is also important to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water and to dry your hands thoroughly before a test. This is both to avoid dirt or bacteria entering the finger prick and to get the most reliable result possible.

How reliable is a self-test and which test values are used?

A vitamin D test measures the total level of 25-hydroxy vitamin D. Guideline values for vitamin D levels are 30 ng/ml ± 4ng/ml.

A self-test showing a result lower than 30 ng/ml is 100% reliable and a value showing a result higher than 30 ng/ml has a reliability of 93.33%.

When a self-test shows too low levels of the vitamin

If the test shows insufficient levels, this indicates a vitamin D deficiency. Treatment may then be needed by increasing the intake of vitamin D in the diet or through supplements. If the test shows insufficient levels, a doctor should be consulted to rule out other causes and to get the right treatment.

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