a family enjoying their outdoor liver-shaped-pool, soaking up sun and vitamin D

The Sunshine Vitamin and Hep C

Most people have heard of Vitamin D, also commonly known as the “sunshine vitamin”. Vitamin D is a vitamin found in certain food. It can also be made by our skin in response to direct sunlight. Despite the abundance of this vitamin, people with hep C may be at a higher risk of Vitamin D deficiency. This leads to the question: Is it necessary for those with hep C to supplement with Vitamin D?

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What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, which means that it is stored in body fat. Most people receive Vitamin D from the sun. In addition, there are a few food sources of Vitamin D, such as:

  • Fatty fish, such as salmon
  • Egg yolks
  • Liver
  • Red Meat

As you may have noticed from the list, there are no plant sources of Vitamin D. In fact, most vegetarians and vegans -- who do not consume meat -- need to obtain their Vitamin D from the sun, fortified foods, or supplementation.

Vitamin D deficiency symptoms

Severe Vitamin D deficiency is unlikely to occur in the developed world; However, subclinical (or mild) deficiency is common. Because we store Vitamin D in the body, levels can decline in the winter. Levels also decline with age.1

Vitamin D deficiency can lead to various conditions, and an increased risk of:2

  • Osteoporosis, a condition that affects the bones
  • Falls and fractures
  • Infections
  • Heart disease

Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency are variable, and are generally non-specific. Most people are unaware of their deficiency until they undertake a blood test. Some symptoms of deficiency include:2

  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Hair loss
  • Joint pain

Risk factors

Besides hep C, other risk factors for developing Vitamin D deficiency include:3

  • Use of certain medications, such as phenytoin for seizures
  • Above average weight
  • Dark skin
  • Older age
  • Less exposure to sunlight
  • Issues with absorption, such as celiac disease

Vit D relationship's to hep C

Because one part of Vitamin D  metabolism occurs in the liver, it has long been speculated that there is a link between hep C and Vitamin D deficiency. One study showed that low levels of Vitamin D is associated with an increased risk of  developing advanced liver fibrosis, and lowered chance of achieving a cure from interferon treatment.4 Further studies have proposed that supplementing with Vitamin D can help improve response to treatment and protect against fibrosis.5

To supplement or not?

Vitamin D supplements are available over the counter and are quite affordable. If your doctor has not already checked your Vitamin D level, it may be a good idea to start there to determine whether supplementation would be beneficial.  Even if you do not know your baseline Vitamin D level, there is very little overall risk of supplementation and most people can take a strength of 1000 IU/day safely.5

Do you supplement with Vitamin D? If so, what dose do you take? Share your experiences below! 

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