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?

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.

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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! 

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The HepatitisC.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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