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Recovery From Vitamin D Deficiency: What To Know

Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Dr. Eric Venn-Watson’s Highlights
    • Most people in the United States are not deficient in vitamin D to a degree that will cause them negative health outcomes.
    • Recovering from a vitamin D deficiency involves dietary changes, sunlight exposure, and possible intervention with vitamin D supplements.
    • C15:0 deficiency is more common in the U.S. Taking fatty15 can help improve circulating levels of C15:0 and improve your health span.

Most of us know there’s a lot of information swirling around concerning virtually every aspect of health and wellness. It can make it hard to determine whether or not a current trending piece of information is worth your consideration or not. 

Take, for instance, vitamin D. We know it’s an essential vitamin that our bodies need to thrive, and we know that some people may have lower levels than others. 

The information gets a bit muddy when we start to attribute diseases and negative health impacts to low levels of vitamin D and simultaneously attribute positive health outcomes and prevention of diseases to supplementation. Together, we’ll take on vitamin D. 

We’ll explain what it is, how it works, and what you should know if you are deficient and are attempting to recover from a vitamin D deficiency. We’ll also talk about another nutrient deficiency you might have and what you can do about it. 

What Is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is an essential vitamin we obtain through food sources (like fatty fish, egg yolks, cod liver oil, mackerel, and sardines) and a hormone our bodies make through exposure to sunlight, giving it the nickname “the sunshine vitamin.” 

Vitamin D is essential for the health of our bones and teeth. It helps our bodies properly absorb calcium and phosphorus. It also plays a role in processes like cell proliferation, immunity, and even glucose regulation. 

How Much Vitamin D Do We Need?

Current guidelines state that kids and adults ages 14 and over need 15 mcg or 600 IU (international units) of vitamin D per day. After age 70, that number increases to 70 mcg or 800 IU. 

Most of us get the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin D we need through food and sunlight. Even if you don’t regularly consume the foods listed above, there are numerous foods (like milk, cereals, and even orange juice) that are fortified with vitamin D. 

Could I Be Deficient?

While most Americans get plenty of vitamin D through sun exposure (even if you are wearing sunscreen to prevent skin cancer and skin damage) and foods, some subsects of the population may be at higher risk of a vitamin D deficiency. 

  • People with dark skin pigmentation. Darker skin tones that contain more melanin may have lower vitamin D levels. Melanin makes it harder for the skin to synthesize vitamin D.
  • People who live in areas where there is less sunlight or with jobs that prevent them from getting as much sunlight.
  • Breastfeeding babies and mothers who are not supplementing with vitamin D3 as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • Older adults
  • People with limited kidney function or kidney disease. The kidneys help convert vitamin D to its active form.
  • People with diseases or conditions that prevent proper absorption of vitamin D in the gut.
  • Vegans or people with extremely restrictive diets. 

Even if you are at increased risk of lower vitamin D levels, you’re probably still getting enough. However, if your doctor has told you that you are at risk of lower vitamin D levels, or if you know you have low vitamin D, you can take steps to increase your circulating blood levels of vitamin D.

Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency

You might be deficient in vitamin D if you experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue that is not explainable due to lack of sleep, changes in schedule, or other underlying health issues
  • Muscle pain or muscle weakness
  • Bone pain or changes in bone health
  • Hair loss

Even if you have these symptoms, you won’t know if you have a vitamin D deficiency unless you visit your healthcare provider to rule out other health issues. 

Recovering From Vitamin D Deficiency

A blood test is required to determine your vitamin D status. The 25-hydroxyvitamin D test is administered to determine your blood serum levels of vitamin D. However, most people don’t need to have this test. 

A recent study showed that the test was not necessary for the majority of the population. This is because the study also found that a vitamin D deficiency did not increase the risk of bone fractures or negative health impact. 

However, if you do have lower vitamin D or meet the risk factors above for low vitamin D, here are some ways you can help your body recover and ensure you get enough vitamin D each day.

Get Some Sun

The easiest and fastest way to increase your vitamin D levels is to simply go outdoors. If you have a desk job, work the night shift, or live in an area with limited sunlight, you might not be getting the amount of vitamin D you need. 

Even though sunscreen was once thought to impede the production of vitamin D in the skin, new research says there is little evidence to support this assumption and that wearing sunscreen is essential when we are exposed to sunlight.

Get Fishy

Fatty fish are one of the best sources of vitamin D available in food form. If you aren’t a fish fan, you can opt for egg yolks and some types of mushrooms. However, it’s worth noting that it will be harder to increase your daily dose of vitamin D through mushrooms and eggs alone. Fortified foods can also help you boost your vitamin D levels and usually contain higher doses of vitamin D overall. 

Consider a Supplement

Only people with a severe vitamin D deficiency need to take a supplement, but if you do decide to take a supplement, it isn’t likely that it will harm your health. If you take in more of a particular vitamin than you need, your body usually filters it out through your waste. 

Most multivitamins contain vitamin D as an ingredient, but taking a specific vitamin D3 supplement may be a better option if you need to focus solely on your vitamin D intake. 

Be Patient

Recovery from a vitamin deficiency can take up to three months; about the same length of time that it takes your body to become deficient if your levels of a particular vitamin are too low. During this time, focus on your health by making smarter choices. 

Eat a balanced diet, get plenty of rest, drink plenty of water, and note any changes in symptoms you might be experiencing. Thankfully, with the availability of food in the United States, most people will not experience a vitamin D deficiency. However, there is a more recently identified nutritional deficiency, a particular fatty acid known as C15:0, that is worth understanding in more detail. 

A Fatty Acid Deficiency

Dietary guidelines in the 1970s told us all to avoid fat to prevent heart disease. As a result, most of us grew up in a household that avoided whole-fat dairy products, like whole milk and butter. The problem? C15:0, an odd chain, essential fatty acid, is found primarily in whole dairy products. 

We need C15:0 to thrive. C15:0 targets the foundations of our health (our cells) to restore cellular strength, revitalize cellular energy, and reverse cellular aging by:

  • Strengthening cellular membranes. Cell membranes become weak over time. Cells need to maintain their outer membranes to maintain their function. C15:0 is a sturdy fatty acid that integrates into our cell membranes to protect our cells against premature breakdown. Studies have shown that pure C15:0 improves cellular strength by 80%.
  • Clearing damaged cells. C15:0 activates AMPK, which helps to clear out damaged cells. AMPK is also involved with whole-body homeostasis, glucose regulation, and immune system health. 
  • Regulating inflammatory response. C15:0 significantly calms and lowers proinflammatory cytokines, a key driver of aging. 
  • Supporting and repairing mitochondria. The batteries inside our cells get sluggish over time. C15:0 repairs mitochondrial function, increasing our cell’s energy output and decreasing damaging reactive oxygen species by 45%. In one study, C15:0 was shown to increase ATP levels in cells by 350%.
  • Activating PPARɑ and PPARẟ receptors. By activating these receptors, known as the ‘orchestrators of our metabolism,’ C15:0 has been shown in peer-reviewed studies to support metabolic, immune, heart, and liver health. These receptors also help to improve mood and deepen sleep.

Our cells and our bodies require C15:0, but we may not be getting enough of this essential fatty acid in our diets. Before you switch to whole milk to increase your C15:0 levels, there are a few considerations to make. 

How Do I Get C15:0?

While we usually want to get our nutrients from foods, there are a few reasons why a supplement is a good option for increasing our C15:0 levels. 

Elevate your cells. Elevate your self.

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It’s Made Readily Absorbable

In milk (and other foods), C15:0 is attached to branches of lipids called triacylglycerides (triglycerides). That means our gut has to use digestive enzymes to break down these triacylglycerides to release C15:0 as a free fatty acid. 

Once C15:0 is released, it is ready to be absorbed. These multiple steps can make our absorption of C15:0 from foods less efficient. In contrast, in supplement form, the C15:0 is already in the most bioavailable free fatty acid form. Less work for the gut, more good C15:0 for our cells.

It’s Not Mixed With Bad Fats

While the good C15:0 fatty acid is present in whole-fat dairy products in trace levels, there are much higher levels of “bad” even-chain saturated fatty acids that continue to be associated with poorer health. That is probably why studies evaluating the effects of milk on our health are mixed (some say dairy fat is bad for us, while others say it is good for us). A pure, single-ingredient C15:0 supplement provides just the good fat without the proinflammatory bad fats.

No Cows or Calories 

Whole-fat dairy products provide a wallop of calories, including sugars (or lactose), that also require, well, cows. The calories in whole-fat milk likely explain why a large-scale recent study showed that adults who drink more dairy milk are more likely to have a higher body weight. 

What about plant-based milks like soy or oat milk? Unfortunately, plant-based milk replacements lack C15:0 altogether, which may be contributing to the rise in C15:0 nutritional deficiencies.

The only supplement that contains the pure, plant-based, sustainable version of C15:0 contains just one calorie per dose and is completely vegan-friendly. Its name? Fatty15

Fatty15: Elevate Your Cells

Discovered by doctors and scientists and supported by a large body of science, fatty15 is the first and only C15:0 supplement to help support your circulating levels of this essential fatty acid. Just one capsule per day is all you need to protect your cellular health and improve your overall health and wellness.

There is a growing body of evidence supporting the need to increase the amount of C15:0 we are getting in our diets. Taking fatty15 is a good option to increase your circulating C15:0 levels, prevent C15:0 deficiencies, and maintain a healthy you. 


Maternal Versus Infant Vitamin D Supplementation During Lactation: A Randomized Controlled Trial | American Academy of Pediatrics

VITAL Findings — A Decisive Verdict on Vitamin D Supplementation | New England Journal of Medicine

The effect of sunscreen on vitamin D: a review|PubMed

Efficacy of dietary odd-chain saturated fatty acid pentadecanoic acid parallels broad associated health benefits in humans: could it be essential? | Scientific Reports

A review of odd-chain fatty acid metabolism and the role of pentadecanoic Acid (c15:0) and heptadecanoic Acid (c17:0) in health and disease

Profile photo for Eric Venn-Watson

Eric Venn-Watson M.D.

Eric is a physician, U.S. Navy veteran, and Co-founder and COO of Seraphina Therapeutics. Eric served over 25 years as a Navy and Marine Corps physician, working with the special forces community to improve their health and fitness. Seraphina Therapeutics is a health and wellness company dedicated to advancing global health through the discovery of essential fatty acids and micronutrient therapeutics.

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