The Sunshine Vitamin and your Kidneys

Impaired kidney function can lead to a decline in vitamin D levels. It is important to track this level with blood work.

November 16, 2023

Note: This blog post is meant for individuals with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD). All information is for educational purposes only.

CKD Research Digested

In this segment, our nutrition professionals digest the latest research and break it down for you.

Vitamin D and your Kidneys

Vitamin D, also known as the “Sunshine Vitamin,” is essential to keeping your body healthy. Without this important vitamin, you are at higher risk of muscle and bone weakness as it plays an important role in the management of calcium and phosphorus metabolism. Besides helping to maintain strong bones, vitamin D has positive effects on the immune system, which is certainly valuable during these times.  Vitamin D also affects our mental health and can combat seasonal depression during the cold winter months. Your kidneys activate the vitamin D you get from the sun and food.  If you have CKD, activation of Vitamin D may be impaired.  You may require supplementation to ensure adequate levels. Other cells in your body can activate vitamin D (at a lower amount than your kidneys would).  It is important to track your Vitamin D levels by asking your doctor to include it on your lab tests.

Where can you get vitamin D from in your diet?  We here at VidaEats are huge proponents of getting your macro and micronutrients met through real food first. Supplementation can help meet needs if necessary. Vitamin D can be found in egg yolks, mushrooms, fatty fish such as salmon or sardines, fortified cereals and cod liver oil (though that’s definitely less yummy than the other options!).  Some Vitamin D can also be absorbed from the sunshine, though it’s important to supplement this with other sources, from dietary additions to Vitamin D pills. Overall, it’s a great idea to watch your vitamin D level (via your labs) and make sure you have variety in your diet.

This week’s Research Digested contributor is Kathryn Atkinson, dietetics student at the University of Connecticut, under the supervision of Alana, RD.

Do you need a Vitamin D supplement?

If your labs indicate that your Vitamin D level is low, supplementation may be recommended by your doctor or registered dietitian.

Source: Jean G, Souberbielle JC, Chazot C. Vitamin D in Chronic Kidney Disease and Dialysis Patients. Nutrients. 2017 Mar 25;9(4):328. doi: 10.3390/nu9040328. PMID: 28346348; PMCID: PMC5409667.

Alana’s Bites, quick tips.

  • As CKD progresses, less Vitamin D from food and the sun can be activated and used by the body. Supplementation may be needed in later stages of CKD.
  • If you have a sunny spot in your home, try placing mushrooms in the sun, bottoms-up, to increase their vitamin D levels.

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