What Is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D helps our bodies use calcium and is critical for the healthy development of our bones and teeth. It takes care of many important functions in our bodies. For example, it regulates how calcium and phosphorus are absorbed, as well as assists the immune system in functioning normally. With three-quarters of Americans affected by low levels of vitamin D, and vitamin D deficiency being linked to medical conditions from depression to multiple sclerosis, it’s no surprise that many of us are interested in checking our vitamin D levels.
Since our bodies can create vitamin D from sunlight, it is occasionally referred to as “the sunshine vitamin.” Vitamin D, which is fat-soluble, gets stored in our body’s fatty tissues and then released when we’re not in direct sunlight. Usually, 50-90% of our vitamin D is received from sunlight. The rest comes from our diet, like fatty fishes, fortified dairy products and egg yolks.
Vitamin D levels can fluctuate, especially as the seasons change and, with them, our exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D deficiency has even been connected to seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is also associated with symptoms of fatigue and weakness. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to serious health concerns because it affects calcium absorption and bone strength. Since so many people have low levels of vitamin D, home health testing kits have become a popular way for Americans to quickly learn if they have a deficiency or not.
People who are experiencing symptoms of vitamin D deficiency should consider buying a test kit. Symptoms of deficiency include:
- Increased blood pressure (hypertension)
- Muscle pain or weakness
- Joint pain or weakness
Certain populations are considered at higher risk for vitamin D deficiency. If you are among one or more of these groups, the vitamin D home test is certainly beneficial.
You may be at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency if you:
- Have dark skin color
- Are obese
- Have heart disease
- Have Crohn’s or celiac disease
- Spend most of your time indoors
- Always use sunscreen
- Live in a Northern area
- Are a woman trying to conceive
- Are vegan or vegetarian
People with darker skin color may synthesize the active form of vitamin D in their skin less efficiently. If you live at a more northerly latitude or take precautions to limit sun exposure (which is also important for reducing risk of developing skin cancer), unfortunately your reduced sun exposure also means less opportunity for vitamin D from sunlight. And since dietary sources like fish and eggs typically account for the rest of our vitamin D intake aside from sunlight, vegans and vegetarians are at risk too.
Others who are encouraged to take a home vitamin D test are those with cardiovascular disease or collagen-vascular disorders, osteoporosis, and chronic bone or muscle pain.
However, with the large number of people lacking enough vitamin D, and the severity of the medical conditions that result from deficiencies, a home health test kit is appealing to anyone concerned about knowing their vitamin D levels. Vitamin D deficiency is far more widespread than people realize.
It’s important to know if your vitamin D levels are too low because if deficiencies are not treated, you have an increased risk of developing more serious illnesses.
Untreated vitamin D deficiency can lead to:
- Chronic kidney disease
- Severe erectile dysfunction
- Cancers such as prostate, colon and breast
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Intestinal malabsorption
- Parkinson’s disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Cardiovascular disease
- Periodontal disease
- A variety of autoimmune diseases
Prominent companies that offer home vitamin D test kits include:
- Health Test Express
- Let’s Get Checked
- Vitamin D Council
- ZRT Laboratories
Most tests can be purchased from the company websites; however, Amazon sells vitamin D home test kits from these and other companies.
Prices range from $50-$85 per test. While the testing process is relatively similar across companies, the results and how they are reviewed vary. Some companies boast that their results are reviewed by certified medical professionals before they are sent to you. Other companies promise support from registered nurses, genetic counselors, or certified doctors with interpreting the results and offering advice with how to move forward. ZRT labs offers the option to generate a history test report, which compares your results over a period of time so you can share the report with your doctor in order that he or she may prescribe the appropriate treatment plan; this way, you can see if the changes you made (such as taking vitamin D supplements) are effective.
Most vitamin D home tests, which are also sometimes referred to as 25-hydroxy vitamin D (25-OH) tests, will tell you where your vitamin D levels fall within a range. The ranges will help you learn if you have a deficiency or not.
While the results will help you learn your levels and whether or not you have a deficiency, your results won’t diagnose serious illnesses that may be a result of vitamin D deficiency. Once you receive your results, some companies offer advice, guidance, and general recommendations about what to do to improve your levels so that they fall within the recommended range. Other companies also promise their medical professionals will discuss treatment options if needed.
Most vitamin D home tests can be purchased online, either directly from the company’s website or from Amazon. After you order the test, it will be delivered to your doorstep in less than a week. Some tests require you to register or activate your test kit on their secure online platform before proceeding. Complete any instructions on filling out your personal information in the system and/or on the sample.
Follow the directions to collect a blood spot sample.
If you need additional instructions, many of the companies have detailed how-to videos to assist in sample collection. To help your blood flow more easily while collecting the sample, run your hands under warm water, rub them together, or swing them back and forth before you prick your finger. Keep your hand below your waist while collecting blood because gravity will help the blood flow.
Mail your sample.
After collecting the sample, mail it back in the prepaid shipping package included in the kit. Once received, your results are usually available online within 3-14 days, depending on the company.
The results from your test will reliably indicate if your vitamin D levels fall within a low, normal, or high range. Test samples are sent to CLIA-certified labs, which means the tests are run at labs that must meet certain standards and levels of accuracy. Customers typically report positive, helpful experiences from testing. Negative experiences tend to focus on logistical considerations like slowness receiving results or user-friendliness of instructions, as opposed to accuracy.
Although some companies offer the option to speak with their medical professionals, sharing the results with your own physician is recommended. Remember that the results of this home test kit are not supposed to diagnose or treat any serious illnesses. They are for informational and educational purposes only and any treatment options should not be taken until you have spoken with your physician. He or she can take into account your medical history and goals before creating a treatment plan.