Vitamin D is a superstar vitamin (it’s actually a hormone to be more precise). If levels are too low, it can have huge implications for our health.
Vitamin D has become major news in the press over the recent years, and this is not without good reason. Furthermore, it not just our northern hemisphere friends that should take note (with reports of 1 in every 5 in the U.K. having low levels). Surprisingly for those of us living 1 degree north of the equator, with all year-round sweltering temperatures, deficiency in this sunshine vitamin is much more commonplace than you would think.
WHY ARE OUR LEVELS SO LOW?
Sun cream. Your body makes vitamin D after contact with the sun’s UV rays but, as we’re a nation of sun cream fanatics (and this covers the skin, blocking the rays of sunlight from getting through), you might not be getting enough straight-up sun.
Age. As you get older, your body is less good at turning the rays from the sun into vitamin D. Specifically, the kidneys are less good with age at turning it to the active form of calcitriol. Kidney or liver disease of any kind also means vitamin D is not converted to the active form.
Problems with the digestive system can mean the digestive tract does not absorb the vitamin D as well.
Obesity (technically that’s a BMI or body mass index of 30+) has the fat cells in your body hoover up the vitamin D. So then it’s stored – unusable – in your fat cells and is not whizzing around your body in your blood.
Lack of sleep. Just as you need sunlight to make vitamin D, you need sleep to actually use it.
Stress. The presence of the stress hormone cortisol reduces the uptake of vitamin D by special vitamin D receptors. It literally sits there, in the body, without being able to be used. What a waste!
Your skin tone. The darker your skin, the less vitamin D you will make. This is due to the higher levels of melanin in your skin that protect against UV light. By blocking the sun’s rays, it also curbs the body’s ability to make the pre-cursor to the active vitamin D.
Nightshift workers and anyone else who doesn’t spend much time in the sunlight, including children wearing sun cream all the time and babies.
Quite simply, you need the sun on your skin. Did you know....? Research shows you’re 11 times more likely to be depressed if you have low vitamin D than if you don’t. Vitamin D can put the brakes on the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
10 SIGNS YOU MIGHT HAVE A VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY
Depression or anxiety (including mood changes or irritability)Bone softening (low bone density), fractures
Feeling tired all the time/ decreased performance
Muscle cramps and weakness
Joint pain (especially back and knees)
Difficulty regulating your blood sugar levels/ post lunch energy crash
Slow wound healing
Low calcium levels in the blood
Unexplained weight gain
Symptoms like these arecommonly overlooked because they don’t feel life threatening, and they’re often dismissed as normal, everyday aches and pains you have to deal with. But you don’t have to put up with these symptoms of ill health.
WHO SHOULD GET TESTED?
If any of the above resonates with you, then you should definitely get tested by your G.P. or privately. The test is the 25-hydroxy vitamin D test (also known as the 25-OH vitamin D test or Calcidiol 25-hydroxycholecalciferol test). It’s the most accurate way to measure how much vitamin D is in your body.
If you do take a test and you’re very low, you’ll need an intense 4-6 weeks supplementation at a high dose and then re-testing to see the impact it’s had. There is such a thing as too much vitamin D (known as vitamin D toxicity), so it is important that you do this. It is also another reason why it is essential you know your levels before you start taking any supplements.
HOW TO UP YOUR VITAMIN D
Get yourself some sun. Recommended sunlight exposure is between 10 and 30 minutes a day with no sun cream.
If getting out in the sun is not an option, sit in front of a light box that supplies 10,000 lux of full-spectrum light for 30 minutes every morning. This is an especially good option for winter months, for night shift. Bit of a faff, but it’s an option.
Take a supplement. You can take a generic 1,000 IU dose as an adult (but not children without consulting your G.P.) BUT, if you’ve no idea what your blood levels are, how to you know how much you should be taking?
Eat naturally vitamin D-rich foods like oily fish (salmon, sardines, fresh tuna, trout, halibut, mackerel, et.), good quality cod liver oil, egg yolks and liver. Do not be fooled into thinking the fortified foods are the same or have similar benefits. Fortified foods (like cereals, margarine and some yoghurts) contain a synthetic version of the vitamin known as D2 (the natural form is D3). Research shows this is less effective at raising levels of vitamin D in the blood.
If you are still unsure, give us a shout at The Nourished Tribe and we can guide you.