The sunshine vitamin and how to know you are getting enough
A brief overview
Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine” vitamin. When the UVB rays hit your skin your body converts it to Vitamin D. It is then metabolized in your liver and kidneys and then acts in your body like a hormone. It regulates the expression of hundreds of genes. It is stored in your fat cells and liver.
How do you get Vitamin D?
In the UK we only get these beneficial rays from the sun between the months of April – September. This is because of the way the earth tilts. The further north you live the less Vitamin D rays you get. So it’s super important to get out in the sun during these months. The rays will only penetrate when bare skin is exposed. If you are covered in suntan lotion all the time you are not getting these rays. 20 mins per day is all you need on sunny days. (40mins if you have a darker skin). Air pollution and cloud cover can block these rays, and if you are older then you may have fewer “receptors” in your skin to convert the sunlight into vitamin D.
You need to make sure you store enough Vitamin D over the summer months to carry you through the winter. As your stores get depleted so does your mood and immune system, you may get S.A.D. low energy and vitality, a weakened immune system and start picking up colds and flu.
To know for sure you are getting these rays you can look at your shadow. If your shadow is shorter than you are the sun is high enough in the sky and strong enough to convert vitamin D in your skin.
You can also get Vitamin D in small amounts from foods such as:
Fortified dairy, cereals and juices
What’s the importance of Vitamin D for your health?
- For healthy bones and teeth – you need vitamin D to absorb calcium into your bones. Osteoporosis, Osteomalacia, preventing falls and fractures in the elderly, preventing and treating rickets.
- To modulate your immune system – for healthy cell replication, autoimmune diseases and if you pick up colds and flu’s. Immune cells contain vitamin D receptors that prevent the inflammatory response. Inflammation is at the root of chronic modern diseases.
- To protect against cancer gene expression – especially breast, colon, prostate and ovarian, possibly due to the role in the cell life cycle or the ability to block excess oestrogen.
- To regulate mineral balance in your body, Calcium, Phosphorus
- To help with muscle weakness.
- To prevent cavities and gum disease.
- Heart disease – to regulate blood pressure, cholesterol and inflammation
- For respiratory infections such as, flu, asthma, bronchitis and COPD.
- Hormone regulation – To reduce PMS symptoms, infertility. Low levels of Vitamin D can interfere with testosterone and oestrogen production.
- For anxiety, depression, SAD, concentration, learning and memory, making decisions and retaining information.
- Help to regulate blood sugar levels and prevent type II diabetes
- Fibromyalgia, seizures, MS, chronic pain, periodontal disease, migraine, autism, dementia, pre-eclampsia, eczema
Who needs Vitamin D the most?
- If you are overweight you have a higher need for Vitamin D because your fat cells hold onto it and stops it being used in your body
- If you don’t absorb fats efficiently
- If you don’t go out in the sun
- If you go out in the sun but are covered in suntan lotion. It’s true that getting sun burnt can be a risk for skin cancer but I’m only recommending 20mins per day
- If you have weak bones
- If you take high levels of vitamin A
- If you work in an office all day
- If you have a dark skin and live in the UK
- If you use anticonvulsants, glucocorticoids or highly active antiretroviral treatment
How can I find out my Vitamin D level?
Unfortunately Vitamin D isn’t a regular on a standard blood test, and even if your GP does request it, it is often refused by the lab.
100% Health is selling Vitamin D finger prick tests for £30 so you can test your levels yourself. You get everything you need in the kit. You send it off to the lab and you get the results in about 5 days. I will be in store every Friday between 12 and 2.30pm to interpret your results and recommend a dose of Vitamin D should you need it.
N:B if you are taking a vitamin D supplement don’t take it on the morning of doing your test.
Deficient levels are below 50 nmol/l
Insufficient between 50-80 nmol/l
Optimal levels around 80-150 nmol/l
Toxicity more than 374nmol/l
- High doses of 50,000IU over a long period of time can cause muscle weakness, fatigue, sleepiness, headache, decreased appetite, dry mouth, metallic taste.
- It is safe to take during pregnancy and breast-feeding, less than 4000IU per day.
- Kidney disease needs care because an increased absorption of calcium can increase the risk of calcium levels in the blood that can result in kidney stones and an increased risk of hardening of the arteries.
Aluminum found in antacids can be increased in your blood by vitamin D so take it 2 hours before or 4 hrs after taking an antacid.
“Water pills” Thiazide diuretics
Calcipotriene, Digoxin, Diltiazem, Verapamil, Cimetidine, Heparin