Unless you follow the summer sun year-round or vigilantly taking a high strength Vitamin D supplement, chances are that you are low in Vitamin D!
Vitamin D, is well known for bone health and that our main source of Vitamin D comes from sun exposure. But as a nation who is so vigilant with sunscreen and sun exposure due to skin cancer concerns, the fact that very few foods contain high levels of Vitamin D, on top of that in winter we spend less time outside to get any sun exposure, we just aren’t getting optimal levels of Vitamin D!
Low levels of Vitamin D have now shown to be crucial to almost every bodily function. While you may not be clinically deficient, optimal Vitamin D levels is a must especially in these winter months.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D mostly enters our bodies via the sun, which is absorbed by our skin and converted to a usable form of cholesterol via the liver. It then has be changed a number of times before it can be used throughout the whole body. Vitamin D from food and supplements travels to the gut, then into the bloodstream to the kidneys and liver before it is converted to usable Vitamin D.
From there, studies have shown Vitamin D is especially important not just for bone health but it is essential for nearly every single bodily system and function including the gastrointestinal, renal, endocrine, and cardiovascular system.
What happens when you are deficient?
Low levels of Vitamin D have been linked to a vast array of chronic conditions, everything from many types of cancers (breast, prostrate, lung, thyroid), autoimmune diseases (lupus, thyroid, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis), brain health (depression, Alzheimer’s) and inflammatory diseases.
But once your levels are at optimum, Vitamin D can help to reduce inflammation, boost your immunity to protect against colds and flus and plays a crucial role in restoring good bacteria in the gut. Recent studies have also shown links between fertility and Vitamin D levels and keeping mums and babies health during pre-conception, pregnancy and breastfeeding.
What is the optimum level and how do I get tested?
The best way to see what your Vitamin D levels are like are via blood test from you GP. The levels that you are wanting to see are 50+ (a good level of Vitamin D), while 30-50 means you need to supplement with Vitamin D and less than 30 means you are very deficient.
How can I get more Vitamin D?
There are only three ways for you to increase you Vitamin D levels naturally with food, sunshine and supplementation. The best food sources of Vitamin D include wild caught oily fish (tuna, salmon), sundried Shitake Mushrooms, eggs, lean meats and dairy products.
Traditional supplements for Vitamin D were the likes of Cod Liver Oil, but now through advanced research fat soluable vitamin D (thus better absorbed) can be found in products like Bioceuticals D3 Liposomal.
Be aware that if you are on a plant based diet or Vegan there are very few food sources of Vitamin D (mushrooms, fortified Vegan milk or tofu), so supplementation (look for Vegan friendly) and sunshine is a must.
While the sun is the best way to receive Vitamin D, levels can be reduced due to sunscreen, cloud cover, time of day and the season. So ideally after 20 minutes sun exposure which produces 20,000 IU Vitamin D in your skin, if you expose your face, arms and legs, in winter (11am – 4pm) and in summer (before 11am and after 4pm). The darker your skin the more safe sun exposure you will need!