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Vitamin D

Sunshine

We’ve all heard of it but what exactly is it and why is it so important?

Vitamin D is a fat soluble Vitamin which is essential in many bodily functions, including cell growth and repair, muscular control, reducing inflammation, mood balancing and immune response. It’s such an essential component in day to day life and yet so many of us are living with our Vitamin D stores running on low or empty.

Vitamin D deficiency is exceedingly common with more than 1/5 adults and children in the UK suffering from it. The symptoms of this are pretty diverse and include fatigue, diffuse aches and pains, muscle weakness, poor recovery from injuries, low mood, and generally feeling under the weather. Sound familiar? Then you might be Vitamin D deficient.

How do we normally get our Vitamin D?

FishWe can absorb Vitamin D from certain foods, such as fatty fish like salmon, prawns, mackerel, red meat such as liver, egg yolks and fortified foods such as cereals but this isn’t always a straightforward process and you may struggle to absorb sufficient amounts if:

 

  • You have underlying digestive tract problems which may prevent you from absorbing it , such as Chrones or Coeliac disease.
  • You are a little on the plumper side and have a BMI over 30. Extra fat cells essentially hold Vitamin D hostage. Fat cells absorb the Vitamin D and reduce the volume released into the bloodstream meaning less is available for bodily functions.
  • You have poor kidney function. The kidneys are required to convert Vitamin D to an active form in the body. With an underlying kidney condition or with age related reduction in function, the kidney’s ability to convert Vitamin D is reduced and therefore there is less active Vitamin D available.

Vitamin D can also be produced by exposure to the sun, we can produce 500 mcg (Micrograms) in a 30 minute period of mid day sun exposure. However, during the Winter or Spring months where the sun is a little more shy (from around October- April in the UK) it is impossible for our skin to synthesise Vitamin D from sunlight.

Production of Vitamin D from sunlight can be further affected by:

  • Darker pigmented skin. Some ethnicities with darker skin have a higher melanin content which reduces the skin’s ability to produce Vitamin D from sunlight.
  • Wearing moisturizer with SPF (Sun protection factor). Lotions and moisturisers also prevent Vitamin D production. However sun exposure without SPF protection significantly increases your risk of skin cancers, so no more than 20-30 minutes of sun exposure without SPF protection is recommended between 11 AM-3PM in the UK. (To put this into context, you shouldn’t be unprotected in the sun for long enough for your skin to start to pinken).
  • Being Mature in years. Beyond the age of 60 our bodies ability to produce Vitamin D is vastly reduced and additional supplementation is almost always recommended.

All this information is especially relevant in the current lockdown situation, where we perhaps aren’t eating as cleanly as we were before and where time outside is drastically restricted, meaning we are much more likely to be Vitamin D deficient at the moment. This has led to UK’s Public Health board(s?) to recommending we all get a little extra help with our Vitamin D levels during this time.

Supplements

Supplements

 

Vitamin D Supplementation is an easy, efficient and affordable way of topping up our Vitamin D levels to ensure the body has sufficient amounts to promote optimum health. Vitamin D supplements can come in tablet or liquid form and are readily available online and in good health food stores.

There is some debate about the ideal supplement dosage with the NHS guidelines recommending 10mcg daily for most adults and children over 1 year old, with slightly more for those who are elderly, obese or pregnant/breastfeeding women. Breast fed babies, from birth to 1 year old should be given 8.5-10mcg daily, while formula fed babies should not have additional Vitamin D supplementation until they are consuming less than 500ml of formula a day, as formulas have Vitamin D added as standard.

These dosage levels will be sufficient for those of you who just need a little extra help, however, as an adult if your Vitamin D stores are severely diminished you could need a much higher dosage of 25-125 mcg daily to help bring them back to a normal range. The easiest and safest way to know for sure is to invest in a £29 blood test to check your baseline levels and tailor your supplement dosage from this. 

The website vitamindtest.org.uk provides an at home, finger prick blood tests, which give an accurate measure of your current Vitamin D levels. From here your GP, Chiropractor or Nutritionist can advise you on an appropriate supplement dose for your specific needs to boost your Vitamin D stores back to an optimum level quickly and safely.

If you have any underlying kidney complaints or a history of Sarcoidosis, you should check with your GP before starting any supplement regime to make sure it is appropriate for you.

Why should we bother supplementing?

As we spoke about above, Vitamin D is essential in numerous body functions and as a result there is literally TONNES of research regarding the health benefits of sufficient Vitamin D levels circulating in the body.

Studies have linked low Vitamin D levels to a significant increase in depressive disorders, and coversley have shown increasing Vitamin D levels, especially in those who are significantly reduced, can be successfully used as a treatment for depression. As if this wasn’t enough reason to increase your Vitamin D levels, it is also essential for the absorption of Calcium. Too little Vitamin D in our bodies means we are less likely to absorb Calcium from our diets so instead we start to steal it from our bones. This leads to thinning of bones (osteopenia), and increases risk of fractures in adults.

In children this thinning of bones is commonly seen as bending of the leg bones, known as rickets. Vitamin D is also crucial in our bodies natural immune response and studies published in recent months show supplementation of it can reduce the risk of acute respiratory infections and influenza type illnesses.

In such uncertain times, it is important to take small steps to keeping ourselves as healthy as possible. Eating a varied balanced diet and taking regular exercise in addition to Vitamin D supplementation is a great way of keeping ourselves as happy and healthy as possible. If you have any questions after reading this, please contact your Chiropractor who will be happy to discuss this topic with you and point you in the right direction as to supplements and dietary advice.

 

References:
Simon Billings. (2020). Vitamin D deficiency and the effect on the neuromechanical system. Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KsUeOvU5tnA&feature=youtu.be. Last accessed 26/04/2020.
Dr Mary Harding. (2017). Vitamin D Deficiency. Available: https://patient.info/bones-joints-muscles/osteoporosis-leaflet/ Vitamin-d-deficiency. Last accessed 21st April 2020.
Michelle Roberts. (2020). Coronavirus: should I start taking Vitamin D?. Available: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-52371688. Last accessed 26/04/2020.
NHS. (2017). Vitamins and Minerals, Vitamin D. Available: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/ Vitamins-and-minerals/ Vitamin-d/. Last accessed
Zahedi, Mohammad and Razavi, Alireza and Sajjadi, Moosa and Nasirzadeh, Amirreza . (2019). The effect of Vitamin D on depression in individuals . International Journal of Medical Reviews. 6 (3), 77-80.26/04/2020.
William B grant, Henry Lahore, Sharon L mcDonnell, Carole A Baggerly, Christine B Franch, Jennifer L Aliano, Harjit P Bhattoa. (2020). Evidence That Vitamin D Supplementation Could Reduce Risk of Influenza and COVID-19 Infections and Deaths . Nutrients. 12 (4), 988.
Adrian R Martineau, David A Jolliffe, Richard L Hooper, Lauren Greenberg, John F Aloia, Peter Bergman, Gal Dubnov-Raz, Susanna Esposito, Davaasambuu Ganmaa, Adit A Ginde, Emma C Goodall, . (2017). VitaminD supplementation to prevent acute respiratory tract infections: systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data. the bmj. 365 (1), i6583.

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