Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a crucial nutrient that plays a vital role in maintaining healthy bones, teeth, and muscles. It is essential to thousands of biochemical reactions in the bodies. It is both a prohormone and a vitamin.  It helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, which are essential for these functions.  Insufficient vitamin D deficiency can lead to lack of muscle strength, back pain and muscle aches and pains and as an osteopath, this is something that I need to consider when treating patients with persistent pain.  Inadequate vitamin D levels may lead to bone deformities such as rickets and osteomalacia, (painful bones due to soft and weak bone) and osteoporosis in adults which causes bone pain.

It is not easy to identify if you have a vitamin D deficiency, but some signs include fatigue and tiredness, insomnia, depression, persistent joint and muscle aches and pains as mentioned above but this is to include bones that fractures easily, slow wound healing and frequent colds and infections.

It is said that vitamin D has many other potential benefits. It may reduce the risk of certain diseases, help improve mood and reduce depresson symptoms.  Vitamin D may also plays an important role in immune function especially during the winter months when there are more colds, flu and viruses around. Studies have shown that insufficient levels of vitamin D has been linked to poor cognitive health with people twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s or dementia.

The best way to get vitamin D is through exposure to sunlight which is why it is often referred to as the sunshine vitamin. From late March/early April to the end of September, most people should be able to make all the vitamin D they need from sunlight on their skin when outdoors. However, considering the summer we have in the UK, that might not be the case. Between October and early March, we do not make enough vitamin D from sunlight.

Vitamin D is also found in foods such as grassfed butter and free-ranged egg yolk, oily fish (eg salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel) red meat and liver.  For those who are 100% vegan or plant-based, are more likely to lack vitamin D.  Consuming mushrooms, which are the only natural plant-based food source (which contains vitamin D2), fortified non-dairy milks such as soya and almond milk, fortified cereals can be a good source vitamin D.  In general taking a good vitamin D supplement can also boost your levels.  Be careful if you are vegan, as most vitamin D3 supplements are derived from the lanolin in sheeps wool.  However, vegans can find supplements that are derived from lichen a plant-based algae, so make sure you read the label!

Approximately 20 per cent of the population in the UK have a vitamin D deficiency and about 60 percent are considered as having insufficient vitamin D levels. So why? There are various reasons why the uptake of vitamin D is low in people: –

  • Skin colour – the darker the skin the harder is it for the UV light to penetrate the skin.
  • Lifestyle – ie shift workers.
  • Diet – food lacking in vitamin D and high intake of ultra process foods.
  • Gut health – poor gut health prevents the absorption of vitamin D.
  • Age – the older we get the harder it is to get sufficient vitamin D.
  • Lack of Exposure to the sun – we need to expose at least 70 per cent of our body to absorb adequate vitamin D, so not just your face and hands!
  • Where you live – the further away from the equator you live, the amount of vitamin D will be limited especially in the winter months.
  • Metabolic Health – conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease the body requires vast amounts of vitamin D.

The government recommendation for the daily intake of vitamin D3 for adults and children over 4 years old is 10 micrograms (400 IU) per day throughout the year to maintain general health. However, according to some scientists and health professionals they state the amount should be much higher, ranging up to 10,000 IU per day. However, if you taking vitamin D3 it is recommended that you take vitamin K2 as well, which helps prevent calcium buildup in the arteries. Vitamin K2 drives calcium from the blood vessels and the joints back into the blood which protects you from hypercalcemia (Vit D toxicity).

If you are concerned that you may be deficient in vitamin D, consider talking to your GP and ask to for a blood test to check you levels before taking vitamin D supplements.

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