Vitamin D deficiency seems to be common today with approximately 40% of people having low levels. It is a essential vitamin for the body supporting bone health and regulating the immune system. Vitamin D can be obtained from some foods and you can also create your own. It is synthesised by the body when exposed sunlight is absorbed through the skin.
The benefits of vitamin D includes maintaining healthy bones and calcium actually requires Vitamin D for proper absorption in the body. If Vitamin D levels are low calcium is released from the bones contributing to brittle bones. Research shows that Vitamin D supplementation may help increase bone density and decrease the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
In relation to the immune system, low Vitamin D levels are associated with increased risk of infections. There is also a link between poor vitamin D and autoimmune diseases. Studies have found that optimal Vitamin D levels may decrease risk of respiratory tract infections.
In relation to a healthy heart there is some evidence that supplementing with Vitamin D may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Vitamin D also has protective effects for the brain, reduces oxidative stress and may improve memory.
Vitamin D deficiency may present as: Bone Pain, Chronic Fatigue, Muscle pain and weakness. To increase your levels there are 3 main sources of Vitamin D which includes diet, sunlight and supplements.
Sunlight vitamin D levels depends on the amount of exposed skin as well as the amount of melanin in the skin. The darker your skin the fewer amounts of sunlight rays are absorbed by the skin. Spending about 10 – 30 minutes outdoors twice a week between 10am and 3pm provides enough UVB rays to meet your vitamin D needs. This needs to be on exposed skin without sunscreen. You can download a app called D Minder which helps you track and manage your Vitamin D.
Food sources for Vitamin D includes: Beef liver, Cheese, Egg yolk, Fatty fish (e.g., mackerel, salmon, and tuna) and some mushrooms. Some foods are also fortified with vitamin D such as cereals and dairy products. To help increase absorption of Vitamin D in foods and supplements you can pair them with high fat foods such as avocados or nuts.
Supplements may be required for people who spend little time in the sun or don’t consume enough foods containing Vitamin D. There are many forms of Vitamin D such as capsules, sprays, drops and it is important to talk to your health care practitioner about this and they will prescribe the correct dosage for you. It is important to note that there are also some people who may not convert vitamin D well in there body even if they get enough sun due to genetics and they will also need to supplement.
So where do you start? Checking your Vitamin D levels is a good start and talking to your practitioner about what you can do if your levels are low.
Ellen Agius Nutritionist – Helping Health