Vitamin D – are YOU getting enough?
Even if you’re lucky enough to live in a region that gets a lot of sunshine, when daylight, sunlight and temperature levels fall, so do our energy levels. Lethargy and sluggishness are especially common in winter, when we spend more time indoors, as is increased susceptibility to seasonal bugs. All this may be related to diminishing levels of vitamin D, as 90% of our vitamin D intake is produced when sunlight touches our skin.
Much more at stake than just flu and fatigue.
Low levels of vitamin D can significantly affect other key aspects of our health. Vitamin D is necessary to absorb calcium and fix it to our bones, so it’s long been associated with bone strength and protection from osteoporosis. It also helps support mood and mental wellbeing and there’s a well-established link between vitamin D deficiency and depression and SAD (seasonal affective disorder). Research shows that having less than optimal levels makes us more prone to heart disease, respiratory illness, autoimmune diseases and cancer. Having high levels appear to protect us. But despite a growing awareness of the importance of vitamin D, many of us are still woefully low.
Vitamin D deficiency is now considered a worldwide pandemic.
Many of us just aren’t getting enough and it’s not hard to understand why. For one thing, food is not a good source of vitamin D. Only small amounts are found naturally in egg yolks, cheese and oily fish (sardines, mackerel and salmon) and sometimes added to foods like fortified breakfast cereals and milk. Secondly, our life-giving sun has been highly demonised by well-meaning health campaigns. We’ve now become over-reliant on chemical sunscreens that protect our skin, but also inhibit the generation of vitamin D. It’s also worth remembering that pregnant women, dark-skinned and older people have a higher than normal requirement and so have a greater risk for Vitamin D deficiency. So do people with malabsorption conditions like celiac and Crohn’s disease.
Yet current recommendations are likely too low for optimal health.
As more and more scientific evidence emerges that vitamin D’s protective benefits kick in at levels much higher than those currently recommended many of the world’s leading experts on vitamin D are pushing for an upward review of minimum levels for adults and children alike.
As a licenced nutritionist, I’m constantly surprised by how many clients I see with less than optimal levels - despite the sunny lifestyle on the Riviera. To find out for yourself you can either ask your doctor for a blood test (insurance should cover this) or send away for private test (simple, easy and inexpensive at Genova diagnostics. Your levels should never go below 32 ng/ml and ideally should be between 50 – 70 ng/ml.
Meanwhile, the best way to reach optimal vitamin D levels is with moderate sun exposure. 10 to 15 minutes on sunny days is enough for most light-skinned people. Darker skinned people will need more. Try to expose as much of your body as possible. If you can’t be outside every day, or find out you’re low, supplements are a good option. I recommend 1,000 - 1,500 iu daily for 3 months, (then check your levels again) or a single dose of 100,000 IU to quickly get your levels back up.
Vitamin D is too important to just assume you’re in the healthy range. Have your levels tested regularly and make sure you and your family are covered – rain or shine!