People are becoming more aware of Vitamin D – but how much do you know?
Vitamin D and Immune Health
Over at least the 8 years since I started my nutrition studies and career, Vitamin D has been long recognised in our industry as having an important role in immune function. And more research on its role, function and benefits is being accumulated all the time. Low vitamin D status is associated with risk of disease including colds, flu, respiratory disease, covid-19, autoimmune conditions and more. Furthermore, vitamin D supplementation has been shown in studies to improve diversity in the gut microbiome, therefore supporting gut health in those with imbalance (dysbiosis) and improving inflammation.
Other Nutrients Needed
Vitamin D has been recognised for some time for its role in bone health. Vitamin D regulates blood levels of calcium, but vitamin K2 is required to direct it into the bones and teeth rather than into soft tissue (causing calcification of the arteries). Vitamin K1 is found in leafy green veg and K2 from organ meats, egg yolk, dark poultry and fermented foods. Magnesium is also required to assist vitamin D in moving round the body, therefore good magnesium levels are required for optimum vitamin D levels. Magnesium supplementation is safe for most people. Magnesium occurs naturally in nuts, legumes, pulses, green veg and avocados but levels in foods depend on the richness of the soil.
How Vitamin D is Produced
Vitamin D behaves as a hormone when synthesised by the body by sun exposure. This is the best way to produce this nutrient but supplementing with Vitamin D3 has been shown in the research to be both effective and necessary when sun exposure is not an option. In the northern hemisphere it is thought that we cannot convert vitamin D from the sun between October and March. Certainly, there is less sun exposure in the winter and many adults, particularly those with darker skin, are considered at risk of deficiency. ‘Deficiency’ is up for interpretation. Classically we have learnt that vitamin D deficiency manifests as Rickets, a condition where bones become soft. However, recent research shows ‘silent’ deficiency of vitamin D where increased doses of vitamin D improves disease including those mentioned earlier. There is also debate about optimal blood levels and doses. There will be individual variation here. Some people with autoimmune conditions respond well to big doses, whereas other individuals may need a lot less. The NHS recommend 10µg daily for children from 1 year to adults. Can that dose be correct for both adults and children? I’m not sure.
Testing Your Levels
If you’re interested in your Vitamin D levels, you can easily test it, via City Assays, at home with a finger prick test. If you’d like more information about supplementing, ask your nutrition practitioner. If you’re one of my clients, we can discuss this in your next session.
Nutritional therapy does not replace the advice of your doctor. This information is to educate and inform, not to diagnose. Do not take supplements without the advice of a registered nutritional therapist.