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Vitamin D BLOG

Posted on: 27th April 2020

Vitamin D is one of the most essential “vitamins” needed to support proper bodily functioning!

It is so important at this particular time with us spending more time indoors due to the way of the world that we all need to supplement our diets and bodies with this essential nutrient.

WHY WE NEED VITAMIN D

Vitamin D is a powerhouse nutrient responsible for the proper functioning of many bodily systems. For example, it:

  • regulates levels of calcium in the bloodstream and is essential to bone formation
  • strengthens immunity and protects the body from illness and infection
  • reduces inflammation and autoimmune response
  • improves mood and has been shown to improve symptoms of depression
  • defends cells against cancer (vitamin D deficiency is linked to numerous cancers, including some of the most common—breast, prostate, lung, colorectal, leukaemia, bladder, pancreatic and lymphoid just to name a few!)

So how does Vitamin D help support the immune system?

Vitamin D is necessary for the proper functioning of your immune system which is your body’s first line of defence against infection and disease.

This vitamin plays a critical role in promoting the immune response. It has both anti-inflammatory and immunoregulatory properties and is crucial for the activation of immune system defences which is necessary but even more crucial at this time.

Vitamin D is known to enhance the function of immune cells, including T-cells and macrophages, that protect your body against pathogens (Bacteria, fungi and viruses).

In fact, the vitamin is so important for immune function that low levels of vitamin D have been associated with an increased susceptibility to infection, disease, and immune-related disorders.

For example, low vitamin D levels are associated with an increased risk of respiratory diseases, including tuberculosis, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), as well as viral and bacterial respiratory infections which though there is no strong evidence to support this, it is being linked to increased resistance to COVID-19.

What’s more, deficiency of Vitamin D has been linked to decreased lung function, which may affect your body’s ability to fight respiratory infections such as pneumonia and COVID-19.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF SUN EXPOSURE & VITAMIN D

Historically, the human body has synthesized vitamin D directly from sunlight. This makes sense: we’re pretty hairless and, until recently, spent significant time each day outside. Most of our human evolution occurred around the equator where there was plenty of sunlight year-round, and even after branching off to northern latitudes, a notable adaptation occurred: because melanin (the pigment in skin that gives it colour) protects skin cells from sun exposure and slows vitamin D production, early humans living in northern, less sun-intense climates developed lighter skin to maximize vitamin D production.

Very few food sources contain vitamin D, the main exception being the liver of fatty fish. It’s no coincidence that indigenous Arctic populations, living without strong sunlight much of the year, have historically consumed plenty of vitamin D-rich marine foods.

Now, modern lifestyle factors are significantly reducing our levels of vitamin D: we spend our days inside, cover ourselves in clothing and sunscreen when we do go outside, and eat a primarily Western diet that does not contain food sources rich in vitamin D.

ARE WE VITAMIN D DEFICIENT?

Chances are: yes. Vitamin D is one of the most prominent vitamin deficiencies in modern society.

Vitamin D deficiency is commonly known for causing rickets (soft bones in children), but there are many other symptoms that often go unnoticed and undiagnosed, as they can be subtle, or presumed to be caused by something else.

SYMPTOMS OF VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY INCLUDE:

  • Getting sick regularly or having trouble fighting off infections
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Slow healing of wounds
  • Bone loss (osteoporosis) and increased risk of fractures
  • Hair loss
  • Increased reports of pain, including muscle pain and back pain

If you think your vitamin D levels may be low, ask your doctor to test them. If your levels are on the low end, there are several ways to raise them with lifestyle and nutrition.

A Daily intake of 400-800IU of Vitamin D supplements are recommended depending on age though we take more. You can take upto 4000 IU daily but not to sustain these levels for too many months.

BEST SOURCES OF VITAMIN D

SUNLIGHT

Likely the best way to get healthy doses of vitamin D is via natural sunlight.

How much sun exposure you need varies depending on your skin colour, strength of sun (location, time of year and time of day), cloud cover, pollution, and even what your diet is like. But, as a guide a light-skinned individual typically needs 20-30 minutes of midday sun to produce a requisite amount of vitamin D daily. Because more melanin = more natural sun protection, people with darker skin need more sun exposure to produce the same amount of vitamin D—up to 2-2.5 hours for the same effect.

Sun damage and skin cancer are real concerns , and sufficient sun exposure should not result in burning. People with very light skin or those not used to being in the sun regularly will need to gradually work up to the recommend exposure so there is no lasting damage to their delicate skins.

A few other notes on obtaining vitamin D from sunlight:

  • Vitamin D is synthesized from UVB rays, which do not penetrate glass—so while sitting in the sunlight in a sunny window certainly has other benefits (it’s good for your mood, for one!), it’s not actually resulting in vitamin D3 synthesis.
  • The more skin exposed to the sun, the more vitamin D3 synthesis occurs. So, if you spend time outside with only your face and hands exposed, you’ll produce less vitamin D3 than if you were laying out in a bathing suit.
  • UVB tanning beds are potentially a method for obtaining vitamin D, though they should only be used very carefully and minimally—it takes considerably less exposure in a tanning bed to achieve the same effect as natural sunlight.
  • Your body can store vitamin D3 for weeks or months at a time, so experiencing some period of time without sun may not radically reduce your blood levels.

FOOD SOURCES OF VITAMIN D

Though there are not many food sources containing sufficient levels of vitamin D, there are a few specific foods high in this nutrient, most of which have been used for centuries by populations without access to year-round sunshine. Without any sunlight you’d have to eat these foods in large quantities daily to get enough vitamin D… but occasional consumption can also supplement moderate sunlight exposure.

The best food sources of vitamin D are:

  • Fatty fish: salmon, sardines, herring, tuna
  • Oysters, shrimp
  • Egg yolks (Note: Eggs from pasture-raised chickens—those roaming outside in sunlight—contain 3-4 times the vitamin D as those raised indoors)
  • Mushrooms
  • Cod liver oil
  • Fortified foods: cow’s milk, soy milk and cereals are often fortified with vitamin D, though usually at lower levels than natural sources

There are two types of vitamin D obtained from food sources: D2, found in plants and yeasts, and D3, found in animal products. D3 is more effective at raising blood levels of vitamin D.

If your lifestyle and diet prevent regular, sufficient sun exposure or food sources of vitamin D, it is possible to improve your levels with a vitamin D supplement. In general we aim for up to 4,000 IU daily.

People with a heavier body mass require more Vitamin D3 and a new study suggests the more weight you carry around your waist, the lower your Vitamin D3 levels. Recent findings show that belly fat has a greater impact on Vitamin D levels than overall fat.

Skin Southwest are now offering supplements from Award Winning ZENii and these include’ Sunshine in a bottle’ which are capsules designed to take daily and equate to 2000 IU which is recommended by Public Health England.

For more information visit

www.zenii.co.uk

120 Capsules cost £25.00 and are available from Skin Southwest.

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