It’s that time of year again. The clocks have gone back, the days have been cut short and it’s time to wrap up and get warm and toasty. I do love the seasons and especially autumn with its wonderful colours and coziness, but winter is just around the corner and it’s a long time until the promise of spring and the long hazy days of summer and sunshine. Which can only mean one thing in the eyes of a nutritionist …. rapidly falling vitamin D levels!
Vitamin D is such an incredible vitamin, well hormone really. We need it for controlling the levels of calcium in the blood, regulating bone development and muscle function, it’s essential for a healthy nervous system and regulating blood pressure. It plays a role in immune function, helping to fight off viruses and bacteria, inhibits the development of autoimmune diseases and maintains healthy DNA by regulating your genes. Vitamin D has also been found to help with glucose tolerance and insulin resistance in those with type 2 diabetes, prevent certain cancers and osteoporosis.
Ok, so now you know why we need it, here’s the sciency bit. Vitamin D, also known as calciferol, is both a nutrient we eat and a hormone we make. It exists as either vitamin D2 or vitamin D3. D2 is found in plant sources and D3, the most potent form, is formed from cholesterol through a process triggered by the action of sunlight on the skin. This is why it is also known as the “SUNSHINE VITAMIN”. In order to function in the body, both D2 and D3 need to be converted in the liver and kidneys first, into the active form of vitamin D, which is also known as calcitriol.
Are you still with me? … Hang on in there, you need to know this bit … Without adequate UV radiation from the sun (specifically between the months of October and April) our bodies need to rely on food for vitamin D, however there are very few foods that naturally contain it. The richest source is oily fish such as salmon and mackerel, it’s also found in liver and in smaller amounts in cheese, butter and eggs. Milk, shiitake mushrooms and sprouted seeds also provide some vitamin D especially when exposed to sunlight.
The people who are most at risk of vitamin D deficiency are the elderly, the housebound and people who habitually cover their skin (including the use of sunscreen), as a result of limited exposure to sunlight. People with dark skin have fewer vitamin D receptors in their skin than fair skinned people, and those living further from the equator are therefore more at risk. As we age the production of vitamin D receptors in the skin decreases and the kidneys and many other organ systems and cells are less able to convert vitamin D to its active hormone form. So, this is why older people are often more susceptible to frequent falls, cognitive problems and depression. Also, as vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, anyone on a low fat diet will have problems absorbing it, so make sure you are including enough of the good fats, such as coconut oil, butter and olive oil in your diet.
So as we head into the winter months, we are all at risk of being vitamin D deficient, and I strongly advise you to find a good vitamin D3 supplement to take, at least until the clocks go forward again, and I especially recommend one that includes vitamin K2, as they work so beautifully together, helping to take the calcium out of the blood to where it’s needed.
If you would like any advice on supplements, need to know how to check your vitamin D levels or would like to learn how to use nutrition for your best of health – contact me HERE, I’d love to hear from you!