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3 reasons everyone needs Vitamin D more than ever before

5 min read

Last year saw Vitamin D in the spotlight, and this year it’s no different. It’s the vitamin we’ve all been told to take as we find a way to get through this lock-down winter, but why? What does Vitamin D do, and why do you need it now more than ever?

lack of daylight

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D, most commonly known as the sunshine vitamin, is a hormone required for a variety of essential functions in the body such as bone and muscle health and immunity.

There are two types of vitamin D, ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) and cholecalciferol (vitamin D3).

When choosing Vitamin D supplements, it is always recommended to choose vitamin D3. The body directly converts this to the active metabolite, the active compound your body uses to carry out essential functions in the body.

Although Vitamin D2 is also sold in supplement form, research suggests that vitamin D2 is less effective than vitamin D3 at raising blood levels of the vitamin. Therefore, this form of the vitamin is less effective in our bodies.

What are Vitamin D2 and Vitamin D3 prescribed for?

Vitamin D2 is recommended for Rickets, Hypoparathyroidism, a rare condition where the parathyroid glands, which are in the neck near the thyroid gland, produce too little parathyroid hormone, and Familial hypophosphatemia, a group of rare inherited disorders characterised by impaired kidney conservation of phosphate and sometimes, altered vitamin D metabolism.

Whereas Vitamin D3 is indicated for dietary supplementation.

Vitamin D

Three reasons we need Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient required for many functions in the body:

1. You need Vitamin D for bone and muscle health

Vitamin D is essential for the proper absorption of calcium, which helps to ensure the proper laying down of calcium in bones during childhood, and subsequently helps reduce the risk of bone fractures as we get older.

2. You need Vitamin D for immunity

Vitamin D is crucial for our immune system’s normal functioning¹ via various mechanisms. The vitamin D receptor is present on immune fighter cells, meaning that vitamin D is required to bind to these receptors for our B and T immune cells’ normal function.

People with low vitamin D levels have been shown to have a higher risk of developing respiratory infections, asthma and pneumonia.² This is why it's so important to take Vitamin D this winter more than any other year.

3. Preventing Vitamin D deficiency

Many factors can affect your ability to get sufficient amounts of vitamin D through sunshine alone, including:

  • High pollution areas
  • Using sunscreen
  • Spending more time indoors as a result of two lockdowns
  • Living in big cities where buildings block sunlight (and being in lockdown)
  • Having darker skin (the higher the levels of melanin, the less vitamin D skin can absorb)

So it’s important to get some of your vitamin D from sources besides sunlight, such as food and supplements.

 

fatigue

 

Six signs your body is low on Vitamin D

Certain population groups are at a higher risk of having low vitamin D levels.

Normally this affects older adults who generally spend less time outdoors and those with underlying health conditions that may impact their body’s absorption of vitamin D.

But now we’re living through yet another lockdown; we’re facing a lack of daylight from staying at home more than usual which is why the Government is advising us to take a daily Vitamin D supplement.

Common Vitamin D deficiency symptoms in adults include:

  1. Fatigue
  2. Frequent infections
  3. Hair loss
  4. Muscle weakness
  5. Muscle aches
  6. Low mood

    So what are the best ways of overcoming these symptoms?

    1. Sunlight

    We get about 90% of our vitamin D requirements from sunlight, so it is important to ensure you are getting enough at least 10 minutes of sun exposure per day. Roll up your sleeves to expose your hands and forearms, and go for a short stroll in the full sunshine.

    2. Vitamin D rich foods

    Few foods contain Vitamin D naturally, so some foods are fortified. This means Vitamin D has been added.

    Vitamin D rich food sources include:

     

    Food

    Vitamin D (µg)

    Salmon

    13

    Sardines - 100g

    4.8

    Egg - 1

    1

    Fortified Whole Milk - 1 cup

    2

    Fortified Yoghurt - 100g

    1

    Fortified Orange Juice - 100ml

    1

    Fortified Mushrooms - 100g

    3

    3. Supplements

    Vitamin D is fat-soluble, so consuming a vitamin D supplement with a fat-containing meal is ideal for optimal absorption.

     

    fat containing meal

    How much Vitamin D do I need per day?

    Public Health England recommends adults and children over the age of one should have 10 micrograms (400IU) of vitamin D every day.³ IUs are a standard measurement for drugs and vitamins, that help experts determine the recommended dose, toxicity, and deficiency levels for each person.

    As we are spending more time indoors during lockdown, it is vital that everyone takes a vitamin D supplement to ensure these requirements are being met, particularly in the winter months.

    Ten micrograms of vitamin D is equivalent to 400 IU. When looking at food supplement packaging, you may see both micrograms and IU on the label, so it’s good to understand what IU’s mean.

    Are there any side effects of taking Vitamin D?

    Vitamin D toxicity is generally rare.

    The main consequence of vitamin D toxicity is a buildup of calcium in your blood (hypercalcemia), which can cause nausea and vomiting, weakness, and frequent urination.

    Vegan Vitamin D

    Vitamin D plays an essential part of your daily nutrition. When it’s hard to get enough vitamin D daily through sun exposure and food alone, taking vitamin D supplements can be extremely beneficial. When choosing a vegan vitamin D, be aware some brands are not vegan-friendly. 

    Vitamin D2 is always suitable for vegans as it mainly comes from plant sources and fortified foods, but Vitamin D3 can be derived from an animal source (e.g. sheep’s wool) or vegan friendly lichen. If you’re vegan, ensure you choose brands with D3 as Cholecalciferol from Lichen.

    Ensuring your body has enough Vitamin D has always been important. But, this year, in particular, it’s a critical vitamin to make part of your daily routine to support your immune system and give you peace of mind.