Are you getting enough Vitamin D?

January 25, 2018
Lyndall McAlpine

I am writing this as I sit overlooking the glorious Coast of Braodbeach, Gold Coast. It is my ideal life… walking across the street to white sands and clear blue water. Just beautiful! And geting a few short stints of sunshine feels so good!

I am sure you know sunshine is one way to get our vital Vitamin D fix. Our skin makes vitamin D when it’s exposed to the sun, that’s why it’s referred to as the “sunshine vitamin”.

Depending on your location and season it is recommended to get about 30-40 minutes of sun exposure without sunscreen between 10 am – 3 pm on most days.

However unless you are fortunate to have a lifestyle of above all year, while feeling comfortable not to be protected by sunscreen, you are probably one of the many who are deficient in vitamin D. Some estimate as many as two out of three people are deficient to some degree.

Hibernating during winter and today’s urban living of working or being entertained indoors (eg computers, video games) and slip, slop, slapping so well all add up to a big lack of sunlight hitting our skin every day,

Some other reasons why Vitamin D deficiency is now very common are:

  • As we age we are unable to make vitamin D quite so efficiently
  • Obese people store vitamin d in their fat cells, which doesn’t release until the fat cells are broken down
  • People with naturally dark skin contain more melatonin which blocks the absorption of ultra violet light
  • Babies of mothers who are low in vitamin D (especially if they are breast fed) are high risk for deficiency.
  • Genetic differences in how the body processes vitamin D have a strong effect of levels

Why Vitamin D is so vital to our health

Getting enough of this critical fat-soluble vitamin is important for many reasons.

Low blood levels of vitamin D have been linked with a wide range of health problems including polycystic ovary disease, mood imbalances such as depression, osteomalacia, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, autoimmune diseases and certain cancers.

Vitamin D:

  • is essential for the absorbtion of calcium from our food, acting like a hormone to help us build strong bones as well as helping to preserve muscle strength .
  • is important for healingNew research from TOSH has shown a link between vitamin D levels and inflammation after ACL surgery. A 2011 study in which both TOSH and the Linus Pauling Institute participated also showed a link between vitamin D and recovery.
  • supports cardiovascular health. In combination with calcium, vitamin D has been shown to have beneficial effects for heart health, especially in overweight women who are losing weight.
  • is also an important immune system regulator
  • is essential for cellular growth

Other ways of getting enough Vitamin D 

Once deficient, the amount of sunlight needed to raise Vitamin D levels in the blood raises the risk of unrelated skin damage so getting all your vitamin D needs from sunlight is not wise. So, how can we get enough vitamin D in other ways?

Food containing vitamin D

Vitamin D is naturally found in:

  • fatty fish (salmon, sardines),
  • liver,
  • egg yolks,
  • butter and milk.
  • Mushrooms contains ergocalciferol, which is a precursor to Vitamin D and can make large qutitites when  exposed to the sun.

Some foods are “fortified” (which means vitamin D has been added) with vitamin D. These include milk, some orange juices, breakfast cereals, and yogurt. It will say on the label how much vitamin D has been added per serving.

Because vitamin D is fat-soluble, you can increase absorption of it from your food if you eat it with some fat (healthy fat, of course).

Between sun exposure and food, it still may be difficult to get even the minimum of 400 IU of vitamin D each day; this is why vitamin D supplements are quite popular.

Vitamin D supplements

Vitamin D supplements or some cod liver oil (which also contains vitamin A) can ensure that you get the minimum amount of vitamin D, plus (more beneficially) a bit extra.

The form of vitamin D in your supplement plays a role in how much makes it effectively into your bloodstream. There are a couple different forms of vitamin D: D2 and D3.  USANA’s Vitamin D supplement uses the vitamin D3 form, which has been shown to be more effectively metabolised by the body and raise vitamin D blood levels almost twice as much as D2 form.

How much do you need?

The “official” minimum amount of vitamin D to strive for each day is merely 400-600 IU, but many experts think that this is not nearly enough for optimal health. Based on current research, it seems that consuming 1,000–4,000 IU (25–100 mcg) of vitamin D daily should be ideal for most people to reach healthy vitamin D blood levels.

But before you take vitamin D containing supplements, make sure you check that it won’t interact with other supplements or medications you may be taking. Always read your labels, and ask a healthcare professional for advice.

Do not take more than the suggested dosage on the label of any vitamin D supplement, except under medical care. The maximum amount recommended (for the general population) is 4,000 IU/day. Too much vitamin D can raise your blood levels of calcium (to an unsafe level), and this can affect your heart and kidneys.

The best thing, if you’re concerned, is to ask your healthcare professional to do a blood test and make a recommendation about how much vitamin in supplement form is right for you. Your healthcare practitioner may recommend higher amounts of vitamin D supplementation for a short time while under their care.