Vitamin D boosts immunity, clears skin, aids sleep, enhances mood, curbs anxiety... and keeps popping up as a potential defender against coronavirus.
Now that winter is creeping up on us all in the northern hemisphere and the opportunity to generate Vitamin D from the power of the sun dwindles each day, it's worthwhile knowing what the vitamin does for our health and how to ensure we're getting enough.
What is Vitamin D and how does the body absorb it? Nutritional therapist and functional health practitioner, Eve Kalinik explains: "Vitamin D is a vital nutrient that the body creates when we expose our skin to sunlight, and it is also found in some foods. It is a bit of a misnomer to label it a vitamin because it acts more like a hormone in the body, with a crucial role in maintaining strong and healthy bones, supporting the immune system and for cardiovascular health."
What does Vitamin D actually do? Pharmacist Shabir Daya from Victoria Health explains: “Vitamin D is thought to be more multifaceted than we first thought. Virtually every gland in the body has a Vitamin D receptor, so it is vital to all of our bodily processes. It has a role in boosting our immune system, it regulates insulin, helps with brain function. There’s even been a strong link shown between Vitamin D deficiency and gum disease, as well as with skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and acne as low Vitamin D is linked with inflammation.”
Henrietta Norton, Nutritionist and Co-Founder of Wild Nutrition says, "Vitamin D is fundamentally needed to help your body absorb calcium - so it's critical for bone and teeth health. It also plays a part in immune health and it is widely discussed within the scientific community for its role in autoimmunity, gut health, respiratory health, and the response to viral infections."
"Low levels are associated with sleep disorders, depression and low moods, and it is also very important for female health - conditions such as PCOS or endometriosis as both are associated with low levels of Vitamin D. For example, an excellent level of Vitamin D is needed when trying to conceive and during pregnancy or breast feeding," she explains.
Eve Kalinik praises Vitamin D's role as a mood elevator and skin. "Because Vitamin D helps to regulate the release of serotonin, both in the gut and the brain, it has a significant effect on mood. "
How much sun exposure is required? “Your body makes some Vitamin D when exposed to sunlight and some from a healthy diet, but the recommended amount of time is only 10-15 minutes of unprotected sunlight per day,” Daya points out. So, with only very limited access to sunlight in the winter, it's even more important to make sure you avoid being Vitamin D deficient.
How much can you get from your diet? "Only 10 % of our Vitamin D intake comes from food – our main provider being sunlight," explains Henrietta Norton. Shabir Daya adds, "Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin and is found in egg yolks, mushrooms, oily fish, and some fortified foods such as cereals. Milk is often fortified with Vitamin D, including some non-dairy milk, but you need to check the labels."
Why you need a Vitamin D supplement - and the recommended daily dose
“The World Health Organisation suggests that everyone takes a Vitamin D supplement regardless of sun exposure or diet. These are available in capsules, tablets and sprays," says Daya.
Capsules and tablets: The stomach is extremely acidic (PH 1) so it’s estimated that 40% 50% of any vitamin you take orally is lost through the digestive system. Therefore if you prefer taking a pill, go for at least 1000 units to ensure you meet the daily 400 units of Vitamin D per day.”
Sprays are a clever hack: He adds, “a clever way to bypass the digestive system is to use an oral spritz that you spray inside the cheek, which will be ingested directly into the bloodstream through the myriad of blood vessels inside the cheek lining, bypassing the digestive tract. I recommend Dlux 3000 spray, which contains 3000 international units in one spray. While that sounds like a lot, scientists are now pointing to 4000-5000 units per day.”
Or take a multi-vitamin with Vitamin D - as long it's high quality: LYMA’s luxury supplement, while costly, incorporates a powerful blend of the best balance of patented, clinically proven and peer-reviewed ingredients designed to boost immunity and ward off stress and anxiety. Typically Vitamin D3 is derived from the fat of lambswool, however the LYMA formula uses Vita Algae D3 which is a sustainable vegan source of D3 derived 100% from algae. Vita Algae D3 not only helps to maintain healthy bones by absorbing calcium and phosphorus; this essential vitamin helps skin repair itself, speed cell turnover and helps to protect against free radicals. LYMA combines Vita Algae D3 with K2Vital, a patented form of vitamin K2. This is an important combination because Vitamin D is ineffective on its own. Although it encourages calcium availability, calcium can’t be built into the bone unless K2 is present.
4 of the best Vitamin D supplements (for UK):