Often called the Sunshine Vitamin, it's important that you get enough vitamin D as it's vital for immunity, mood and bone health - and helps combat Covid.
Even though summer, happily, is on its way, you may be worried about getting the correct dose of sun exposure required for your body to produce vitamin D, vital for bone health, immunity and mood, especially during winter.
A new study shows that vitamin D can also help patients recover from Covid. The world’s first randomised control trial on vitamin D and Covid has been published, and the trial, which took place in Spain at the Reina Sofía University Hospital. It shows that the use of Vitamin D reduced a patient’s risk of needing intensive care 25-fold.
The good news is that you only need 10-15 minutes of sun exposure a day but it's likely that you will still need to supplement to reach the daily recommended amount. A miracle vitamin that boosts immunity, clears skin, aids sleep, curbs anxiety...and so much more, this is everything you need to know about Vitamin D.
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."
Henrietta Norton, Nutrition and Co-Founder of Wild Nutrition says, "when your skin is exposed to sunlight (ultraviolet B rays), it is able to synthesize Vitamin D which your liver and kidneys metabolize to make it biologically active.
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 adds, "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 - which means that even in lockdown you won’t be at risk so long as you take a supplement,” Daya points out. Note: You cannot access UVB rays through glass, so sitting in a sunny window will not help you to increase your Vitamin D levels. Sunshine needs to directly hit the skin for your body to reap the benefits.
How much can you get from your diet?
"Only 10 percent 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. The stomach is extremely acidic (PH 1) so it’s estimated that roughly half 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.”
Why healthy fats are important for the absorption of Vitamin D
If you don't eat fatty foods, you could have issues with absorption of Vitamin D3. As Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient, if you have a low-fat diet it will limit your access to Vitamin D3. If you don't eat eggs or oily fish try taking a spoonful of coconut oil to help the absorption of fortified foods, such as cereals and soya milk.
How Vitamin D improves your skin
"Vitamin D is involved in calming inflammation which is good for anyone suffering from eczema and psoriasis as well as those with acne. When you reduce inflammation, the sebaceous glands produce less oil," explains Daya. Dr Marko Lens, Creator & Founder of Zelens says, "we do not get the Vitamin D we need for our body via skincare. However Vitamin D still plays a vital role in skincare and is used to boost the immune system of the skin, reinforce its barrier function and offer protection against environmental insults. Because Vitamin D is a lipid it is well absorbed through the skin.”