Vitamin D - What it Does and How to Get Enough

Updated: Sep 17, 2021

Often called the Sunshine Vitamin, vitamin D as it's vital for immunity, mood and bone health - and helps combat Covid. With Autumn on its way, it's important that you get enough to help you through the darker winter months.

Yet another reason is that 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, which took place in Spain 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." She also praises Vitamin D's role as a mood elevator: "Because Vitamin D helps to regulate the release of serotonin, both in the gut and the brain, it has a significant effect on mood. "

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.”

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."

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. The best sources of Vitamin D are in egg yolks, mushrooms, oily fish, milk, and some fortified foods such as cereals.

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. The stomach is extremely acidic 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.”