What you NEED TO KNOW about VITAMIN D!

Yay, it’s spring time the sun is shining!!

There’s no denying that the beautiful change of weather gives everyone a little extra ‘spring’ in their step!! With the sunshine comes an extra dose of Vitamin D! This has such a positive impact on our moods, our hormone balance and our overall health!

Image by @elton.passeios 

Vitamin D deficiency is extremely common, especially for us Victorians… So,there are a few things I think you all need to know!! 

Firstly, did you know, vitamin D is not actually a vitamin!?! It is actually a group of cholesterol based hormones! As humans, we need to get the majority of our vitamin D from sunlight. We synthesise UVB rays from the sun by cholesterol in our skin! That’s right, you read correctly, cholesterol!! Yet another reason we actually need good levels of healthy cholesterol! (Perhaps a discussion for another day!?) 

Vitamin D is so extremely essential for health and for life! Not only is it used to promote optimal bone density, but it is also influences just about every single cellular reaction in the body! It is crucial for healthy hormone balance, brain function, mood regulation and optimal immune function. 

Lack of sunshine in winter obviously makes getting enough vitamin D a bit tricky! But even in summer we can still be low on vitamin D. With our harsh Australian sun, it is a very fine balance between getting enough sun for vitamin D and being SunSmart and avoiding getting burnt. The ‘Slip, Slop Slap’ campaign has been aimed in preventing skin cancer, but it also prevents our vitamin D uptake! 

Now, clearly… I’m not taking the risk of skin cancer lightly, but we need to try get a balance and ensure we get at least a small amount of safe sun exposure to ensure we also have our necessary dose of vitamin D! 

The World Health Organisation guidelines recommend getting 10-30 min of safe sun exposure each day for adequate vitamin D exposure/synthesis.

The key is to obviously avoid getting burnt! To do this, avoid peak ‘harsh sun’ times in the middle of the day and get out of the sun before any flushing or reddening of the skin occurs. It might be a good idea to break up your sun exposure into two small 10-15 min exposures:one mid-morning and one mid-afternoon. Unfortunately, applying sunscreen prevents vitamin D synthesis, so get a small amount of sun before covering up! (As a side note, I also recommend opting for toxin-free sunscreen when possible,to avoid absorbing nasty chemicals through the skin). Another interesting fact to note: its best to avoid showering for at least 4-6 hours after safe sun exposure to allow vitamin D synthesis to occur!

While sunshine is most definitely the simplest and most effective way of assimilating vitamin D, we can also get vitamin D in a few other ways. 

You’ll can get some vitamin D via certain foods. However,it is quite difficult to get required levels necessary for optimal functioning via food alone. That being said, every little bit helps! 

The most effective dietary sources of vitamin D include fatty sources from animals, such as beef fat, cod liver oil and salmon. Calf liver and full-fat dairy, especially good quality yoghurt (providing you tolerate it) also contain significant levels of bioavailable Vit D. (Another side note: Animal fats can also generally contain high levels of toxicity, so it is extremely important to try and get the best quality, grass/pasture fed and raised, organic animal products available, if possible).

The Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that up to 1 in 4 of us Aussies are deficient in Vit D. Deficiency is classed as less than 50nmol/L blood levels. However, there is a growing body ofevidence showing that optimal levels of vitamin D are between 100-200nmol/L. So many more than 1 in 4 of us will have sub-optimal levels!

Supplementation may therefore be an option to make sure you’re getting enough for optimal health and well-being. However,there are many things to consider when supplementing. Correct and safe dosage levels will differ for each person and it is important that adequate magnesium is available for vitamin D metabolism. A correct pH and chloride/potassium balance is also really important for safe vitamin D utilisation, to prevent the increase of calcification of blood vessels.

So,it is a good idea to make sure you enlist a health professional qualified to assess your symptoms. They can then check (and analyse) your blood levels of vitamin D via blood pathology testing and ensure you get the right treatment plan and correct type and dose of vitamin D for your body and your circumstances.

As mentioned earlier, vitamin/hormone D is important for many more things than just adequate calcium absorption and bone density. Vitamin D plays a very important role in regulating our mood. 

There’s a vast growing body of evidence linking low and/or suboptimal levels of vitamin D and mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, and even hormonal related mood conditions such as PMS and/or PMD. Additionallythere is also a lot of research linking low vitamin D with many immune disorders. Particularly auto-immune conditions. 

Vitamin D is extremely essential for our hormone health! Vitamin D is actually a necessary pre-curser for the manufacturing of our reproductive sex hormones! We literally cannot make adequate reproductive hormones without vitamin D! It’s also extremely important for ovulation function and plays a specific role in helping a follicle develop into a mature egg before ovulation. Hence why it’s an important consideration for me when assessing all hormonal imbalances and especially for preconception and fertility cases. 

As you can see, vitamin D plays such an important role in your overall health. If you feel like any of the above conditions are a concern for you. It may be a good idea to ask your naturopath or health professional about looking into your Vit D status. 

In the mean time, get out there and enjoy some beautiful sunshine!!

As always, approach this in a safe and mindful way that suits you and your body.