Henrietta Norton explains what we can do to ensure we meet our bodies’ daily needs

One in five of us in the UK are estimated to have insufficient blood levels of Vitamin D for good health; we simply can’t produce enough of it from sunshine alone and especially those of us in Northern Europe. The half-life of this vitamin is 3-6 weeks, so even gathered stores over the summer rapidly decline by the time we get to the deeper winter months. 

Additionally, sunscreens, longer office working hours, medications such as statins and our age can affect our levels further. Our dietary habits have changed somewhat too and Vitamin D rich foods such as oily fish and whole-fat dairy as part of our daily diets have fallen out of favour. 

The Department of Health recommends that everyone over the age of four should take 10 micrograms (400iu) of vitamin D every day, particularly from October to March. All pregnant, breastfeeding women and at-risk groups should take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms (400iu) of an easily absorbed form of Vitamin D. However, consider that many people in the UK do not get good access to consistent sunlight due to work (offices) and typical British summer weather.

All babies from birth up to one year of age should take 8.5 to 10 micrograms (340iu to 400iu) of vitamin D per day (particularly those being breastfed). Babies fed infant formula will not need vitamin drops until they are receiving less than 500ml (about a pint) of infant formula a day, as these products are fortified with vitamin D.

Children between the age of one and four should take 10 micrograms of vitamin D supplements all year round. People aged 65 years and over and people not exposed to much sun should also take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms (400iu) of vitamin D.

Why do I need vitamin D? Virtually every cell in the body has a vitamin D receptor, which, when bound to this vitamin, can influence the expression of more than 200 genes. Previous concerns about vitamin D deficiency have been associated with poor bone health, most notably the development of rickets, a condition which is again on the increase according to national statistics. However, the observations from the most recent large cohort studies have unravelled other key physiological roles of it and a causative relationship between vitamin D deficiency and an increased risk of cancers, pre-eclampsia, diabetes, CVD, autoimmune diseases, autism and the flu. 

What vitamin D supplements should we use? Choose wisely, opting for high-quality well-absorbed forms. More natural food forms provide both the active and stored forms, ready for your body to use easily. A study conducted showed that Food-Grown® vitamin D includes both the ‘stored’ (25-hydroxy) and biologically ‘active’ (1-25 hydroxy) forms of vitamin D3. The body will always need to convert any ‘stored’ form of vitamin D3 into the ‘active’ form for it to do its various jobs like supporting calcium absorption. This makes supplementing in the ‘active’ form preferential. A highly absorbable and biologically active form may also minimize the need for ‘mega-dosing’.  

Don’t be tempted to think more means more. You should always check with a qualified nutritionist / nutritional therapist if you are unsure what dose to take. As with many nutrients, vitamin D follows a U-shaped curve, meaning that high levels can be just as problematic for health as low levels. An excessive intake is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, kidney stones and low bone density. The latter is especially important to recognise as many will self-diagnosis with high strength vitamin D supplements to reduce osteoporosis risk but may, in fact, be encouraging the ‘leaching’ of important nutrients for bone density out of the bone matrix. Look for supplements with your recommended daily allowance and better absorption instead. I formulated Wild Nutrition Food-Grown® Vitamin D range for this reason. 

Vitamin D rich foods

Seafood – Seafood is one of the best sources. If you eat fish, aim to have two or three portions per week. Choose trout, halibut, sardines, herring, salmon and mackerel.

Whole milk – Organic full-fat milk contains much more than semi-skimmed milk and is less likely to have had anything added or removed. Unfortunately, the most popular form of milk is semi-skimmed, which contains significantly lower amounts of fat-soluble vitamins.

Eggs – Eggs are a great source and are so versatile and easy to make. Ensure you eat the yolk as this is where you’ll find it. 

Mushrooms – Some mushrooms have the ability to produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. The normal button mushrooms you find in the supermarket will contain very little of this. Opt for a selection of portobello, maitake, morel, chanterelle and oyster mushrooms for a higher content. 

Avoid foods that have been artificially fortified. Instead, opt for food that contains vitamin D naturally from the list above.

To understand your individual need, consider getting the guidance of a well-trained nutritional therapist or functional medicine practitioner or requesting a Vitamin D blood test with your GP.  Our team of Qualified Nutritional therapists at Wild Nutrition are on hand to offer advice enquiries@wildnutrition.com or call on 01273 477898.

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