Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that we can obtain from sun exposure, yet in Australia 1 in 4 people are considered as having a Vitamin D deficiency. From a functional health perspective, these levels may even be higher when considering what an optimal level of Vitamin D might be. Although we would love to be getting that golden glow and a healthy dose of vitamin D from the sun without the risks and variables, that just isn’t the case. The degree to which we absorb Vitamin D is also based on UVB levels, time of day and length of exposure, time of year and even different skin types. We also must take into account the steps happening within our body to convert Vitamin D to its most active form, Vitamin D3. The liver and kidneys are key organs in this process, along with requiring adequate levels of other nutrients and co-factors, particularly Calcium and Magnesium.
Why is Vitamin D so important to our health?
- Involved in the maintenance of serum calcium levels
- Positively promotes mood balance
- Key role in bone health
- Manages blood glucose and insulin sensitivity
- Supports pancreatic enzyme production
- Immunomodulatory effects
- Reduces inflammation
- Supports reproductive function
- Supports neuromuscular function
Associated conditions with potential low Vitamin D
- Autoimmune conditions
- Skeletal abnormalities/bone disorders
- Metabolic syndrome
- Seasonal Affective Disorder
- Allergy, Atopic Dermatitis
- Nervousness, Depression and Memory
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Male and Female fertility
A tip: aim for a maximum of 20 minutes of sun exposure per day, or half the time it takes for your skin to begin to burn. After this, then continue to practice sun safety with sunscreen (organic, chemical free), opting for shade and having a hat and sunglasses on hand across the day.
Where can we find Vitamin D in our diet?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble Vitamin, and therefore mostly found in animal fats.
Some of the best sources –
- Oily fish – Salmon, fresh wild (higher vitamin D than farmed)
- Sardines, Mackerel, Tuna
- Cod liver oil
- Egg yolk
- Raw dairy (milk, cheese)
As a key marker of health, having our Vitamin D levels tested is highly important and something I would recommend particularly as we transition from the cooler months. There is some debate on what is considered sufficient in terms of Vitamin D levels, however the Endocrine Society state that from a clinical perspective, a serum vitamin D concentration of more than 75 nmol/L is necessary to maximise the effect of vitamin D on calcium, bone, and muscle metabolism. In many circumstances, a quality vitamin D supplement may be necessary to boost serum levels, particularly if we cannot obtain optimal amounts from our environment or diet. It may be helpful to reach out to a healthcare practitioner to guide you with testing, interpretation and Vitamin D supplementation as needed.
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