Vitamin D3 – What is it and why should I take it?
Vitamin D3 is actually a hormone, rather than a vitamin, but whatever it is, it is crucial to our health and well being. It is part of the fat soluble vitamin group, A, E, D and K.
While we can get a certain amount from our diet, which can be an important source, the easiest and most important way to get our Vitamin D3 is from exposure to the sun’s rays, most importantly to UV(B) rays. (These are the ones that burn us – rather than UV(A) which are the ones that are in the same concentration all year round, rain, wind, fog, snow or sun!)
Why do we need Vitamin D3?
Vitamin D3 is responsible for a whole range of health issues, and deficiency can be subtle. Vitamin D3 is necessary to help the body use Calcium, so it is needed for strong bones, it protects against cardiovascular disease, it helps reduce cognitive decline in the elderly, and there is even evidence that asthma can be reduced in children.
Deficiency of Vitamin D3
Deficiency of Vitamin D3 can also be linked to both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, raised blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, and an increased rate of inflammatory and autoimmune conditions including multiple sclerosis.
Severe deficiency is linked to a condition that was largely wiped out in the western world. However due to an increase in over-use of sunscreens, a determination to cover every inch of children’s body’s against the sun, and often deficient diets which are high in anti-nutrients (sugar, mass-produced grain-based products and inflammatory seed oils), processed foods and low in animal products, which contain the highest levels of the most bio-available version of vitamin D3, increased levels of rickets have re-emerged even in the UK in recent years.
Vitamin D3, obesity and Covid19
Should I take Vitamin D3 to protect me against Coronavirus?
There has been much in the press about the importance of supplementing vitamin D3 as a protective measure against Covid, mainly as a measure to reduce the seriousness of infection rather than it being able to prevent it being caught. The esteemed Cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra is a strong advocate of ensuring appropriate nutrition and reducing weight as a protective measure against Covid. Obesity causes the effects of Vitamin D3 deficiency, as fat cells absorb Vitamin D from the bloodstream, and stores it out of reach of cellular activity, so potentially leading to the effects of deficiency.
Why would vitamin D help against Covid?
The anti-inflammatory nature and immune-supporting role of Vitamin D3 could well help assist the body fighting against any virus, so it stands to reason that any support of this nature would be protective – it has long been known to prevent against coughs, colds and the flu. It is even recommended by the Government – particularly over the winter when exposure to sunlight is reduced. The NHS seems less enthusiastic about the likelihood it’s effectiveness, however it is a relatively cheap supplement, and it would certainly not hurt to supplement most people during the winter.
Why is sunlight a better source of vitamin D3 than diet?
This is the body’s preferred route of absorption – and in the presence of UV(B) rays, the body is able to convert a form of cholesterol (cholesterol levels tend to be higher in the winter, and also when there is disease or injury in the body, and is linked to inflammation) into the more protective, anti-inflammatory form of Vitamin D that the body is able to use.
It is however much harder to get vitamin D from the sun in the winter – the Earth is further from the sun, and the sun is lower in the sky which leads to the rays being weaker and less able to reach us here on the ground. It is still worth rolling your sleeves up on a sunny winters’ day nonetheless! Unfortunately we can’t make vitamin D from UV(A) rays, which are in the same concentration all year round.
Vitamin D and diet
The most bioavailable form of vitamin D comes from animal products, including liver, red meat, eggs and fish (which also contain vitamin K which is important for the efficient functioning of vitamin D).
Fortified dairy products can also be good sources of Vitamin D3, and some cereals are also fortified.
However, poor quality diets that lack these foods, particularly vegan diets and poorly managed vegetarian (or even a poorly managed omnivore diet!) can cause deficiencies. It is virtually impossible to get all the vitamin D you would need from a vegan diet without significant sun exposure – which in the northern hemisphere is very difficult!
What foods are best for providing vitamin D
Oily fish (such as sardines, mackeral etc)
Eggs (particularly the yolks)
Mushrooms (and pop them in the sun for 10 minutes before you use them and they will develop even higher levels!)
Fortified dairy products
Some processed foods such as breads and fruit juices are also fortified with vitamin D.
Supplementation of Vitamin D3
In the winter, it is often worth supplementing with a good quality vitamin D supplement containing cholecalciferol. The brand we currently use and recommend is Proto-Col Vitamin D, which are just £7.50 per month, taking the full high dose of 4000iu per day (this is 4 small easy to swallow capsules). We recommend taking the full dose throughout autumn and winter, and then from late spring, if you are able to get plenty of sun exposure (not forgetting to protect your skin on your face to avoid premature ageing, and definitely avoiding burning!) you should be able to drop down to half dose.
If you feel that your diet is seriously lacking, or perhaps you recently started a vegan diet (veganuary, anyone?), or that you feel like your whole system needs a bit of a reboot, then we would highly recommend the excellent LLV supplements from doTerra – a great set of supplements that will cover all bases, including vitamin D, vitamin K and everything else you need to support your body!
Contact us for more information!