I’ve recently been banging on to anyone who’d listen to me about the importance of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’ as we need sunlight to synthesise it.
Vitamin D is the only vitamin that’s acts like a hormone. That is, it’s a chemical messenger, sending various messages throughout your body.
It’s a major player in the functioning of your immune system, reduces your risk of getting chronic disease, supports your muscle function and bone growth, preventing bone softening which can happen as we age.
There are two forms of Vitamin D:
- Vitamin D2 – commonly found in food
- Vitamin D3 – made naturally by the body when skin is exposed to the sun
Vitamin D rich foods are:
- Oily fish (salmon, sardines, herring, mackeral) as well as trout, kippers & eel
- Fortified foods such as breakfast cereals, milk & yoghurt
Surely I get Enough of Vitamin D?
We cannot get enough Vitamin D from our food – Specifically, Vitamin D3 is a prohormone produced in our skin. Our body has to synthesise it from sunlight but not any old sunlight – only from specific Ultra Violet B (UVB)
It’s then metabolized to 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 in the liver and then to 1.25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 in the kidneys before it can be used in the body.
Living in a temperate climate as we do here in the UK, influences how much sun exposure we get. We only get the correct UVB during May – Sept. So during the rest of the year we just don’t get enough Vitamin D3.
You need approx. 15 mins of sunlight exposure each day onto bare arms and face to get enough – that’s without using sun creams.
How can I get enough Vitamin D?
Other than incorporating the above foods into your weekly diet, which may not be easy especially for non fish eating vegetarians/ vegans, supplements are available.
D3, rather than D2, is the best supplemental form to take as it is thought to be easier for the body to absorb.
Vitamin D3 is available in tablet form in doses of 400 IU / 10 micrograms AND 1000IU/ 25 micrograms.
If you are over 65 years old or are at risk of low levels due to lack of sun exposure, the NHS suggests a daily supplement of 400 IU / 10 micrograms of vitamin D3.
You should not take more than 1000 IU per day.
How to know if you’re getting enough Vitamin D
I’ve been pretty much stuck indoors since last August with no sun exposure. I’ve been talking supplements but have been wondering how much I should be taking and if I was throwing away too much money on them.
A blood test is available from your GP but only if you meet their guidelines as to who they can test – guidelines given due to budgetary constraints.
They can test those that show signs of deficiency or those who are infirm and unable to spend much time outdoors – however in my opinion a majority of UK office workers don’t get enough time outside in the sun each day!
Although I’m sure I’d qualify for a test, I currently can’t get over to my doctor’s, so I decided to do a home test and share the experience with you.
How I Tested for Vitamin D
I ordered my test kit from here: http://www.betteryou.com/vitamin-d-testing-service
Here’s what I received:
- 1 x instruction card
- 1 x ‘collection device’ – a folded piece of card with an absorbent window for blood spots
- 2 x ‘lancets’- finger prickers
- 1 x alcohol swab
- 1 x plaster 😉
I completed the information required in the card: name / age/ date of sample
I had to prick my finger with the lancet – can’t say that was pleasant.. and then drop 4 x blood spots onto the absorbent card.
I was surprised how slowly the blood came despite massaging my finger…it took a few minutes! I had memories of pricking fingers to form blood pacts over childhood secrets!
Then I put on the plaster giving my finger some love 🙂 , simply sealed the card and popped it into the supplied envelope ready to post.
It will take 8 – 10 days to get the results …the test cost me £30 and I get a free supplement. I’ll probably get a more accurate test from my GP when its easier for me to get out and about again, but at present I’m interested to know the outcome.
Meanwhile…I hope the above has been helpful to make you think whether you are you getting enough of our sunshine vitamin – Vitamin D…