An overview on the ‘sunshine vitamin’ and how to ensure you’re getting enough

What is vitamin D?

Firstly, for clarity, I’m talking specifically about vitamin D3 – the ‘sunshine vitamin’, a fat soluble vitamin, which needs to be consumed with fats in order to be absorbed. The body actually converts the vitamin into a hormone.

How is it consumed or activated?

Vitamin D3 can be consumed in one of three ways: in supplement form; consumed in foods, although it’s almost impossible to consume enough D3 in foods; synthesised by the sun’s rays. We recommend supplementing in the winter months, and then getting what you need from sunlight in the summer months.

Why is it important?

Vitamin D3 helps to promote calcium absorption in the gut, and is vital for both bone growth and remodelling. It also helps to prevent osteoporosis when used alongside calcium. Vitamin D3 helps with cell modulation and growth, and contributes to good neuromuscular and immune system functioning.

How do I know if I’m getting enough?

There are several ways to take a Vitamin D3 test:

  • Request a test from your GP
  • Order a home kit (a simple finger-prick blood test, and results take about a week)

What are the symptoms of vitamin D3 deficiency?

Rickets used to be a common condition amongst children (called osteomalacia in adults), but there were less than 700 reported cases from 2013-14 so it’s very rare. However, signs that you might be deficient include unexplained fatigue, aches and pains in your bones and frequent infections. A lack of vitamin D3 has also be linked to cancer, asthma, type II diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, Alzheimer’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Crohns Disease and type I diabetes.

Who is at risk of low vitamin D3?

Anyone who is indoors a lot, and rarely gets sunlight on their skin. You are more at risk if you’re older, pregnant or obese. If your skin is black, you are also more at risk because pigmentation in your skin prevents the sunlight from getting through as effectively.

How do I know how much I need to supplement?

There are now DNA tests which amongst other things will tell you what your requirement is for vitamin D3. I spend a lot of time outdoors all year round, yet even after summer my levels were only adequate. I take a supplement (I use Cytoplan), and as my DNA results tell me I have a raised requirement for D3, I take 5000 IUs per day in winter and 2500 in summer. Don’t follow my example though without checking your own levels first.

leanne spencer

Leanne Spencer

This article first appeared in the January 2017 issue of SE22 magazine.