Vitamin D – why all the hype?

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is in the news all the time.  We are all deficient, we must supplement one week an then the next headlines about someone who overdosed! Is this really possible?  What are we really supposed to do?

Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin because it is produced in the skin in respone to sunlight.  It also occurs in a few foods naturally, these include fish (oily fish such as salmon and mackeral), fish liver oils and egg yolks.  Many foods are also fortified with the vitamin and these include grains and dairy products.  It is impossible to overdose of vitamin D via sunlight and foods, however excessive supplement use can lead to Vitamin D toxicity, this is known as hypervitaminosis D and results in the buildup of calcium in the blood, hypercalcemia.

Research has shown that taking 60,000 international units (IU) daily for several months can cause this.  This is much higher than the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of 600 IU.  Unless treating a deficiency these sorts of doses are not advised and should only be taken under the supervision of a doctor, with regular blood tests to check levels for a limited period of time.

Vitamin D is essential for our musculoskeletal system, because it helps us utilise the calcum from the diet.  Calcium is not only essential for strong bones, but also is important in nerve transmission and muscle contraction.  Vitamin D deficiency is most commonly associated with rickets, a disease in which bone tissue does not mineralise properly, however it is also related to many more health problems.

 

Signs and symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency:

Symptoms of bone pain and muscle weakness can indicate a deficiency.  For some the symptoms are subtle and for others they have no obvious symptoms at all,  but low blood levels still pose health risks because calcium is used so vastly in the body.
1) Increased risk of Cardiovascular disease.
2) Cognitive impairment in older adults – research has shown that vitamin D supplementation can help improve cognitive function in over 60s with dementia.
3) Severe asthma in children.
4) Research suggests that vitamin D when taken with calcium can prevent some cancers.
5) Research suggests that long-term supplementation reduces the risk of multiple sclerosis.

Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency:

Not consuming RDA over time.  A strict vegan diet puts you at risk of this because the vitamin is mainly found in animal products. 
Limited exposure to sunlight.  If you are homebound you are at higher risk of deficiency, especially if you have darker skin.  The skin makes vitamin D using UV light.  If you live in the northern latitudes, wear clothes that cover you fully (such as those or religious reasons), do not spend much time outdoors – you are at risk.  In the UK those with darker skin are a higher increased risk because the pigment in the skin (melanin) reduces the skins ability to make vitamin D in response to sunlight. 

What is seasonal affected disorder (SAD):

Seasonal affected disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that often begins in the autumn and continues into the winter months.  Symptoms inculde feeling sad, low mood, anxious, fatigued, irritable, concentraion problems and feelings of hopelessness.  Although the exact cause is not known studies suggest a lack of sunlight is the cause, as it is more common at higher latitudes and cloudy places.  This link to lack of sunlight could potenitally be due to reduced vitamin D production and thus an affect on cognitive function.  The other theories include a shift in our bodies biological clock.  Less sun affects our ciardian rhythm.   Another theory is a change in the balance of neurotransitters in the brain (serotonin and dopamine.)  These last 2 theories would both result from a lack of vitamin D.

So what should the average person do!?

As previously discussed the amount of vitamin D your skin makes can be affected by a number of factors.  Depending on where you live and your lifestyle will affect vitamin D production.  In many it can decrease or be completely absent in the winter months.  In the summer months, especially in those who are fairer – sunscreen, whilst important, can also decrease vitamin D production.

With modernisation many now do not get enough regular exposure to sunlight, and older adults also have trouble absorbing vitamin D.  Taking vitamin D drops or a multivitamin with vitamin D will likely help improve musculoskeletal health.  The recommended daily amount of vitamin D is 400 international units (IU) for children up to age 12 months, 600 IU for ages 1 to 70 years, and 800 IU for people over 70 years.

  • Including oily fish and eggs into your diet a few times a week is also advisable and if vegan eating fortified cereals and plant based milks.
  • Get yourself out each day and get your face in the sun.  We still have the odd sunny day even in the winter! Its important to enjoy them when you can!

   One of our Chiropractors, Rachel enjoying the November sunshine.

  • Natures life is a great Vitamin D brand.  We do not profit from recommending this product in anyway, it just happens to be the one we take ourselves!It is improtant you do not exceed the dose on the product and it is also important to get a Vitamin D3 brand, because vitamin D3 is more easily used in the body to help with calcium absorption.

Reference:

Penckofer, S; Kouba, J; Byrn, M and Estwing Ferrans, C.  Vitamin D and Depression: Where is all the Sunshine? Issues Ment Health Nurs. 2010 Jun; 31(6): 385-393.

Contact us today: 01273 584812, email info@peacehavenchiropractic.co.uk or BOOK APPOINTMENT