Spring is in the air and that means the focus is now on vitamin D. Vitamin D, otherwise known as calciferol, is a fat-soluble vitamin that is not found in adequate amounts in most foods. It is a cholesterol based pro-hormone made in the skin when it is exposed to solar ultraviolet B radiation (UV-B rays) and is then metabolised via the liver and kidneys to a metabolically active form before being used in the body.
Vitamin D has many roles within the body:
- Immunity: Vitamin D is needed for the proper functioning of our immune system which is your body’s first line of defence against infection and disease.
- Brain function: Vitamin D can cross the barrier in your body into the brain and is also synthesised in the brain. Vitamin D acts on nerves, affects learning and memory, maternal and social behaviours, and ageing process. Vitamin D deficiency has been shown to be higher in depressed populations and in post-natal depression.
- Bone mineralisation: Vitamin D is essential for normal bone growth and mineralisation. It enhances blood levels of calcium for delivery to the bones and when paired with phosphorus, it provides rigidity to bones and teeth also.
- Muscle function: Vitamin D maintains muscle strength and has an effect on skeletal muscle in addition to the heart muscle.
- Blood pressure regulation: Vitamin D regulates function within the kidneys and the salt/water balance which impacts blood pressure.
- Insulin release and blood sugar regulation Vitamin D has a role in stimulating insulin release.
Now is the time to focus on vitamin D absorption as our location in Melbourne and position from the Equator means that over the winter months, the UV rays are not strong enough to be converted to vitamin D in the body. As vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, the body stores it and can utilise it throughout winter leaving our stores at their lowest point at the start of spring so now is the time to begin storing it away again.
How much Vitamin D is needed?
It is important to be mindful about sun exposure especially in Australia so it is recommended to acquire sunlight in small doses daily for a maximum amount of 15 minutes before applying sunscreen. As vitamin D is absorbed through the skin, it is important to have maximum skin exposure where possible to allow this process to occur.
If you are concerned about sun exposure or find yourself not getting outdoors daily, supplementation may be needed for you.
How do I test my Vitamin D levels?
You can ask your GP to test your vitamin D levels, the normal rage is above 50nmol/L, naturopathic optimal levels are around 100nmol/L.
If you still need support, Natalie our naturopath can assist you in assessing vitamin deficiencies and assist you to re-establish your vitamin levels.