At this time of year, we all crave sunshine. Not only because it reminds us of the warmth of summers just past but also because it is one of the only ways our bodies can obtain Vitamin D.
However, as we live more indoor sedentary lifestyles, at computers or in front of the TV, getting adequate levels of this vital vitamin is becoming even more difficult. It is now estimated that 1 in 5 of us in the UK have insufficient blood levels of Vitamin D for good health. Vitamin D is only stored in our bodies for 3-6 weeks, so even a store built up in the summer can quickly decline.
Virtually every cell in the body has a Vitamin D receptor, which, when bound to Vitamin D, can influence the expression of more than 200 genes. Vitamin D is also a potent immune modulator and has a role in reducing inflammation within the body.
Lack of Vitamin D used to be associated with poor bone health, most notably rickets, (which is now, alarmingly on the rise again). However, many studies now point to vitamin D deficiency also having a role in conditions such as Diabetes, infertility, autoimmune diseases and Asthma.
Once Vitamin D reaches our skins cells, it needs to go through 2 more processes before it becomes fully active in our bodies. These involve first the liver cells and then our kidney cells and it's this more complicated form of vitamin D that is active as a regulator of certain immune system activities.
If we know we can’t rely on the sun for our stores, how can we ensure we get adequate levels? There are only a few foods which contain Vitamin D, so be sure to include the following regularly in your diet:
Oily Fish is one of the best sources of Vitamin D. Aim to have two or three portions per week and think SMASH – Sardines, Mackerel, Anchovies, Salmon, Herring
Eggs are a great source of Vitamin D. Ensure you eat the yolk as this is where you'll find the Vitamin D. Choose organic and free-range.
Some mushrooms have the ability to produce Vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. Varieties such as portobello, maitake, morel, chanterelle and oyster have the highest content.
However, only 10% of our daily intake can come from food, which means the rest is required from consistent sunlight or via supplementation. And with the fact that sunscreen blocks our uptake of Vitamin D, for some, supplementation is the only reliable source. Particularly for those with a higher need or at increased risk including, pregnant and breastfeeding women, the elderly and children.
When choosing a supplement, be sure to pick a reputable brand with as few excipients as possible and which contains the active form of the Vitamin – know as D3.