Just like plants, we need the sun to thrive. As most know, lack of sunlight makes all things grow weaker and our bones are the same. However, what many people do not know is immune systems and digestive system relies on this vitamin just as much to function properly. Vitamin D acts like a hormone to assist in cell replication and assists them to differentiate into the cell they need to be, a skin or immune cell for instance. There have been numerous studies that have shown that good levels of vitamin D is vital for our lungs to defend against viral and bacterial infections. Anyone with chronic lung conditions such as asthma, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder), frequent colds/Flu and fatigue following an infection (such as Long Covid for instance) should consider supplementing with Vitamin D.
Because we can manufacture Vitamin D it is not considered an essential vitamin, that is, we technically speaking, do not need to eat it, however more incidents of this deficiency are occurring than should be in this sun-drenched nation of ours so what’s going on? The daily use of sunscreens is no doubt an issue. Although we need to be aware of the risk of skin cancers, we also need to have at least 30 minutes of direct sunlight per day to make our vitamin D. The use of sunscreens at schools when kids spend 80% of their day indoors is, in my humble opinion, overkill and we should reserve the use of sunscreens for sports days and days where we expect to be out in the sun for more than 2 hours or it’s a scorcher of a day!
There also is an increase in food intolerances and these may be linked as this vitamin . Vitamin D absorption is an issue for wheat sensitive people, Coeliacs and people with their Gall bladder removed. Being a fat-soluble vitamin, without your bile that is stored in the Gall Bladder, emulsification and absorption is severely impaired as butter and fish oil is a major food source. Also vitamin D is essential for absorption of calcium and collagen (which we need for strong cartilage in our joints and other connective tissue) while Magnesium is needed to convert Vitamin D into its active form from a Cholesterol component made by the liver. This does have me questioning whether the high use of anti-cholesterol drugs that stop you liver making cholesterol play a part in the widespread deficiencies that we are seeing.
The only way to know if you don’t have enough is a blood test, and if you supplement make sure you look at the abovementioned minerals to make it complete. Good food sources include butter, Cod fish liver oil, eggs, oily fish such as sardines, and wild mushrooms (or allowing mushrooms to rest in sunlight for half an hour or so before cooking). If you are vegan, it’s vital to supplement. We have a vegan Vit D called Liquid sunlight at the clinic that is fabulous, just a few drops each day. After this cold spring, it’s important to get outside and ‘stock up’ on this vitamin now. Try 30 minutes of sunbathing in the morning with the sun on your legs, arms and chest.
Until next time
Dr Angela Palmer