VITAMIN D – ARE YOU GETTING ENOUGH?

Vitamin D or the sunshine vitamin is one of the most undervalued nutrients in the world yet it’s so incredibly vital for our overall health. Around 5% of adults in New Zealand are deficient in vitamin D and a further 27% are below the recommended blood level. In this blog we explain what vitamin D is, why it’s so important and how to get enough of this valuable nutrient!

 

WHAT IS VITAMIN D?

It’s one of the most complex vitamins that our body needs! (Don’t worry though we’ll keep this simple!) Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient that plays a key role in almost all our physiological functions. Vitamin D is unique in that our body can make its own vitamin D when you expose your skin to sunlight. Whereas other vitamins we get from the foods we eat. It’s produced when our skin is exposed to sunlight, after that our body goes through a number of metabolic processes to change it into it’s active form. From here it is sent to our liver so that your body can use it, from the liver it’s released to all different parts of the body to perform it’s many duties!

 

WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT?

Vitamin D is important for good general health but it’s most important roll is to do with bone health. As you’ll know calcium is essential for developing  strong bones, however vitamin D has a really important roll to play too! Basically one will not work without the other – to absorb calcium your body also needs vitamin D. Even if you eat foods that contain lots of calcium without enough vitamin D, you can’t absorb them into your body. As well as building strong bones vitamin D helps with aiding and preventing a vast range of functions within the amazing human body such as:

  • Immune system, which helps you to fight infection
  • Muscle function
  • Cardiovascular function, for a healthy heart and circulation
  • Respiratory system –for healthy lungs and airways
  • Brain development
  • Depression
  • Diabetes and obesity
  • Anti-cancer effects

 

VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY

Science is constantly linking deficiency of Vitamin D to many diseases such as heart disease, asthma, mental health problems and osteoporosis to name a few. Ironically, while Vitamin D is readily available for free people are surprisingly deficient in it these days – 1 billion people worldwide! This is due to a number of reasons like long days stuck in the office, fear of skin cancer or malnutrition to name a few. Below are 5 of the most common signs that you night not be getting enough of the sunshine vitamin:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Broken bones
  • Muscle and join pain
  • Feeling down and out

 

HOW CAN I MAKE SURE I’M GETTING ENOUGH?

Whilst the amount of Vitamin D needed varies, person to person and the most accurate way to measure how much is in your body is via a blood test, below are some simple ways to boost your levels for optimal health.

Exposure to sunlight: We believe the best way to get Vitamin D is by heading outside and getting some rays! In most cases it’s the easiest and cheapest way to increase your levels! Not only this the other benefits of sun exposure are huge! (Sun helps kill bad bacteria, helps with skin problems like acne/eczema and can even help lower blood pressure!) A daily walk, an outdoor game with the kids or eating your lunch outside will be enough. In the summer it’s relatively easy to get enough sun exposure without much effort, however in the winter it’s a little more difficult to get quality exposure especially if we have a desk job! Leaving for work in the dark and arriving home in the dark is the reality for many which can make it difficult.. So when the sun comes out take a short break and head outside!

Diet: Very few foods contain vitamin D however there are a few that contain small amounts including;

  • Fatty fish like salmon or tuna
  • Cod liver oil
  • Eggs
  • Beef liver
  • Cheese products

 

Supplements: Taking a good quality supplement can be a good option to increase your levels. Speak to a health care provider to find a good one!

If you don’t spend much time in the sun and suffer from any of the above signs you should speak to your doctor about getting tested for vitamin D deficiency. It could also be worthwhile to look at making a few teaks to your lifestyle or adding in an appropriate supplement.

 

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