As the darker days roll around and we start seeing signs of winter approaching you may be pulling out your vitamin-D, or hear talk that you should be supplementing with it! So, this month I wanted focus the newsletter on what vitamin-D is and why you may consider it through the winter.
Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin, because most of it is made when the body is exposed to the sun (UVB rays specifically). We can also acquire dietary sources of vitamin D but in lesser amounts. Vitamin D that is obtained from food, sun exposure and supplements has to be broken down in the body into an active form. Both the gut, liver, and kidneys play an important role in the conversion of vitamin D. When the sun comes in contact with our skin it activates the conversion of 7-dehydrocholesterol into D3 (cholecalciferol), this is also the kind of vitamin D that we find in food, such as fatty fish. The liver and kidneys further convert cholecalciferol and calcidiol (D2) into active forms of vitamin D that the body can then use.
The well known, main role of Vitamin D is to help with the absorption of calcium and maintain balance between calcium and phosphate (necessary for the mineralization of bone) – hence why in osteoporosis calcium is usually paired with vitamin D supplementation. But, there are many roles (some probably unknown to us just yet) that vitamin D plays in the body!
Roles of Vitamin D
· Maintains healthy bones
· Balances mood / helps with depression (SAD)
· Prevents cancer: breast, prostate, colon
· Important in autoimmune conditions: MS, psoriasis, RA [i]
How do I know if I need vitamin-D?
Research from statistics Canada has shown us that just over 68% people had the necessary levels of vitamin-D for health on average, but over the winter months 40% (that’ almost half the population!) were below the cutoff (50nmol/L – on blood tests).[ii]
To me this makes sense due to:
-lack of sun exposure (in the fall/winter people are getting less sun/skin exposure and even in the summer many of us have indoor jobs or are slathering on too much sunscreen)
-increased dysbiosis (gut health worsening due to lifestyles/poor diets) – especially in Chron’s/Celiac/IBS or other gut-imparied conditions it is much more difficult to absorb vitamin D
-increased demand for vitamin D due to chronic diseases
-diet: rich sources of vitamin D are fatty fish, eggs, and dairy: this means that some vegans and vegetarians may be missing out
-your skin tone: darker skin tones contain more melanin and have a harder time with getting the adequate amount of sunlight to be able to make vitamin D
What can I do for my health?
· Get your levels checked (they should be over 50 nmol/L of blood 25-hydroxyvitamin D of 25(OH) – this is important, because if levels are really high you do not want to be supplementing
· Heal your gut: do you take PPIs? Struggle with chronic digestive issues? These are signs that you should really consider healing your gut – the primary place where a lot of our nutrient aborsprtion takes place
· Eat more of this: fatty fish such as sardines and mackerel, salmon, beef liver, cheese, eggs
· Consume less of this: alcohol (damages gut and liver), smoking, pop
· Get a bit of sunshine! (expose yourself safely, for 10 minutes of sunshine once or twice a week, obviously be careful with any moles/history of skin cancer, or if you are fair skinned, as well as time of year/day, be careful with peak summer days/hours)
[i] Nair R, Maseeh A. Vitamin D: The "sunshine" vitamin. J Pharmacol Pharmacother. 2012;3(2):118–126. doi:10.4103/0976-500X.95506