Vitamin D – is it time to get your levels tested?
Vitamin D has been hitting the headlines recently when in October 2020 Public Health England announced they would be providing free vitamin D supplements for the vulnerable and those in care homes.
But did you know that for a number of years Public Health England had already been recommending that the general population take a 10 micrograms vitamin D supplement over the winter?
One of the reasons for this is that the main source of vitamin D is through sunlight exposure directly onto the skin – something we are not getting much of at this time of year. You can get vitamin D from foods such as oily fish, eggs, liver, mushrooms and vitamin D fortified foods such as breakfast cereals, but it can be hard to get enough from food alone during the winter. The 2020 National Diet and Nutrition Survey found that the average UK vitamin D intake was below recommended levels.
Why are your vitamin D levels so important?
- Vitamin D plays a key role in the immune system. Not only does it support all the immune cells that launch an attack if a virus or bacteria enters your body, but it also helps to regulate your immune system. If your immune system is under functioning and you are getting lots of colds and flu, then it can help to raise it. But if your immune system has become over reactive and you have developed an auto-immune condition, vitamin D can help to calm the immune response.
- The risk of both breast cancer and colorectal cancer decreases as vitamin D levels increase.
- Vitamin D can have an anti-inflammatory effect, so it is important that levels are optimised in anyone with an inflammatory health condition or who has chronic pain. I always check vitamin D levels in women with endometriosis and this can be a common deficiency and partly explains the high levels of inflammation with endometriosis and the link between the immune system not functioning well and the development of endometriosis.
- Vitamin D is needed for calcium to be absorbed by the body. This is particularly important for post-menopausal women who may already be at risk of bone thinning due to lower oestrogen levels, but this can be exacerbated if vitamin D is low too and could put women at risk of osteoporosis.
- Vitamin D can benefit the elderly by reducing the risk of both falls and bone fractures.
So why get your levels tested?
If you are deficient in vitamin D, it is important to know so you can supplement and bring your levels back up to optimum levels. However, vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, which means that it is stored in the body. This helps keep our vitamin D levels going in the early part of the winter when we can use our summer stores, but we may be running out about now. However, you can also have too much vitamin D, so if you have been supplementing for a while it is important to get your levels re-checked to see if your dose needs amending.
How do I get my vitamin D levels tested?
Your GP can test your vitamin D levels with a blood test.
However, if getting a blood test is challenging at the moment or you would rather do a home test, then I recommend the Better You vitamin D test.
This is a finger prick blood test you can do at home. If your test results come back low, you get sent a free vitamin D spray as part of the test price.
Need any further advice?
If you are looking for ideas for recipes that support your immune system and include vitamin D rich foods, then try my free e-book.
And if you would like further advice about supplementation or the role of vitamin D in any health conditions you may have do get in touch for a free call to discuss how nutritional therapy could work for you.
Please do share with anyone you think may find this useful.
The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this blog are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this blog. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this blog. Emma Belton Nutrition disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this blog.
Akyol, A. Şimşek, M. İlhan, R. Can, B. Baspinar, M. Akyol, H. & Akın, M. (2016). Efficacies of vitamin D and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on experimental endometriosis. Taiwanese Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 55(6), 835-839.
Martineau AR, Joliffe DA et al. Vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory tract infections: systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data. BMJ 2017; 356.
Mora, J. R., Iwata, M., & von Andrian, U. H. (2008). Vitamin effects on the immune system: vitamins A and D take centre stage. Nature reviews. Immunology, 8(9), 685–698.
Pludowski, P. Holick, M. F. Pilz, S. Wagner, C. L. Hollis, B. W. Grant, W. B. & Soni, M. (2013). Vitamin D effects on musculoskeletal health, immunity, autoimmunity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, fertility, pregnancy, dementia and mortality—a review of recent evidence. Autoimmunity reviews, 12(10), 976-989.
Sayegh, L. Fuleihan, G. E. H. & Nassar, A. H. (2014). Vitamin D in endometriosis: a causative or confounding factor?. Metabolism, 63(1), 32-41.