Is my Vitamin D levels low? What are the Symptoms? Here at Coastal Natural Therapies on the Gold Coast our Naturopath Amanda can explain to you the importance of Vitamin D. Vitamin D doesn’t always get as much attention as it deserves. It’s mostly known for its role in bone formation and calcium homeostasis, however, it is also key for modulation of innate and adaptive immunity, such as fighting against bacterial and viral infections (1,3).
The generic term “vitamin D” is generally applied to two molecules: cholecalciferol and ergocalciferol. Cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) is formed through the action of ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation (wavelength, 290–315 nm) on 7-dehydrocholesterol in the skin. This process is the major determinant of vitamin D status. The other form of vitamin D, ergocalciferol (vitamin D2), is produced by UV irradiation of the plant sterol ergosterol (2). The liver metabolises both forms of Vitamin D.
Exposure of around 15% of the body surface (arms and hands or equivalent) to one-third of an MED (minimal erythemal dose is the amount of UV radiation exposure that just causes faint redness of the skin -erythema), near the middle of the day will result in the production of about 1000 IU of vitamin D, which should be suffice for maintaining therapeutic Vitamin D levels – though not always (3).
Even though we live in a very sunny country, you would be surprised to know that more than 31% of Australian’s are actually deficient, which increases to over 50% in winter months, based on a 2012 study (2).
Vitamin D deficiency may lead to high vulnerability against viral infections in the elderly, but also in school children (1). Low serum levels can also accelerate bone turnover, bone loss, and osteoporotic fractures, particularly in the elderly and those who barely go outside (3).
Studies suggest that supplementing Vitamin D could have benefits for reducing infections in paediatric populations, preventing autoimmune disorders and shows that deficiency can increase the risk of asthma and allergies seen in childhood (4). A meta-analysis concluded that supplementation was seen to reduce the risk of all participants for acute respiratory infections and particularly for those participants who were deficient (5) .
What about food sources?
You can obtain about 5-10% of your vitamin D status through food sources such as sardines, tuna, pasture raised egg yolk & shiitake mushrooms. You will also find fortified food sources like milk/dairy & some breads, however sticking to naturally containing sources is best. Fish should also be wild caught where possible and stick to organic where you can!
Whilst obtaining safe sun exposure, particularly in Summer & Spring, it is worthwhile considering testing your Vitamin D levels with a health care practitioner to ensure your levels are sufficient for the winter season. Supplementation is recommended for those who’s levels fall below guidelines, as well as those that don’t see a lot of sunshine (eg office workers) and people with chronic immune insufficiency.
If you have any questions or would like to find out more, please contact us on 5531 6461 or you can make a booking here.
Written by Amanda Flower (BHSc Nat)