More and more, we’re reading about Vitamin D and how we don’t get enough. There is an avalanche of information on this vitamin’s role in health and its importance for preventing a number of serious health conditions.
Vitamin D is a nutrient that we get from the sun – it is produced endogenously (inside our bodies) by exposure to ultra violet (UV) rays.
Australia-wide, the population is becoming increasingly deficient in this vitamin – even here in the Sunshine State! This has been evidenced by an alarming rise in conditions such as rickets and osteoporosis. What!?
What does it do? Well, vitamin D is essential for a number of body processes:
Calcium absorption and bone mineralisation – this is particularly important in women and those with low bone density.
Immune function – low levels of vitamin D have been linked to auto immune conditions and chronic ill health.
Cardiovascular health – low vitamin D has been linked to increased arterial stiffness. Yep, heart attack city.
Blood sugar metabolism and weight management – a recent Australian study showed that people with low vitamin D were more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
Long term health management – vitamin D is an important risk factor in such serious conditions as multiple sclerosis, asthma, Parkinson’s disease, allergies, anaphylaxis and some cancers.
How do you know if you’ve got low vitamin D?
Thorough case-taking by your practitioner will indicate whether it’s likely you are deficient. Certain conditions and symptoms – particularly when teamed with lifestyle practices such as sun avoidance – can indicate a likely deficiency.
A blood test is the easiest way to check your D status. This is a simple process that can be requested through your GP or naturopath. It will show conclusively whether you are deficient and whether supplementation is necessary.
How do you boost vitamin D?
The most obvious way to increase vitamin D is by increasing sun exposure, but for some people this may not be possible.
A mild deficiency can be markedly improved by increasing dietary calcium and enjoying short, regular periods of sun exposure – such as sitting in the sunshine for 5-10 minutes at the end of your lunch break each day.
However, significant deficiency or chronic illness will require supplementation – often for many months before being re-evaluated. It is important to discuss this with you practitioner, to ensure you get an appropriate and effective dose.