Vitamin D - The Sunshine Vitamin
Why do you need it at this time?
Vitamin D is a steroid hormone and one of many fat-soluble vitamins that the body requires to function correctly. We make this essential vitamin from the skin’s unprotected exposure to sunlight, but it can also be found in certain foods such as eggs, cereal and fatty fish.
The two most important forms of Vitamin D’s are Vitamin D2 and D3.
D2 is produced by plants whilst D3= made by the skin and in supplements.
Vitamin D3 is generally better absorbed by the body over D2. Vitamin D3 is suitable for Vegetarians but not Vegans whereas D2 is suitable for both.
Despite being vital for healthy bones and a robust immune system, our more sedentary lifestyles particularly now that we are staying at home and possibly cocooning, have meant that exposure to the sun has dropped dramatically and our processed and specialist diets has meant that supplementation is needed to maintain a healthy level of vitamin D.
Recent studies found there is a positive link between serum Vitamin D levels and decreasing the risk of acquiring acute respiratory tract infections.
What does Vitamin D do?
Vitamin D is responsible for a number of functions within the body. It helps regulate calcium and Phosphate in the body ensuring it enters the bone to maintain healthy bones and teeth. In serious deficiencies patients can get rickets.
The density of our bones decreases after the age of 30. Therefore, it is important to build up Vitamin D levels to try and maintain bone density
Vitamin D supports a healthy immune system, protecting the body from illnesses such as the common cold and viruses and it plays a fundamental role in ensuring normal muscle function.
Vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased risk of acute viral respiratory infections and community acquired pneumonia. Taking Vitamin D supplements has been shown to reduce the risk of getting respiratory infections.
In relation to COVID-19 specifically:
- Vitamin D deficiency correction is thought to suppress CD26. This an adhesive molecule for Covid-19 host cell invasion, therefore its suppression can help decrease Covid-19 uptake in the body.
- Vitamin D is also shown to attenuate (slow down) 2 inflammatory responses in the body. These immunological responses are thought to elicit poorer clinical outcomes in Covid-19 infection and so decreasing those responses, help those patients in their recovery.
In the face of the impending Covid-19 epidemic and in the absence of a vaccine or any effective anti-viral drug therapy, it is recommended to take Vitamin D3 supplements.
See link to Irish doctors research on the importance of Vitamin D and its role in the protection against COVID-19.
So could you be deficient in Vitamin D and who is most at risk?
In Ireland, due to poor dietary intake, low supplementation rates and low sun-exposure the prevalence of Vitamin D deficiency is high – particularly amongst older adults, who are the most vulnerable to Covid-19
Vitamin D deficiency is common in Ireland, especially amongst older adults, hospital inpatients and Nursing Home residents. A study showed that 35.7% of adults 50-64years and 44% if adults 65-84years had below optimal Vitamin D levels all year round and these figures rose to 55.4% and 48.1% respectively in the winter months.
Other vulnerable categories to Vitamin D deficiency include:
- Those who are housebound
- Those with Diabetes Mellitus
- Those with compromised immune function
- Those with darker skin
- Vegetarians and vegans
- Those who are overweight or obese
- Healthcare workers
How would I know if I am deficient in Vitamin D?
Signs of vitamin D deficiency can manifest in common health conditions such as frequent coughs and colds, tiredness and fatigue, low mood, achy muscles and poor bone and tooth health. So, it’s easy to see why we all need it.
If you suffer from any of these symptoms regularly, it could be a sign that you’re lacking in vitamin D.
The best way to determine if you have a deficiency in Vitamin D is to get a blood test conducted by your GP but in the absence of such a test here are the signs that you might recognise:
The signs of deficiency
- Bone and Joint pain
- Back pain
- Muscle pain/cramps
- Mood changes (low mood)
So how much do we need?
The Food safety Society of Ireland (FSAI) recommend older adults should supplement with 10mcg (400IU) of Vitamin D per day. However most European countries now recommend intakes of 15-20mcg/day in older groups.
Irish adults require 20-50mcg/d of Vitamin D3. This amount is not achievable by diet alone therefore supplementation is recommended.
10microgram = 400IU
25microgram = 1000IU
To know how much Vitamin D to take can be difficult,
If a Doctor has completed a blood test and this comes back as being low in Vitamin D, supplementation is necessary. If no prescription is given and the Doctor advises take some Vitamin D, then the recommended regimen is to take 3000IU-4000IU once daily for two months then decrease down to a maintenance dose of 1000IU
If you have just started to read about Vitamin D and would like to start taking some, then 1000IU a day (25mcg) is sufficient.
Is it possible to take too much Vitamin D?
While there are documented cases of Vitamin D toxicity, these are very rare and normally relate to exceptionally high doses and for extended periods of time. There is no evidence that supplementation of Vitamin D3 at 20-50mcg per day has any adverse effects.
Should children take a Vitamin D supplement?
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland recommend all babies between 0-12months should receive a Vitamin D3 supplement. Be aware a lot of infant formulas already are fortified with Vitamin D.
0-12months should have no more than 25mcg per day. Vitamin D drops available. Please note, with these drop formulae be careful of the dosing. Many are one drop not one full dropper
Child aged 1-4years should be given a daily supplement of 10mcg / day
Sources of vitamin D
It is naturally found in a number of animal products such as oily fish, eggs, milk, cheeses and beef liver as well as some fortified foods such as cereals and breads.
Vitamin D is produced in the human body when the UVB rays in sunlight hit the skin. Always be careful not to get burnt! We must still wear SPF and a sun cream with UVA protection
- oily fish such as salmon and sardines
- fortified fat spreads
- Fortified breakfast cereals
Did you know... To achieve the minimum recommended daily amount of 400 IU you would need to eat: 8 eggs, 3kg of cheddar cheese or 2 cans of tuna – everyday!
Vitamin D deficiency remains a worldwide issue with around 1 billion people across the globe experiencing inadequate levels and leading Irish doctors have now stated that Vitamin D could have a key role in COVID-19 response http://imj.ie/optimisation-of-vitamin-d-status-for-enhanced-immuno-protection-against-covid-19/
You can take a Vitamin D in a capsule form or in a spray to be used under the tongue where there is an excellent blood supply for absorption or in a handy capsule or tablet form.
Lot of different brands of Vitamin D supplements also available from handy capsules and tablets that you take once per day to the Better You D-Lux sprays are a very efficient method of administering Vitamin D. The mouth has a huge amount of blood vessels in it and these allow the Vitamin D spray to be absorbed in the mouth and straight into the blood stream, therefore avoiding the digestive system.
- Mylan Vitamin D2000IU (60)
- Better You DLux 3000 Vitamin D Oral Spray 15ml
- Pharma Nord BioActive Vitamin D Pearls 75UG 80’s
- Vitabiotics Ultra Vitamin D3* 1000 IU (25µg)
- Better You DLux 1000 Vitamin D Oral Spray 15ml
- BabyVit D3 Pure Vitamin D3 Pump
References used: Irish Medical Journal-Dr McCarthy, HSE and NHS website