Why is Vitamin D so crucial to Dynamic Ageing?
The Spring sunshine is SO uplifting, and after months of taking my evening walk in the dark, the clocks have changed at last and it is such a boon to be getting plenty of daylight and some sun on my skin - along with all the Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor generated by the exercise!
Vitamin D is often called the “sunshine vitamin” because it is sunlight which produces Vitamin D in the body and after a long, dark winter, most of us are in urgent need of a top-up. There are a very few food sources of Vitamin D and they will NEVER be sufficient during the winter months - and while it is possible to make all the Vitamin D you need from the sun, this is very dependent on the season, your age, how close to the equator you live and your skin colour.
WHY VITAMIN D IS ESSENTIAL
Vitamin D is a superstar vitamin, although it is actually a hormone rather than a vitamin. If levels in the body are too low, it is bad news for health, and here we are talking cancer, osteoporosis, depression, rickets in children, asthma, tuberculosis, multiple sclerosis (and other autoimmune diseases), heart disease, diabetes and dental problems, even Alzheimer’s Disease. It is also crucial for healthy muscles, joints and particularly bones as it helps to deposit calcium and other minerals into the bones’ collagen structure, thereby increasing bone mass density and reducing the risk of fractures – in fact osteoporosis becomes more common the further north you live.
WHY ARE OUR LEVELS OF VITAMIN D SO LOW?
· Sun cream - our bodies make Vitamin D after contact with the sun’s UV rays but as we all slather ourselves with sun cream, covering up every inch of our skin and thereby preventing the rays of sunlight from getting through, none of us is getting enough straight-up sun nowadays, in winter or in summer.
· Age - among other things which can go a bit wrong as we get older, our bodies are less good at turning the rays from the sun into Vitamin D
· Kidney or liver disease of any kind also means vitamin D is not converted into the active form
· Tummy troubles - problems with the digestive system mean that the digestive tract does not absorb the vitamin D quite so well and this can result in an imbalance which may cause anything from a few manageable symptoms to more serious trouble in the area
· Obesity - with this condition, the fat cells in the body hoover up the Vitamin D, storing it in an unusable form and stopping it from circulating around the body in the bloodstream
· Lack of sleep - just as you need sunlight to make vitamin D, you need sleep to actually use it
· Stress - the presence of the stress hormone cortisol reduces the uptake of Vitamin D by specific Vitamin D receptors and it literally sits there in the body, without being able to be used - what a waste!
· Your skin colour - the darker your skin, the less Vitamin D you will make, due to the higher levels of melanin in your skin which protect against UV light. And by blocking the sun’s rays, it also curbs the body’s ability to make the precursor to the active Vitamin D
10 SIGNS OF VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY
· Depression or anxiety (including mood changes or irritability)
· Bone softening (low bone density) and fractures
· Feeling tired all the time / decreased performance
· Muscle cramps and weakness
· Joint pain (especially back and knees)
· Difficulty regulating your blood sugar levels / post lunch energy crash
· Low immunity
· Slow wound healing
· Low calcium levels in the blood
· Unexplained weight gain
Symptoms like these are commonly overlooked because they don’t seem life threatening, and they’re often dismissed as normal everyday aches and pains.
HOW TO UP YOUR VITAMIN D
Since our chances of jetting off to a sun-soaked foreign destination at the moment are not very high, here are some alternatives!
· Get out into the sun - even when it is just a weak spring sun - and expose your body to its health-giving rays for 10 to 30 minutes a day with no sun cream (but obviously protect your face, neck and hands)
· Take a supplement
· Eat naturally Vitamin D-rich foods
o Oily fish like salmon, sardines, fresh tuna, trout, halibut, mackerel
o High quality fish oils
o Egg yolks
o And do not be fooled into thinking that fortified foods are the same or have similar benefits as they are likely to contain a synthetic version of the vitamin known as D2 rather than the natural form, D3 - research shows this is less effective at raising levels of vitamin D in the blood
Vitamin D is a powerful health giver so make it part of your Dynamic Ageing arsenal.