The importance of Vitamin D (the key to a strong immune system and hormone balance)
As we have just transitioned out of the cooler weather, I’d love to talk a little about vitamin D, an important nutrient that usually suffers over the cooler months. I have often used vitamin D in clinic to optimise the immune system, fertility, reduce PMS and support mental health like depression and anxiety.
Have you ever got your vitamin D levels checked? It’s a simple blood test your health care practitioner can order. Every single cell in the body has a receptor for vitamin D, including our immune cells. These little guys work much more effectively when the receptors are filled, so preventing/addressing vitamin D deficiency is kind of important!
Vitamin D deficiency is common, especially through winter and in colder climates. I grew up in Tasmania and it’s only now that I realise I was probably vitamin D deficient for a loooong time which no doubt contributed to my depression and autoimmune disease. As always, health is never reliant on one nutrient, but it’s about addressing all the potential drivers and causes to generate long term, sustainable health… and nutrient deficiencies play a huge part in this!
The only way to really know if your levels are optimal is to get a blood test. If your levels are below 60nmol/L on the blood test then you really need to consider supplementing to get your levels back up to well above 90IU nmol/L. This may only be necessary over winter or in the short term and I would recommend getting a vitamin D blood test every 6 months to monitor improvements.
Vitamin D is used everywhere in the body, especially when it comes to the nervous and immune system, bone health and hormones. Vitamin D will help fight neurological inflammation - just one of the reasons why study after study shows how vitamins D deficiency is linked with depression and mood disorders.
What does Vitamin D deficiency look like?
It's not always obvious, but some symptoms include:
Low moods / depression
Frequent infections / sickness
Poor memory / brain fog
Weak bones / bone pain
Slow wound healing / easy bruising
Insulin resistance / weight gain
Increased risk of heart disease and diabetes
Muscle weakness / pain
The vitamin D receptors (called VDRs) on our cells also regulate gene expression. Combine this with immune cell regulation and it makes vitamin D an ideal therapeutic tool in supporting autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, hashimotos and MS.
Women’s Hormone Health
Vitamin D is also involved in the maturation and development of eggs in the ovaries (find the study here). Seeing as ovarian function is critical to hormone balance and fertility, supplementing vitamin D can improve the quality of life in many women, especially PCOS sufferers whose ovaries aren’t functioning at peak capacity.
How to supplement
Supplementing vitamin D starts from 1000IU in adults, but many practitioners (including myself) will happily prescribe a higher dose in the short term to get your levels back to optimal levels fast. Infections, autoimmune diseases, travel and general sickness are also appropriate times to use a higher dose (eg. 4000IU/day) in order to support your immune system. I recently went on 9 fights within a 2 week time frame and took vitamin D before most flights and I never got the usual scratchy throat or sniffles.
There are many over-the counter Vitamin D supplements, just ensure you're supplementing a quality vitamin D3 (not vitamin D2), such as bioceuticals D3 drops, mediherb vitamin D spray or NANOCELLE D3. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin so absorption is improved when taken alongside a meal containing good fats. For higher dosing it’s best to seek professional advice.
Babies need Vitamin D
If you’re breast feeding, then your baby will not get sufficient vitamin D through breast milk, and infant supplements should be considered. Vitamin D is critical for their fast growing brain, bones and nervous system. Dosing starts from 200-400IU from birth which you can buy as a liquid, and use a dropper or let them suck it off your finger.
But ultimately… get some sun!
Don’t forget the best vitamin D comes from exposure to the sun...daily! Don’t be scared of it, it’s essential to life, will boost your immune system, reduce your stress and help you sleep better. I often enjoy the late afternoon sun with my little one on the deck for 30 minutes, it's become our little ritual with added health benefits!
Got questions about vitamin D? Let me know over on my instagram @beckyjane___ where I usually hang out and get to know you guys or feel free to comment below!