Walk into any health food store on your local high street, and you’ll see at least one shelf, and possibly a whole wall, filled with vitamin D supplements. Tablets, effervescent drinks, drops, oral sprays, and numerous brands all promising to be the best.
But should you be supplementing your vitamin D?
Well, the short answer is… probably, yes!
And the long answer is… yes, if any/all of the following apply to you:
1. Your job is office based, and you work long hours, all year round
We make vitamin D from exposure to the sun, but if you’re working long hours and not getting out in daylight for at least 20 minutes a day, then you may well need to get your levels checked and look into supplementation.
2. You work night shifts
Much like point 1, if you’re sleeping during daylight hours, and only awake at night, you’re not getting enough daylight exposure and should be thinking about getting your levels checked.
3. You live in the UK
The sad truth is, we’re a little bit north of the equator and we just don’t get much sun between November and April. There is a little bit, some days, and if you’re able to get out there you can soak up the benefits! But if you work or have other commitments that prevent you jumping out into every little bit of sunshine as and when it appears, it’s worth getting your levels checked.
4. You are pregnant or breastfeeding
The NHS advise that all pregnant and breastfeeding women should take a daily supplement containing 10mcg of vitamin D. They also recommend that children aged six months to five years should receive 7-8.5mcg of vitamin D supplementation, or drink fortified formula milk.
5. You don’t have pale skin
The paler your skin is, the quicker your skin can make vitamin D following daylight exposure. So if you have darker skin, you’ll need more exposure to the sun to make the same amount. If any of the other points apply to you too, then you’ll definitely need to get tested and think look into supplementing your vitamin D.
6. You don’t expose your skin to the sun
We said in point 4, that paler skin can make vitamin D reasonably quickly. However, if you’re covering up with factor 40 every time you go outside in order to prevent burning, then you’re not going to be able to make much vitamin D. Likewise, if you cover your skin for religious reasons, you might find that your vitamin D could benefit from some supplementation.
7. You have an auto-immune disease
Several auto-immune diseases have been linked to vitamin D deficiency, such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythymatosus, crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis, and many more besides. If you’ve been diagnosed by your GP, then you might want to speak with them or your specialist about incorporating vitamin D as part of your treatment plan.
Sadly I’m not sure there are many people in today’s world who don’t fit into at least one of those categories. But, before you rush out to pick up a supplement, the next thing to think about is getting your levels tested. You really can have too much of a good thing, and in high enough quantities, even vitamin D supplements can become toxic. You can either ask your GP or you can purchase a home test kit. I recently used the fantastic vitamin D testing service from Better You. For just £25, you receive a pin-prick test kit in the post, which takes about 3 minutes to complete and send back (I’m almost ashamed to admit that it took me much longer to pluck up the courage to prick my finger for the blood sample!!) and then there’s a wait of about 2 weeks for the results to be emailed to you. The support team at Better You are fantastic and will also answer any queries you may have.
OK, so you’ve been tested and discovered a deficiency, so now’s the time to rush out and buy that supplement.
Or is it?
There’s no harm in supplementing the “recommended daily amount” of 10mcg a day (approximately 400IU) but there’s now a way to find out if you need more than that on a regular basis. We all have a Vitamin D Receptor (VDR) gene which dictates exactly how much vitamin D we require to maintain a healthy status. By consulting a reputable genetic testing company, such as DNA Fit, you can get your VDR gene tested as part of their comprehensive DNAFit Diet Pro test (retail price £199). There are three alleles (variants, or mutations) of this gene, but only one of those requires the standard “recommended daily amount” of vitamin D to remain healthy. The other two variants will have much higher requirements. The support team at DNA Fit are super friendly, and will answer any questions you may have regarding your results.
So there it is folks, get testing and if needs be, get supplementing!
Love and sunlight!
NHS Recommendations: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/vitamins-minerals/Pages/Vitamin-D.aspx
Vitamin D and Auto-immune diseases: