Have you been taking a vitamin D supplement over the winter?
If not, you may be deficient, as it has probably been a while since your body saw the sun!
I recently had my vitamin D levels checked and found out my levels were unsurprisingly “insufficient” (most people are this time of year).
Although I take a vitamin D supplement in the winter, I was not too surprised by this. There have definitely been days I have forgotten to take it when life has been busy. And despite my very fair skin meaning that my body makes vitamin from the sun quite easily, I am very thorough with applying sun cream as I also tend to burn very easily.
What Does Vitamin D Do?
Vitamin D is such an important vitamin, it is actually considered a hormone and does so much for your body. It helps regulate your genes, supports your immune system, regulates bone growth, maintains muscle strength and function and heart health. Unfortunately it is really hard to get from food, and is mainly made by exposing you skin to the sun.
Although you may be deficient or insufficient with no symptoms at all, some symptoms of vitamin D deficiency can be tiredness, muscle weakness, muscle and bone pain, which you can imagine a lot of patients have at least one of these?
Who Is at Risk of Deficiency?
Most of us in the UK are at risk between October and April, especially towards the end of winter.
But you may be at risk of deficiency all year round if you wear a lot of sunscreen (like me), spend a lot of time indoors (such as those who work inside or in care homes), cover up your skin, are obese, are over 65 or have darker skin, such as those of black or asian heritage.
What Are Optimum Levels?
Based on those who live near the equator and spend a lot of time outside, researchers have been able to figure out not just normal levels, but also optimum levels to make sure we feel our best.
As you can see in the table, my level of 40 nmol/L was in the “insufficient” range. I have a way to go to reach the optimal range!
|Range||Measurement in nmol/L|
|Deficient||less than 25|
|Very High||more than 250|
How Much Should I Take?
This is something that is not fully agreed upon yet.
The NHS advises that everyone over the age of 4 years old take a supplement of 400 iu (10 micrograms) throughout the winter months.
But some experts think that this is too low and that we should be taking 1000-5000 iu per day.
Please beware you CAN take too much, causing toxicity, but this generally is when you are taking over 10 000 iu per day or taking high supplements for a long time without having your levels rechecked.
Should I Get My Vitamin D Levels Checked Before Taking a Supplement?
If you suspect you may be low in vitamin D, it may be prudent to get your levels checked before taking a supplement or adjusting your current dosage.
If you think you may be extremely low and are showing symptoms (severe aching in your bones and muscles or muscle weakness making standing up and walking difficult and painful), it is worth visiting your GP surgery for testing.
I decided to get my testing done privately (through Thriva) so I could track my levels and make adjustments to my current supplement myself. It wasn’t cheap, but it did mean that I could take my health into my own hands.
Testing was done via a finger prick blood test, which was fairly simple to do but if you’re squeamish with blood, I wouldn’t recommend. My sample was then sent off in the post and I received my results 3 days later.
Should I Take It With Vitamin K?
Yes. Sometimes taking a high level vitamin D supplement can increase the level of calcium circulating in your blood and can lead to heart disease.
Combining vitamin K with your vitamin D supplement helps your body take calcium into your bones. Here is an oral spray supplement that I recommend.
I will let you know how it all goes, once I have been retested after a few months.
And let me know if you think you’re low in vitamin D so I can give you advice on what to do.