Enough data have now been published to conclude that people who were deficient in vitamin D had worse outcomes from covid-19 and higher death rates. Yet governments and public health authorities have been slow to communicate this publicly as well as give appropriate advice on whether or not to supplement with vitamin D and at what levels.
We think that such a cheap, safe and effective fix should be shouted from the rooftops, which is why we’re launching our new 'TEST & TAKE: VITAMIN D' campaign on Thursday 29th October 2020.
This week’s campaign prequel video sets the scene for why vitamin D is such a game changer of a vitamin, how to find your level and whether you’re likely to need to supplement or not.
Should we, shouldn’t we? Yes - we’re referring here to whether or not you should be taking vitamin D supplements. Have you noticed governments around the world have been flip flopping on this? Well, they shouldn’t have, especially for those of us who’re moving into the northern winter where your body can’t make its own vitamin D from sunlight. But the trouble is – the amounts governments are generally recommending are not enough in most cases. Government health authorities have once again ignored decades of published, peer reviewed research by vitamin D researchers and clinicians. In this video, we’ll help you understand what kinds of vitamin D are best to take and how to find out how much is enough for you.
It’s such easy self-care that you can do at home for yourself and with your family. These simple steps could greatly reduce your risk of getting a serious respiratory infection - especially if you have a darker skin and live in the northern hemisphere.
Hi, I'm Meleni Aldridge from the Alliance for Natural Health International. I'm also an integrative medicine practitioner with a particular focus in nutrition, functional medicine and clinical psychoneuroimmunology. Today, I'd like to talk to you about vitamin D ahead of the launch of our new ‘TEST & TAKE: VITAMIN D’ campaign next week because of its power to support our health and immune resilience - two things we so badly need as we face novel viruses and, in the north, the dark winter months.
Why is vitamin D so important?
Vitamin D is often called the sunshine vitamin and there’s a really good reason why Nature made it so easy to for us to get it from the sun. That’s because vitamin D, which is really a pro-hormone, rather than a coenzyme like other vitamins, was one of our earliest biochemical partners in our journey through evolution. We evolved in an environment with a lot of sunlight near the equator so it’s understandable why vitamin D is hardwired into our genetics, physiology and metabolism. It’s also the only vitamin that we can make in our skin, but we have to have enough sunshine bathing our bare skin to make it happen.
Because of this early partnership, vitamin D is involved in thousands of genetic and metabolic processes in our bodies and almost every cell needs it. We must have adequate levels of vitamin D to make strong bones and teeth; protect us from heart disease and cancer; prevent our cells being damaged by oxidation; keep internal inflammation under control and of course - the big one at this time - keeping our immune systems in resilient working order. And it’s our immune systems, often thought of as less important than drugs or vaccines, that have ensured the survival of the human race throughout evolution. Vitamin D is also unique amongst the vitamins in that it works more like a potent hormone, regulating gene expression, and regulating key metabolic and physiological processes as well as activating the function of enzymes and proteins.
In short, vitamin D is pretty special and having enough in your circulation is essential for good health. But for many people it’s in very short supply, meaning some key functions including immunity, are compromised. This isn’t good at any time, but certainly not when many are being exposed to a novel virus. Sadly, finding out if someone is deficient in vitamin D still isn’t routine among many doctors and most people think by taking the government-recommended amount of just 10 micrograms or 400 International Units a day – that’s enough. The good news is the fix is simple and inexpensive – and you don’t even need to see your doctor.
Vitamin D deficiency is also associated with lots of different diseases, from cancer through to heart disease, obesity and osteoporosis, so it’s a no brainer to do what you can to optimise your own levels of vitamin D.
Despite the wealth of knowledge from extensive research and clinical data that we have on the benefits of vitamin D, governments - and most doctors - are still not promoting vitamin D testing and supplementation. I wonder how many of you know what your vitamin D level is? Or how many of you have been offered a vitamin D test by your doctor? If you live in the UK it’s unlikely, as NHS doctors have been told, in order to save money, not to order vitamin D tests unless there is a specific concern about the deficiency disease, rickets.
Even where there is positive messaging from governments and doctors about vitamin D, the recommended levels are mostly too low to raise the circulating levels of vitamin D in your body to have the desired protective effects.
After it was discovered that a lot of people with the most severe Covid-19 symptoms were also chronically vitamin D deficient, most government health authorities have now decided to make recommendations that people take vitamin D supplements, especially if they are older or have darker skins.
As you can see, most countries recommend a paltry 10-15 micrograms or 400-600 International Units per day, except for Italy — which was hard hit earlier this year — recommending 50 micrograms / 2000 International Units per day and the US at 25 micrograms / 1000 International Units. In the European Union, independent of Covid-19, the recommended daily dose is just 10 micrograms or 400 International Units a day, with a so-called tolerable upper level for adults, including pregnant and breastfeeding women, of 100 micrograms or 4000 International Units.
The minimal 10-15 micrograms or 400-600 International Units per day is barely enough to stave off Rickets, which is why vitamin D researchers and experienced clinicians recommend 100 to 125 micrograms or 4000 to 5000 International Units as a daily maintenance dose in the absence of sunlight exposure, with higher levels short term when you have an immune challenge.
When talking doses, let’s bear in mind that just 20 minutes with 80% of your body exposed to a midday, midsummer sun in a typical northern latitude will give you circulating levels of vitamin D that are equivalent to taking around 500 micrograms or 20,000 International Units of vitamin D3.
Getting your D from the sun
Sunlight is definitely the best way of absorbing vitamin D, but to do this, we need to have at least 80% of our skin bare in full sun when it's high in the sky. Sitting next to a window or going out for a walk on a sunny day with most of your body covered doesn’t count.
For those of us in the northern hemisphere, this is a real challenge. But it gets more complicated as the darker your skin is, the more exposure to the sun you need. In a light skinned person, 15-20 mins in the midday sun might nets 10-20,000 IU of vitamin D, but a darker skinned person could need around 2 hours more to make the same amount. Age is also a factor in how well you make vitamin D.
Also, many people have higher requirements driven by the genetic makeup of their vitamin D receptors. So, you can see that Vitamin D requirements are very individual depending on geographical location, age, skin tone, ethnicity, genes, lifestyle and sun exposure. Which is why having a test at least once a year to make sure you maintain a healthy vitamin D level is a very good thing to do.
Whilst sunshine also massively ups our feel-good factor, in terms of vitamin D, we can, for our health at least, take a supplement to maintain optimal levels. The best form to take is vitamin D3, technically known as cholecalciferol. Although you can get a bit of vitamin D from food like mushrooms and oily fish, it's definitely not enough to power your body’s needs without sufficient sunshine.
D deficiency and covid-19
The health challenges of the past few months have highlighted just how important vitamin D is for our immune function. There is a huge swathe of new research papers demonstrating that people with lower vitamin D levels had much worse outcomes and higher death rates from covid-19. And that vitamin D plays many roles in reducing the risk of covid-19 and other respiratory diseases.
This is such important knowledge to have because you can very easily bring your vitamin D levels up with supplementation, right in your own home. We suggest having a vitamin D test first to find out your starting level, see links below. This can now also be easily done from home using a blood spot kit, but if this isn’t possible, then we’ve also added a link to a deficiency questionnaire (via the D Minder Pro for Apple / D Minder for Android apps) below.
Whilst vitamin D can have some adverse effects if you have too much in your system, you’d need to be taking extremely high doses over 750 micrograms or 30,000 international units a day for 3 months or more to create a problem. At the doses we talk about in our campaign, this is just not possible. This of course never happens with sun exposure as our bodies naturally just stop making vitamin D when we’ve made enough.
It's worth remembering that our bodies are used to getting nutrients like vitamins and minerals through our diet. They all work in synergy with each other, even with vitamin D, which we make primarily with sun exposure. This means that having deficiencies of certain vitamins and minerals can influence the effectiveness - or otherwise - of other vitamins. With vitamin D, you need adequate levels of vitamin A and vitamin K2 to keep the benefits on the right track and avoid potential toxicity issues, which is why a healthy diet is also so important for immune resilience.
So, even if you can’t take a vitamin D test or complete the deficiency questionnaire, you can just follow the advice of Professor Michael Holick – one of the leading vitamin D researchers and clinicians in the world. Professor Holick says that taking vitamin D at a dose of 125 micrograms per day, which is 5,000 international units is entirely safe as a food or dietary supplement all year round, and for most people this amount will be much more likely to bring you into an optimal range than the amounts recommended by governments, especially if you’re older or have a darker skin.
For more information on our 'TEST & TAKE: VITAMIN D’ campaign, please visit our website and subscribe to our social media and video channels.
Examples of UK-Based Vitamin D Home Testing Companies
>>> NB: If you’re not based in the UK, please search for ‘Vitamin D bloodspot home test kit’ in your own country or ask your doctor.
Questionnaire-based check for Vitamin D levels
Via the D Minder Pro app in the App Store and D Minder app in Playstore, which is designed to help you track and manage your vitamin D levels. It’s free till the end of the year because of the pandemic.
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