By now we all know that Vitamin D is essential for strong bones and a healthy immune system. We know that we make it from sunshine in the summer, but need to supplement it in the winter and that 1 in 5 of us don’t have enough.
What you might not know is that your summer stores of Vitamin D halve every 30 days or so, so we quickly run out once the shorter cloudier days kick in. You might not know that the amount of Vitamin D you need depends a lot on your skincare regime, work, medications and age.
If you’re anything like me, you like to understand why you need to do something, before going along with someone else’s instructions so today we’re exploring exactly what Vitamin D does for you, how much you need and where to get it from. Before I scare you off, I promise this will take you less than 2 minutes to read from here. So let’s get into it – 2 minutes & counting.
What does Vitamin D do?
There’s a Vitamin D receptor on almost every cell in the body, so there’s no surprise that it plays a role in a wide spectrum of functions. In fact, it would be easier to list the things that Vitamin D doesn’t do than those that it does. Here’s a quick run-down:
Fertility & pregnancy
Adequate levels of Vitamin D can improve fertility in both men and women as well as improve pregnancy and postpartum outcomes.
Immunity & Preventing Autoimmune disease
It’s well known that Vitamin D is essential for a healthy immune system but a study published this year proved that it also reduces the risk of developing an auto-immune condition by over 20%.
Vitamin D acts like a hormone, promoting good menstrual health. Low levels are associated with conditions like endometriosis and PCOS getting worse.
Growing bones means teens need lots of Vitamin D – without it, their mood, sleep & hormone balance can suffer.
Perimenopause & Menopause
Low levels of Vitamin D can worsen symptoms of perimenopause and menopause – so ensuring you have enough can help you manage this period of your life more easily.
Research consistently highlights low Vitamin D levels amongst those who struggle to sleep.
Heart, Bone & Teeth Health
Vitamin D regulates calcium absorption, supporting healthy & strong bones & teeth. Good levels also help support a healthy heart.
Mood & mental health
Low levels of Vitamin D are strongly linked with low mood & depression as well as age-related cognitive decline.
What affects how much we need?
We know that (in the summer months) most of us can make enough Vitamin D through exposure to sunlight – but did you know that liberal application of suncream (although highly advised), long hours working inside and the colour of your skin will all limit how much Vitamin D you synthesise?
Furthermore, our ability to produce it declines with age (if you’re 65, your capacity to make it may be only 25% of what it once was), and medications like statins also interfere with production.
Your diet also impacts how much Vitamin D you get – although to a moderate degree, because only 10% can come from food sources. A diet rich in foods like whole dairy, oily fish, eggs and red meat will stand you in better stead.
With all this information, it may be a good idea to go beyond the official recommendation to supplement Vitamin D between October & March and supplement year round.
How much Vitamin D do I need to take?
Well if the last minute of reading has shown us one thing, the answer is… it depends. A good starting point would be the official guidelines which say:
- Everyone over the age of 4 should take 10mg per day between October & March.
- Pregnant, breastfeeding and at risk groups (notably ethnic groups with dark skin, people in care homes and those whose clothing covers most of their skin) should take 10mg per day year-round.
- Those over 65, children between 1 and 4, and those who do not get much sunshine exposure should take 10mg per day year-round. If you’re inside at work most of the time, even in the summer, you might decide that you fall into this category.
- Babies younger than 1 year need 8.5 – 10mg per day (note that most formula milk is fortified with vitamin d).
We should see these as a minimum recommended amount, and with limited risk of Vitamin D toxicity it’s better to err on the side of abundance.
Should I supplement with Vitamin D?
In short, probably, yes.
Sunshine (when available) is a reasonable source, but it’s not consistent and it comes with its own risks, so we recommend that most people supplement with a high-quality Vitamin D year round.
When choosing your vitamin D supplement, there’s two main things to look for. Choose one that is high quality and readily absorbed by the body – food state is best for this. Secondly, choose the right format – Vitamin D3 is more bioactive (it raises levels of vitamin d more) than D2 – so prioritise this where you can. It’s normally only found in animal sources, so most plant-based supplements will use the lower potency variety.
Not sure where to start? Well you’ll find 10mg of Vitamin D in every plantshake – that’s all you need. We use an extremely high quality, food state Vitamin D3 – sourced from algae – that we chose for its high absorption characteristics.
We recommend having a plantshake every day, but remember – as with all supplements – it’s better to have something that’s great quality every few days than a cheap version every day.