Naomi Murray: Botanica – the benefits of taking Vitamin D during the darker winter months

Naomi Murray: Botanica - the benefits of taking Vitamin D during the darker winter months

As we enter another winter season, now more than ever we need to talk about protective measures to see ourselves safely through to the other side and one way of doing that is to consider supplementing with Vitamin D. Before you do so though, you want to have a vitamin D test to check your status.

This year the sun hasn’t been in such abundance, less people have travelled abroad, and there are still those who haven’t ventured far from home. All of this may lead us to consider a population with less than optimal Vitamin D levels.

How do we get Vitamin D? Vitamin D3 is made in your skin when you are exposed to sunlight. It then travels in the bloodstream to the liver and kidneys where it goes through various processes before it can be converted into a form of Vitamin D that the body can use.

The best way to obtain Vitamin D is from the sun but it can also be found in foods like butter, egg yolks, liver and oily fish.

It is important to point out to avoid confusion that there are two main forms of Vitamin D: D2 and D3. Vitamin D2 comes from plants and fungi grown under UV light.

Vitamin D3 supplementation is preferred as research shows that taking Vitamin D2 is less effective that D3 at improving serum concentration of vitamin D.

The importance of Vitamin D for overall health:

Countless studies show the benefits of having optimal vitamin D levels. There is strong evidence that serum 25(OH)D levels in the range 40-80 ng/ml can significantly reduce the risk of the diseases associated with the greatest mortality rates in developed countries. Vitamin D is protective against cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, MS, hypertension, influenza and many chronic diseases.

In fact a large European study revealed lower vitamin D levels are linked to higher mortality rates.

Vitamin D and Covid-19

Last year as we experienced the beginning of the pandemic one of the first observations I made was the importance of optimal Vitamin D levels as a protective measure.

Studies confirm that Vitamin D protects against colds and flu. We have always known this, and so the first thing we should have done was to test the nation to assess the need for supplementation.

We have seen the effect this virus has had on the elderly and BAME community, both commonly low in Vitamin D.

But Vitamin D deficiency can affect anyone. In fact a family member who lives abroad and is an avid sunbather, had very low levels of Vitamin D caused by low magnesium. Magnesium is critical in making Vitamin D bioavailable. And so it can sometimes be complex. 

Scientific evidence has shown –

  • Higher vitamin D blood levels are associated with lower rates of SARS CoV-2 infection.
  • Higher vitamin D levels are associated with lower risk of a severe case illness (hospitalisation, ICU, or death).
  • Intervention studies (including RCTs) indicate that Vitamin D can be a very effective treatment.

Sunshine is good for you!

A large study has shown that those who avoid sunshine are twice as likely to die as those who sunbathe every day.

As written in The Lancet – “Paradoxically, outdoor workers have a decreased risk of melanoma compared with indoor workers, suggesting that chronic sunlight exposure can have a protective effect.”

And so as the sun shows less of an appearance over the next five months or so it might be worth thinking seriously about checking your Vitamin D status. It might just make all the difference.

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