What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a nutrient that is essential for the health of bones, teeth and muscles. Particularly in children, as they grow and develop, vitamin D is necessary to limit the risk of bone deformities such as rickets. In adults, bone pains caused by osteomalacia can be caused by a lack of vitamin D.1
Research has also shown some connection to Vitamin D intake helping to prevent illnesses such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease and mental health issues such as depression. However, more research is needed in these areas to prove the correlation adequately.2
How do you get Vitamin D?
You can get vitamin D from sunlight exposure, which is perhaps the most accessible natural way to get your body to produce vitamin D, mainly if you live in a hot climate.
Unfortunately, in the UK, there is very little direct sunlight throughout autumn and winter, and people spend less time outdoors, meaning it’s more difficult to get vitamin D from the sun for some of the year.
You can take vitamin D supplements any time of the year, but they are instrumental during winter and autumn to ensure you get a good enough dose of the stuff all year round.
You can also get vitamin D from oily fish, so if you enjoy salmon, sardines, herring or mackerel, including more of these in your diet will up your vitamin D intake. Red meat, liver and egg yolks are also good sources of vitamin D.1
Some foods will be fortified with vitamin D, which means added. Some margarine, fat spreads and breakfast cereals may be fortified with vitamin D, so check the labels when you are buying from the shops and see if you can get more vitamin D that way.1
Who needs Vitamin D?
It is estimated that 13% of the population is deficient in vitamin D.3 Government advice is that everyone should take a vitamin D supplement throughout autumn and winter, as most people become deficient around these seasons due to a lot of vitamin D coming through sunlight.1
Those most at risk of not getting enough vitamin D are every child below the age of 4. It is highly recommended that all children under this age take a daily supplement consistently throughout the year.1
The paler you are, the easier it is for your body to absorb vitamin D. This is due to darker skin having more melatonin, which limits Vitamin D production in the body.4 If you have darker skin, you are more likely to be vitamin D deficient, so consider taking a supplement.
What are the Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency?
If you have a vitamin D deficiency, you may experience fatigue, bone pain, weakness, cramps or muscle aches, and mood changes like feeling depressed.8 A doctor can take a blood test to determine if you have a vitamin D deficiency.
How is Vitamin D linked to Gut Health?
In our gut, we have trillions of good and bad bacteria that must be diverse and balanced for the gut to function well. Vitamin D can increase the gut microbiome diversity quite significantly.5
One of the “bad” bacteria in the gut is called firmicutes. Vitamin D can decrease the firmicutes in the gut, allowing good bacteria such as Bacteroides, akkermansia and bifidobacterium to thrive.5
Research has also begun to show that vitamin D can repair the gut microbiome somewhat by reducing inflammation, which can help with inflammatory conditions such as IBS and IBD.6
In a clinical trial, it was discovered that vitamin D improved IBS symptoms in participants compared to the placebo's effects.7 This is a good indication that vitamin D can heal the gut and combat inflammation, although more research is needed in this area.
Vitamin D is straightforward to add to your life because it is available in supplement form, through your diet or by getting some sun. It’s essential to ensure you get enough vitamin D to ensure your gut health is optimum and you are lowering your risk of bone diseases, particularly in children.
As always, we recommend speaking to your healthcare provider before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle and getting checked for deficiency if you feel you may not be getting enough vitamin D.