Get your sun-shine on this winter!

As I put together today’s guest post I can see out my window to a grey, rainy Melbourne day. We seem to be in a weird state of nowhere land – not Summer, not Autumn, but a grey fuzzy bit in-between that isn’t at all inspiring. I think most people around the country are also feeling a bit of seasonal confusion – but I’m sure you aren’t here for a meteorology report, so I’ll get back on track.

We have a great post for you today. Natalie Travaskis is not only a wonderful gal, she is also a whiz of a Naturopath (qualified with a Bachelor of Health Science in Naturopathy). For today’s guest post spot, she is sheds some light (pardon the pun) on Vitamin D – why it’s important, why you could be deficient, and how you can make sure you get enough in your day (especially with winter around the corner, eeek!).

Sunrise

Image by Anna McGregor

At the moment, Vitamin D is a bit of a hot topic. It seems that every other person who gets their levels tested are reveled to be deficient. I often get asked if this is something of a conspiracy! People wonder if the reference range of what is a ‘normal’ level has changed, or if a pharmaceutical company is behind it all! In a nut shell, I don’t think that it is a conspiracy – a lot of people are actually deficient and there are many reasons that can contribute to this.

The primary source of Vitamin D is through sunlight ~ our skin synthesizes Vitamin D during exposure to UVB radiation of sunlight.  This is likely to be the main reason for the increased incidence of low Vitamin D levels in many people.  UVB radiation does not penetrate glass or sunscreen, or the atmosphere in the early morning or late afternoon.  Although difficult to precisely determine appropriate sun exposure time as variations of season, latitude, skin colour, age and genetic factors affect the synthesis of the Vitamin, during summer in the middle part of the day (between 10am and 3pm) it takes about 15 minutes of exposure on 25% of the body to create a sufficient amount of Vitamin D per day.  However, this is at odds with current health messages regarding sun safety and skin cancer reduction.

Last year I attended a seminar on Vitamin D presented by Prof. Michael Holick who brought forward much research on the health issues and risk factors associated with Vitamin D deficiency.  One thing he said that has stuck with me is that human beings were originally designed as ‘outdoor plants’ and but most of us are now living as ‘indoor plants’ hence the increased incidence of lower than optimal Vitamin D levels.

Vitamin D is not just a vitamin, it is a hormone and a chemical messenger that is involved in many biological processes including immune system regulation, inflammatory responses, healthy cell division and replication, nervous system function and bone structure maintenance.  Over the past 20 years research has identified a wide variety of health conditions as being associated with low Vitamin D levels including rickets, osteomalacia and osteoporosis, 17 different types of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, type 1 and 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, hypertension, upper respiratory infections, tuberculosis, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune conditions, depression, asthma, psoriasis and eczema.

People who are at risk of deficiency include people with darker coloured skin, overweight individuals, people with limited sun exposure – for example immobile or elderly people, shift workers, people who wear robes or coverings for cultural or religious reasons, people who spend a lot of time indoors at school or work with little time spent outside.

Having appropriate levels of vitamin D is also important for both maternal and infant health. Infants are wholly reliant on their mother for their vitamin D status for the first 6 months of their life (no pressure Mums!!!).  Research has also identified vitamin D levels as being associated with many health conditions including calcium absorption and bone heath, good immune functioning, and healthy blood sugar regulation including a reduced risk of gestational diabetes.

"Look for eggs to add to your diet" (image Warner Bros. Looney Tunes)

There are very few food sources of vitamin D and our dietary intake contributes to less than 10% of our overall Vitamin D status.  The foods highest in Vitamin D are Cod Liver Oil, oily fish, eggs (from free range sun exposed chickens) white mushrooms, beef and dairy – so eat get lots of these in your diet.

If you are concerned you might be at risk of low vitamin D levels, consult your health care specialist for testing. If you are found to be low, get some advice to develop a holistic approach to improve your levels.

Natalie is a Melbourne based Naturopath, using herbal medicine, nutritional medicine, lifestyle advice, therapeutic diet planning, flower essence therapy, iridology and homeopathic medicine as part of a holistic treatment plan tailored to individual needs.   For more information phone: 0405 738 189, email: info@natalie-naturopath.com or visit www.natalie-naturopath.com

Do you have any questions about Vitamin D deficiency for Natalie? Leave them below!

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