What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D has always been a well-known nutrient for a healthy life. A deficiency of vitamin D may lead to lethargy, grogginess, body ache, and improper sleep schedules.
Unfortunately, during the Covid pandemic, due to prolonged periods of staying indoors, people are unable to get adequate vitamin D. So much so that governments have been dispensing large amounts of vitamin D doses to ensure that people don’t become deficient.
Hence its importance has only increased. In this post, we will take a deep dive into the most well-known vitamin. We will understand its purpose and highlight the importance of getting a vitamin D test.
There are two different types of Vitamin D – Vitamin D₂ and Vitamin D₃. The body’s main source of Vitamin D comes from direct sunlight (Vitamin D₃)². You can also get vitamin D (both types) from certain foods². Interestingly, our body stores vitamin D in our fat reserves until needed¹.
- How does vitamin D affect health and wellbeing?
- What are the side effects of low vitamin D levels?
- What are the side effects of high levels of vitamin D?
- What lifestyle habits affect vitamin D levels?
- How is the vitamin D test performed?
- What are the normal values of vitamin D?
- How to improve vitamin D test results?
- Are there people more at risk for vitamin D deficiency?
How does vitamin D affect health and wellbeing?
- Vitamin D is primarily responsible for absorbing calcium and phosphates from the intestines². Thus, it plays a role in maintaining the strength of your bones.
- More importantly, it is also used in starting the immune response, which is how the body fights off illnesses³.
- Vitamin D controls the levels of some important hormones². Hormones are chemicals in our body that control organs and other important processes.
- In our body, there are specific cells where vitamin D is attracted. These cells are called Vitamin D receptors. Usually, these receptors are present in the vicinity of cells that produce hormones⁴. One of these areas is the part of the brain which controls moods and depression. The feel-good hormone, dopamine, is produced here and vitamin D plays a role in its production⁴.
- Similarly, vitamin D also controls the levels of melatonin and leptin. Melatonin is a hormone that controls your sleep patterns⁵. Whereas Leptin is a hormone that controls the amount of energy the body uses¹. Undeniably, these are crucial aspects of a healthy life. So it’s a no-brainer that maintaining the right levels of vitamin D is crucial.
What are the side effects of low vitamin D levels?
Low levels of vitamin D can make you feel the following things:
- Not feeling 100%
- Lack of energy
- Poor sleep
- Vague aches and pains
- Muscle weakness in more severe cases
The good news is that by improving vitamin D levels, these side effects due to the deficiency can be reversed!²
What are the side effects of high levels of vitamin D?
If the levels of vitamin D are too high for a long time, the body will have too much calcium to use. The calcium will then build up around the body, causing damage to the kidney, heart, and bones⁶. Other side effects also include difficulty in concentration and digestion system upset11.
There is no normal limit for vitamin D. However, the NHS suggests that an intake of 100 micrograms/ 4000 international units (IU) and above can cause harmful effects⁶.
But it is important to know that it is not possible to have elevated vitamin D levels through sunlight alone⁶. When out and about, enjoy the sun with mild sun cream!
What lifestyle habits affect vitamin D levels?
We’ve comfortably established the fact that vitamin D is important. But what can you do to help keep your levels up?
Luckily, healthy vitamin D levels are achievable through a balanced diet.
Vitamin D synthesis is connected with calcium levels in the body. This makes it imperative to have the correct levels of calcium in your diet. The ideal amount of calcium intake is 700 milligrams a day. To find out how much calcium you take in a day, you can use this calculator tool.²
But wait, apart from diet, there’s one more important source – the sun.
Since the sun is also a major source of vitamin D, in the darker months, you have to balance your sources. During this time, vitamin D levels may dip due to the reduction of sunlight hours. And your diet might not be a sufficient source. Thus, it is good practice to take vitamin D supplements in the darker months.
Moreover, in this day and age, a lot of us work indoors and miss out on the daylight. So finding opportunities to bask in the sun like an outdoor lunch is a great way to get a free vitamin D top-up!
The ElevateMe program uses an intelligent health algorithm that analyses your blood test, among other things, and suggests foods that you can eat to improve your nutritional levels. Additionally, it also suggests supplements in case you need them. Join the program and take control of every part of your health that will help you live at an optimum level.
How is the vitamin D test performed?
Before our bodies use vitamin D, it undergoes several transformations. One of these transformations takes place in the liver where vitamin D from the sun converts into 25-hydroxyvitamin D – a chemical also known as calcidiol. The amount of this chemical is a good measure of your body’s vitamin D levels and that’s what we measure.
The actual test is a common blood test. ElevateMe‘s home blood test kit has all the details you will need to carry out your home vitamin D test. The ElevateMe program tests 21 biomarkers and gives you a detailed analysis of your current levels and things you can do to improve them.
What are the normal values of vitamin D?
A range of about 25 – 50 nmol/L is used in most labs as the ‘normal’ value with 125 nmol/L as the highest level. However, that’s the reference range.
At ElevateMe, we use optimal ranges to compare your test results with the averages of the healthiest individuals. You can read more about how optimal ranges are better than reference ranges for blood tests here. The optimal range for vitamin D is between 75 – 250 nmol/L.
How to improve vitamin D test results?
There are some lifestyle changes that can be adopted to increase your vitamin D intake. Vitamin D₃ is about three times stronger than vitamin D₂⁴. So the fastest way to increase your vitamin D intake is through spending more time outdoors. Both vitamin D₃ and D₂ are present in natural foods and vitamin D levels can be increased by upping vitamin D rich foods. Some examples of these foods include:
- Oily fish
- Red meat
- Egg yolks
- Fortified foods – such as fat spreads yogurts, and some cereals. ²⁶
Additionally, vitamin D levels can be increased through supplements. These can be bought at your local pharmacy and supermarkets.
Because there are many uses of vitamin D and everybody is uniquely built, there is no one correct level for everyone. But the NHS suggests aiming for 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day6. Due to this difference in our bodies vitamin D requirement, it is a good idea to get a vitamin D test and track it periodically. With the ElevateMe program, you have the option to re-test your levels every 3, 6 or 12 months.
Are there people more at risk for vitamin D deficiency?
Don’t fret if you have low levels of vitamin D, because you are not alone! Vitamin D deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the world².
Since the sun is the most efficient way of obtaining it, the autumn and winter seasons causes vitamin D deficiency in a lot of people⁶.
Unfortunately, there are several groups of individuals who are more prone to vitamin D deficiency. These include:
- Pregnant women: Because the growing baby needs their own vitamin D and calcium for development, there is a bigger need for vitamin D7.
- Breastfeeding women: Because vitamin D is transferred through breast milk, more vitamin D is needed than normal8.
- Older people (above 65 years of age): The natural ageing process affects the skin and it becomes less efficient at converting sunlight to vitamin D9.
- People with malabsorption conditions: Because vitamin D is absorbed from the food we eat, this vitamin D will be less than other people and can cause a vitamin D deficiency.
- People with darker skin tones: The chemical that makes the skin darker also absorbs sunlight, leaving less for vitamin D production9.
- Being overweight: Increased body fat storage means it is harder for the body to find the stored vitamin D9.
- People with a family history of vitamin D deficiency: According to ongoing research, there is a genetic factor in our body’s ability to produce vitamin D10.
Vitamin D is one of those nutrients that has a significant impact on how you feel. The fact that its value in the body depends on sunlight and food makes it quite important to track. With the ElevateMe program, you can track 21 biomarkers like vitamin D that affect your core performance areas like sleep, fitness, energy, metabolism, cognition, mood, and immunity. Choose a health plan today and start optimising your health.
Are you tired?
Did you know 77% of people with complaints of fatigue have been found to suffer from vitamin D deficiency.
Take an ElevateMe blood test today to capture 21 blood test insights and track your sleep, fitness, energy, metabolism, cognition, mood, and immunity.