Updated: Nov 29, 2018
Too much cloud; continuous rain, long, miserable, grey days that make you curl up and wish you could hibernate.
It's odd to think that a lack of sunshine can contribute to inflammation. We always associate the sun with getting burnt and focus on protecting ourselves from it at all costs (which is, in part at least, the correct thing to do but that's a discussion to be had in a summertime post.)
However, exposing ourselves to the sun is essential for the body to provide us with Vitamin D, a chemical (not in fact a vitamin) used in the body for numerous health maintenance functions.
At this time of year, your best form of defence against the dwindling daylight hours, the long periods indoors, and the almost complete lack of sunshine is a daily dose of Vitamin D3 in supplement form. It could protect you from a multitude of ailments and lift your mood out of a grinch-like grip.
The current Public Health England recommendations for a daily dose of only 10mcg (400iU) are focused on ensuring intake of a level of Vitamin D necessary to maintain bone health, but Vitamin D has many more actions in the body than this not least it's involvement in modulating immune function and inflammation. Research over the last 10 years or more has identified a far greater range of influence for Vitamin D and suggest that this supplementation level should be substantially increased, particularly for those experiencing symptoms of inflammatory diseases.
Vitamin D receptors have been discovered in tissues other than the gut and bone; in particular the brain, breast, prostate, and lymphocytes and research also suggests that higher vitamin D levels may provide protection from a range of inflammatory disorders including:
Several autoimmune diseases
Cancers of the breast, prostate, and colon
Since inflammation is a primary contributor to many chronic diseases, maintaining a healthy vitamin D level is considered an essential part of any anti-inflammatory health programme and can be used as a preventive and therapeutic approach to improve, optimise and maintain health.
Vitamin D is in not in fact a vitamin but a steroid that is manufactured in the skin from cholesterol. It is however available in some foods but, unfortunately, it is not in sufficient supply, to provide us with the volumes we require for optimum health. Furthermore, it requires conversion in the liver and kidney to produce the most active form necessary to support vital metabolic functions and, as it is a fat-based chemical it can be difficult to absorb if individuals have compromised digestion; or difficult to convert if optimum liver or kidney function is compromised as can often be the case without us experiencing direct liver or kidney disease.
It is now widely recognised, at least in the complementary, nutritional and naturopathic realms in both the UK and in the US that the current public health organisations' recommended levels are insufficient to prevent long term health concerns. The safety of much higher daily doses of Vitamin D have been reviewed and researched and optimum health levels for Vitamin D revised.
If you consider your own health and how little exposure you get to the sun between 11am and 3pm even in the summer, it does not take much to consider the possibility that you may not even have achieved sufficient summer time exposure let alone being able to achieve that during the long winter months.
It is relatively cheap (around £30) to test your current vitamin D level privately. This can, of course, be carried out by your GP, but will generally only be considered by then if they believe there is good reason to check it due to possible disease risk concerns. It is unlikely they would take to an influx of patients wanting to optimise their vitamin D levels without overt signs of ill health or disease.
So, if you simply want to take charge of your own wellbeing "D"-estiny you can do so by ordering an at-home, pin-prick, blood test kit that is mailed to you, returned by mail to the laboratory with the results being emailed back to you within a few days. If you think you would like to check your Vitamin D level and know for sure whether you are deficient and then whether this could be contributing to your less than optimum wellbeing, get in touch. Supplementation is easy but you need to be sure you are taking the right form of Vitamin D that has optimum bioavailability to optimise absorption; otherwise you really could be wasting your money.