Vitamin d - for depression, lethargy and Body aches
January is one of the darkest months of the year along with December - it has an average of 54 hours sunshine compared to around 180 in June. So this seems an appropriate time to talk about the benefits of vitamin D. Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin, we can get vitamin D from foods such as Salmon, mackerel, eggs and cheese but the best way of ensuring your intake is to be outdoors in the sunshine and these dark winter months are not conducive to that. Vitamin D deficiency can cause symptoms such as fatigue, depression, muscle pain, joint pain, impaired immune system.
As declared previously, I have an interest in how nutrition affects our mental health and as a therapist who treats people with depression, I am surprised at the number of people that are put on anti-depressants because of depression symptoms without having their blood levels checked first. I have several clients who were on medication for their depression, who on checking their vitamin D levels found that they were insufficient. I am always concerned that people are put on medication when treating the levels of vitamin D first would be both inexpensive and beneficial to the long term health of the patient. Vitamin D also plays a vital role in absorbing calcium and therefore bone health. It also is key in protecting us against autoimmune diseases - recent research shows that vitamin D coats the cells to protect the body attacking itself which helps prevent autoimmune disease. My father had multiple sclerosis, a disease that is prevalent in Northern Europe, Canada and North America where there is less sunlight and in the northernmost parts of these countries, sunlight is too weak for 4-6 months of the year to provide us with a sufficient amount for our needs.
So looking at levels - you are deemed deficient at levels lower than 30 n mol, but levels of lower than 50 n mol are deemed insufficient, with optimal levels for vitamin D being in the rage of 75 and 100 n mol. You can have too much Vitamin D so it is imperative to track your vitamin D levels when taking high doses of vitamin D.
NICE guidelines state that all adults living in the UK should take a daily supplement containing 400 IU of vit D. However the Vitamin D society - https://www.vitamindsociety.org/index.php - proposes that a higher dose is needed to raise low levels of vitamin D - especially in winter time - they suggest upper levels of vitamin D dosing of 4000 - 10,000IU daily. Be warned that when taking high doses of vitamin D - you will need to track your levels so you do not raise your levels too high. Of course the most effective way to get your allowance is to be outside in the sunshine showing as much skin as possible (or decent) for the best absorption.
Also be aware that certain people are more at risk of deficiency than others such as people of African, African-Carribean and South Asian family origin, those that remain covered when outdoors, such as women covering their heads or wearing nicabs, older people who spend a lot of time indoors and obviously housebound people.
If you wish to be able to track your vitamin D levels and wish to avoid taking time to visi your GP, you can use a private blood testing company like Thriva - https://thriva.co/. You take your own sample - its fairly simple and send it off and they will test it for all types of levels - you can adjust what you want tested yourself in your own subscription which can be cancelled anytime.
If you are feeling achey, lethargic and suffering low mood, it’s worth checking your levels. Don’t forget to try and get out in the sun as much as possible as this is the most effective way to get your allowance, but supplementation, especially in the winter should be standard practice. If you have any concerns about your health, speak to your GP or health practitioner.
Director and therapeutic coach