Why is Vitamin D important?
BY LORNA DRIVER-DAVIES, HEAD OF NUTRITION
Vitamin D has the potential to influence the expression of more than 150 genes, which means it plays a role in our immune system as our bodies travel through the twists and turns of life. It's also a significant nutrient required in many stages of life such as childhood and pregnancy.
Vitamin D: supporting the immune system
Scientific research shows Vitamin D plays a crucial role in strengthening and protecting the immune system. Vitamin D has become especially key in recent years as research shows it's a key nutrient which defends the body when tackling viral infections and also has a role in respiratory health.
And don’t just think this means support for winter health. Vitamin D is needed all year around for your immune system and healthy inflammation response, which is as much about maintaining normal body processes as it is about defending you from attacks. It is supportive in autoimmune diseases.
Vitamin D for bone and teeth health
All of these elements in the body need excellent levels of Vitamin D to maintain health in these areas. In bone and teeth health, nutritional focus is often on Calcium for strength and maintenance - but Vitamin D is just as important since it is required for Calcium to be absorbed. If you have any history of bone density issues, then we recommend taking a closer look at your Vitamin D status.
Vitamin D in perimenopause and menopause
In perimenopause and more so in menopause, oestrogen levels naturally decline. This is not helpful for bone density (strength). Women in this life stage should take a closer look at their Vitamin D status, especially when it comes to requiring Vitamin D to support Calcium levels.
Vitamin D for fertility, pregnancy and breastfeeding
Vitamin D is as important for women’s health in these life stages as it is their babies. Biologically speaking, Vitamin D has a hormone-like action in the body, and mothers will need it to maintain a healthy immune system as their baby develops in the womb as well as for afterwards during the early times of breastfeeding. Babies will need the nutrient to grow their skeleton and create the ‘blueprint’ for first teeth and later adult teeth.
Vitamin D is officially recommended to be supplemented in these life stages. For more tips on getting your levels checked and advice on how much to supplement see our blog How much Vitamin D is enough?
Vitamin D: Child to teens
Vitamin D levels during childhood and teens impacts the adult immune system - affecting how well their immune systems function as an adult. Children and teens’ immune systems are different to those of an adult because they are still developing. Vitamin D plays a vital role in their immune, bone and teeth health but statistically they often don’t get enough. Across the UK, since 2008 there has been a decrease in the levels of Vitamin D blood concentrations in boys aged 4 to 10 years. Prevalence of deficiency was 4 percentage points higher in boys than girls (aged 11 to 18).
There have been clinical studies linking vitamin D deficiency to increased rates of infections and autoimmunity. For example, one study showed that babies had a lower risk of developing atopic eczema in their first year if their mothers took 1000 international units (IU) of Vitamin D a day from when they were 14 weeks pregnant until they delivered. It's important for children and teens to take the right dose of Vitamin D and we cover those official guidelines in the blog How much is enough?
It's worth noting that teens tend to stay indoors more than children. They may shift their behaviour from playing outside with sunlight exposure, to preferring more indoor activities usually related to increased computer or TV screen use. And have more hours of homework to complete each week which is very often an inside the house task.
Children and teens who don’t eat oily fish or dairy products, won’t be getting their potential 10% access to Vitamin D containing foods and so it leaves Vitamin D intake to sun exposure and supplementation.
If you're unsure that you're getting sufficient amounts of Vitamin D in your diet, we invite you to book a free 15-minute consultation with our expert team of nutritional therapists. We're here for you, every step of your life journey.