Vitamin D3 is really important. It is essential in the body and has tremendous anti-inflammatory properties, helps stabilise mast cells and is known for improving symptoms of autoimmunity as well as it’s role in bone health. Unfortunately, inflammation, illness and reactions use up our vitamin D and some suggest increased levels can be necessary for those with autoimmune health conditions accordingly.
The best way to get vitamin D3 is sunlight (UVB), overuse of sun cream really impedes it. A lot of people worry about sun exposure, but the risk from sun exposure comes from skin damage. Nutrition is essential: essential fatty acids, fat soluble vitamins (A/E etc.) and B vitamins are all essential for improving skin tolerance to the sun.
To optimise our vitamin D3 levels, we need to have sun exposure for roughly “half the time it takes us to get pink” which can vary depending on skin type, genetics and *nutrition*. For us, this means we avoid peak sun exposure. We check the local UV forecasts on the MetOffice app, when the UV is medium, we can happily spend hours in the garden topping up out vitamin D without worrying as much about damaging our skin. Which is not only great for our vitamin D levels, it also helps us avoid allergens and less friendly ingredients that can be found in sun creams.
Vitamin D3 is a hormone that the body needs magnesium to make, and vitamin K2 to utilise optimally. Some estimated 80%+ of people are magnesium deficient, and our soils are increasingly depleted so we can’t get as much in our food. Our modern lifestyles (stress, toxic exposures, etc.) and processed sugars really tax our bodies magnesium stores. Magnesium is used in hundreds of body functions. So it makes sense that if most people are deficient that this might impact their bodies vitamin D production, regardless of sun exposure and location.
Our “general” guidelines don’t acknowledge this lack of magnesium, they just say “everyone needs to supplement with vitamin D during winter”. If we had adequate magnesium and sun exposure, the vast majority of probably wouldn’t need any supplementation – like our ancestors before synthetic supplements – as our body is supposed to make it and store it for when we need it. Supplementing Vitamin D3 does carries risks, as a hormonal supplement, without K2 to distribute it appropriately in the body, it increases the risk of calcifications in arteries/liver/kidneys etc.
It’s all interlinked. Magnesium helps us make vitamin D3, vitamin D3 helps us absorb calcium, Vitamin K2 tells our body where to put the calcium. Without the balance, we are at higher risk of gall and kidney stones and hardened arteries.
I discussed this with a locum GP and they said they couldn’t advise people to take K2 with D3 because it wasn’t in the guidelines. Despite the studies that are out there and the basic biology behind the mechanism. They said the guidelines are “evidence based” and that was that.
Now there are new “guidelines” that parents of new born babies are told to give them vitamin D from birth, because breastmilk doesn’t have a huge amount in it (as nature intended?), but breastmilk can have more in if mum has enough or supplements (4’100-6’000iu’s). It’s another guideline that cuts out the bulk of information and gives potentially detrimental advice without providing the information for people to make an informed decision.
Our TED boy had within range vitamin D from breastmilk and sun exposure, without any form of supplementation, until a difficult winter when he was three and he was below the 20nmol/l guidance for the first time. As I said above, inflammation, reactions and illness deplete Vitamin D stores in the body. He went from being <20 to 59nmol/l in three months (April-July) purely from safe sun exposure and sufficient magnesium.
If we are depleted and it’s not the season for sufficient sun shine, we can also get it from some foods sources like raw cod liver oil and mushrooms (that have had sun exposure too). Which might be an option. There are also UVB lamps – used for skin therapy – which can help the body naturally produce vitamin D. This winter we will experimenting with transdermal raw cod liver oil in the hope it will help; as both cod liver oil and mushrooms are histamine risk foods our TED boy doesn’t tolerate in his diet. It doesn’t smell amazing, but mixing it with a little lavender essential oil and coconut oil dilutes the smell. So far we’ve had no issues putting it on his back under his pyjamas at bed time. Its also a great source of vitamin A and omega 3.
It’s also worth noting that you can now test your own vitamin D levels with a home skin prick test kit. Its really easy to buy online and post off to the lab to get your results. It uses a tiny blood sample and is fairly economically.
Safe sun exposure and vitamin D:
Magnesium, this is a link to the website associated with the magnesium advocacy group, which can be a great resource for magnesium:
Vitamin D and Breastfeeding: