Naturopathic Nutrition

sunVitamin D, the new kid on the block, is getting a lot of press and research attention lately and after the… er… ‘Summer’ we’ve just had, maybe it’s time we took notice. In times past, it was known that Vitamin D deficiency caused a bone disease known as Rickets but it is now known that it is so much more than that. The latest research connects it to preventing heart disease, high cholesterol, chronic pain, arthritis, osteoporosis, osteomalacia, muscle weakness, birth defects, periodontal disease, psoriasis, weight gain, poor immunity, low energy and cancer… wow!

There is also a lot of research showing a clear link between Vitamin D deficiency and mood disorders like depression and SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Research indicates that Vitamin D is important for the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, chemicals in the brain that influence and regulate mood and behaviour. SAD sufferers are often found to have particularly low levels of Vitamin D and supplementation has been shown to improve symptoms. Vitamin D also shields your brain cells from toxin damage and improves overall metabolic and cardiovascular health, which also contributes to brain health.

Around 51% of the world is currently deficient and this is often exacerbated by Winter. Our body has the amazing ability to create Vitamin D from the UVB rays of direct sunshine, but unfortunately due to latitude, cloud cover, lack of time spent outdoors and overuse of sunscreen, we are left quite deficient.

So while the world is protecting itself against skin cancer, we seem to be overcompensating by blocking our Vitamin D absorption – an SPF of just 8 blocks Vitamin D absorption by 95%. To create adequate amounts of Vitamin D, we need to spend approximately 20 minutes three to four times per week in direct sunlight with no SPF – is this possible in Ireland?! Considering 1 in 4 of us living in this latitude suffer from increased lethargy, anxiety, irritability, poor motivation and low mood during these months, it would be great to lighten the load – a daily dose of Vitamin D may be just what we need to get us through the Winter!

Supplementation is probably a good idea in this country! I would recommend at least 1,000 IU daily, bearing in mind our ability to absorb Vitamin D from the sun is dramatically reduced when we are under the age of 20 and over the age of 60. So to ensure you get your appropriate levels of Vitamin D take your supplements, get outdoors, eat lots of fish, eggs, mushrooms and sprouted seeds and have a happy, happy Winter!

By Nicky Flood