The Power of Vitamin D
Why Vitamin D is vital in the menopause.
Did you know that Vitamin D plays a central role in many body processes and is highly recommended for women during menopause?
If you in your 30s, 40s or 50s, it’s time to get Vitamin D smart.
Studies have shown it’s benefits in preventing osteoporosis, mood swings and weight gain(1)
In this article we’re going to take a look at the power of Vitamin D, and why it’s so important.
What does Vitamin D do?
Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of phonate and calcium in your body, and this is important as these 2 nutrients help to keep your bones, teeth and muscles healthy.
Vitamin D is unique in that it functions more like a hormone than a Vitamin(1) And a hormonal deficiency can cause of a range of seemingly unrelated problems.
A lack of Vitamin D, known as Vitamin D deficiency, can cause bones to become soft and weak, which can lead to bone deformities, and bone pain or tenderness caused by a condition called osteomalacia
It’s also important to monitor your intake of Vitamin D as you approach midlife because studies are discovering the role of Vitamin D in the prevention of many diseases and conditions that are common as you age.
Studies have shown that Vitamin D can help treat or prevent:
The chance of developing osteoporosis increases as women reach menopause. This is because Oestrogen decreases sharply when women reach menopause. Oestrogen is a hormone in women that protects bones, so as levels of oestrogen drop – this can cause bone loss. The combination of Vitamin D and calcium are a frontline prevention and treatment for maintaining bone strength.
Vitamin D has been shown to have a positive effect on low moods.(2) Mood swing are a common occurrence in the menopause years, (these are caused by fluctuating hormone levels that happen during menopause) so anything that minimises mood swings must be worth your attention.
Women who are overweight tend to have lower levels of Vitamin D(3). It’s not known whether it’s the low levels of Vitamin D that contribute to obesity, or whether its obesity contributing to the lowers the levels, but the association exists.
What are good sources of Vitamin D?
There are 3 ways you can get Vitamin D into your body:
- From sunshine
- From your diet
- From supplements
Let’s look at these in more detail:
There’s no exact science on how much time is needed in the sun to make enough Vitamin D to meet the body’s requirements, but its generally agreed that in the UK, people can make enough Vitamin D from being out in the sun daily for short periods with their forearms, hands or lower legs uncovered, and without sunscreen, from early April to the end of September.
It’s important to bear in mind though, that there are a number of factors that can affect how much Vitamin D is made, such as how much skin you have exposed, and your skin colour. The NHS say that if you have dark skin — for example you have an African, African-Caribbean or south Asian background — you may also not get enough Vitamin D from sunlight.
But, over the winter months between October and March we don’t get enough Vitamin D from sunlight. During this time you need to get Vitamin D from your diet because the sun is not strong enough for the body to make Vitamin D.
In the UK, in winter (October to March) sunlight doesn’t contain enough UVB radiation for your skin to be able to make Vitamin D.
During these months, we rely on getting your Vitamin D from food sources (including fortified foods) and supplements.
In your Diet
Vitamin D is also found in a small number of foods, such as oily fish — (salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel) red meat, liver, egg yolks. Its also added or fortified to foods like breakfast cereals and some mushrooms.
In some countries cows’ milk is forties is fortified with Vitamin D, but remember this isn’t the case in the UK.
So, during the winter since it’s difficult for people to get enough Vitamin D from their diet and sunlight alone, you should consider taking a daily supplement
As a supplment
You can buy Vitamin D supplements or Vitamin drops containing Vitamin D in many health food shops, chemists and supermarkets.
How much Vitamin D do I need?
NHS guidance is that adults need 10 micrograms of Vitamin D a day.
The Department of Health and Social Care also recommend that you take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of Vitamin D throughout the year if you are not often outdoors, are in an institution like a care home, or wear clothes that cover up most of your skin when outdoors
If in doubt or if you have an existing medical condition you should consult your doctor, and if your health care professional has recommended you take a different amount of Vitamin D, you should follow their advice.
Is It possible to take too much Vitamin D?
If you are healthy and your kidneys are functioning well, it is difficult to get too much Vitamin D through sun exposure and dietary sources alone.
And whilst you can’t overdose on Vitamin D through exposure to sunlight alone, you need to think about protecting your skin if you’re out in the sun for long periods to reduce the risk of skin damage and skin cancer.
If you are taking supplements, it can be possible to take too much Vitamin D. Taking too many Vitamin D supplements over a long period of time can cause too much calcium to build up in the body. This can weaken the bones and damage the kidneys and the heart.
NHS tell us we should not take more than 100 micrograms of Vitamin D a day as this could be harmful.
Find NHS guidance on who should take Vitamin D supplements and how much to take
How do I know what my Vitamin D level is?
In the UK roughly one in five people has LOW Vitamin D levels, (this is not the same as a Vitamin D deficiency, it just means 20% of us have lower than recommended levels)
You can ask you GP to test your level of Vitamin D with a simple blood test done, or there are many private companies who’ll also offer a Vitamin D blood tests
As you get into your midlife, prevention becomes your best defence against age-related health conditions, and Vitamin D can be central player in helping you stay strong and healthy.
The power of Vitamin D. Quite impressive isn’t it?
And finally, as we’re writing this article during the Coronavirus pandemic, we’re including a COVID update. The NHS have advised that if you are self-isolating and staying indoors most of the day you may not be getting enough Vitamin D from sunlight. They are recommending you consider taking 10 micrograms of Vitamin D a day to keep your bones and muscles healthy during this time
- Nair R, Maseeh A. Vitamin D: The “sunshine” Vitamin. J Pharmacol Pharmacother. 2012;3(2):118-26. doi:10.4103/0976-500X.9550
- Dean AJ, Bellgrove MA, Hall T, et al. Effects of Vitamin D supplementation on cognitive and emotional functioning in young adults–a randomised controlled trial. PLoS ONE. 2011;6(11):e25966. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0025966
- Vanlint S. Vitamin D and obesity. Nutrients. 2013;5(3):949-56. doi:10.3390/nu5030949