Updated: Feb 23
Vitamin D is well known for supporting bone development, a healthy immune response, reducing cardiovascular disease and a strong gut microbiome. It was first identified in 1920 and quickly added to foods, swiftly eliminating the high incidence of rickets in children. I’m sure you’ve seen it on many food labels from bread to milks “fortified with Vitamin D” or “great source of Vit D”.
It is naturally present in a small number of foods including oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring and also liver, eggs, butter and red meat, however, this is only one of the ways to get your daily intake. Vitamin D is one of the few vitamins the human body creates itself, but requires exposure to the ultraviolet rays in sunlight to activate the process.
This can become quite a problem in the UK and other northern hemisphere countries where sunlight is limited for half of the year. So what can you do, especially if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding?
Firstly, government guidelines state that everyone in the UK should be on a Vitamin D supplement throughout winter since we do not produce enough due to lack of sunlight. If you are also pregnant or lactating, The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends taking a Vitamin D supplement of 10 micrograms (or 400 IU) daily. This is also so that breastmilk is not Vitamin D deficient, ensuring baby gets enough too. I always prefer a liquid dropper or gel capsule over a tablet - Viridian is one of my client ‘go-to’s’ for Vitamin D.
Like Folic acid, Iron, Calcium and Iodine, good levels of Vitamin D in pregnancy is not only vital for foetal bone development but also to reduce chances of chronic diseases of the infant later in life. If you’re thinking of conceiving soon, along with the other key nutrients, I recommend to ensure you are bulking up your Vitamin D stores to guarantee your body is as best prepared for pregnancy as possible.
Once pregnant, your doctor will continuously be monitoring your blood markers but it's worth mentioning that a GP’s ‘normal’ Vitamin D range may be quite different to a naturopath or nutritionist. A doctor will only look at levels low enough to medicate whereas a nutritionist will take a more proactive approach and want to improve levels in order for you and baby to thrive. The NHS range for vitamin D is anywhere from 25-50 nmol/L but I would recommend levels of 100-120 nmol/L if you are trying to conceive or if currently pregnant.
It's worth noting that Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin which can be stored in fat cells. You can have too much vitamin D so it's important to not overdose and guess how much to take. 400IU per day will be safe to start with but make sure to have your vitamin D tested before taking higher doses.
If you are suffering with achy muscles, bones, joints, fatigue, recurrent illness or prone to low mood, then I would recommend getting your levels checked, especially before trying to conceive. I always encourage my clients to have a full blood count that includes Vitamin D, B12 and Iron before trying for a baby.
Lastly, if you adhere to a vegan or vegetarian diet, Vitamin D is another supplement on your must have list, alongside Vitamin B12. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding it is absolutely essential that you’re taking a high dose supplement. It can be tough enough to get enough Vitamin D on a diet that includes meat and fish, but even more so when plant based.
If you want to discuss Vitamin D or further pregnancy support reach out to me today by booking a free 20 minute consultation.
Registered Nutritional Therapist
Kelly is a Registered Nutritional Therapist who focuses on positive physical and mental wellbeing, achieved through diet, lifestyle, sleep and exercise. Having struggled for years with IBS and hormonal imbalance, and increasingly frustrated with the lack of support and helpful advice from her GP, Kelly began her own journey of healing the body from the inside out. After seeing huge improvements she quit her job to study nutrition and focus on harnessing the healing powers of food to help other people in similar situations.