Vitamin D, often known as the “Sunshine Vitamin”, as it is made in the skin through sun (ultra-violet light) exposure, plays a very important part in our health. It is more of a hormone than a vitamin, and is mainly responsible for healthy bones, but it has receptors in many organ systems in the body and has functions elsewhere; it helps to improve muscle strength and immune function and also to reduce inflammation. 
Moreover, structurally, it is similar to testosterone and some men with symptoms of testosterone deficiency will probably benefit from higher doses of it. We now think that low levels of Vitamin D are associated not only with bony conditions like ricketts, osteoporosis and higher rates of fractures in the elderly, but also with increased risk of diabetes, asthma, cardiovascular disease and possibly neurological and auto-immune diseases. There may be an association with depression and Alzheimer’s, too. 
Other sources of vitamin D are dietary (oily fish and liver oil, eggs, dairy products, some vegetables and fortified cereals. In some countries (not the UK) it is also routinely added to milk and bread. 
The main causes of Vitamin D deficiency are: 
Insufficient sun exposure. Elderly or institutionalised people. Use of high-factor sun protection creams or clothing. Cultural reasons (heavily veiled women). 
Severe liver or kidney disease. 
Inadequate intake. Vegetarians/vegans, malabsorption syndromes, alcoholics, elderly/institutionalised. Pregnant women need extra. 
It is likely that most of us in the UK do not have sufficient Vitamin D, because we cover up too much in the summer (it is thought that we need about twenty minutes of exposure, three times a week, during good weather but avoiding mid-day sun) and even a healthy diet during the winter months won’t be enough to maintain good levels. 
The Food Standards Agency recommends 25micrograms (1000units) per day, but I think this is too low and would advise 4000units/day in adults. 
Do not take in combination with Vitamin A (which at higher doses can be toxic). 
Do not take higher doses if you are already on any Vitamin D-type medication from your GP. 
Do not take excessively high doses as vitamin D is fat-soluble and may build up in the body if too much is taken (though doses needed to cause this are very high). 
Regarding vitamins and minerals in general, I would suggest that Vitamin D is all you need. If you have a well-balanced diet and a healthy gut biome (see future blog), you will absorb enough of everything else: so don’t bother buying any more over-priced multivitamin/mineral combos again. 
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