Category Archives: vitamin D

vitamin D

Vitamin D Awareness Week: Dealing with vitamin D deficiency

Dealing with vitamin D deficiency

Celebrity chef Tonia Buxton sprays her way to health after realising ‘you can’t eat your way out of vitamin D deficiency’

Are you tired? Feeling low? Suffer from headaches, aches and pains? You could be suffering from vitamin D deficiency.

When nutrition expert Tonia Buxton discovered she was deficient in vitamin D, despite an incredibly healthy lifestyle, it came as a huge shock. “If I can be vitamin D deficient – then so can you” says Tonia.

“I decided to look into which supplements I should be taking and hands down the best option for me was BetterYou’s DLux Oral Vitamin D Spray, for formula as well as absorption. I love using the spray; I can use it on the go and have peace of mind that I’m getting an optimal level of vitamin D with just one spray a day.”

Watch Tonia’s story below:

Vitamin D Awareness Week

Vitamin D Awareness Week is a major public awareness campaign to elevate the nation’s understanding of the health issues associated with declining levels of vitamin D. Timed to coincide with the clocks going back and days getting shorter, it aims to show how we can easily improve our family’s intake and eradicate deficiency once and for all.

Visit the website

New Government guidance

Earlier this year, new guidance was released to the Government by Public Health England (PHE), recommending that everyone take a daily vitamin D supplement to protect bone and muscle health during autumn and winter.

Even during summer months in the UK, we simply are not getting enough vitamin D. We tend to cover up with a high factor sun cream and wear clothing to protect skin and therefore the UVB rays do not reach or penetrate the skin.

Faster absorption than tablets – guaranteed

Luckily, supplementation is easy and cost-effective. BetterYou’s DLux Vitamin D Oral Sprays offer superior absorption and absolute convenience for adults and children alike. Research by Cardiff University has shown that by applying it directly onto the inner cheek it is absorbed through the soft inner mouth tissue and immediately enters the blood system. This bypasses the digestive system and guarantees a level of uptake which traditional tablets and capsules cannot. Keep the deficiency away with BetterYou’s DLux Vitamin D Oral Spray.

Vitamin D & IBS

Vitamin D: a better life for IBS sufferers?

Vitamin D improves quality of life for IBS sufferers

April is IBS Awareness Month, a campaign aiming at improving diagnosis and treatment of IBS, and heightening awareness of both the condition and its affect on sufferers.

IBS impacts severely on quality of life, with patients commonly suffering with pain, discomfort and social embarrassment. Previous studies have found that IBS patients demonstrate significantly higher levels of anxiety and depression than healthy individuals (1). Research in this area is desperately needed, as IBS affects as many as 1 in 5 of us, and many people struggle to manage the condition.

The relationship between IBS and mood disorders is a complex one. Stress, anxiety and depression can cause digestive issues because the nervous system and the digestive system are linked. In addition, IBS symptoms can cause anxiety and stress for sufferers.

Fortunately, some recent promising research has revealed that vitamin D supplementation may improve the quality of life of IBS sufferers (2). This pilot study will hopefully lead to further research in this area.

The Study

The recent study, published in the British Medical Journal, was a double-blind, randomised trial. It compared the effects of a placebo, vitamin D, and a combination of vitamin D and probiotics on IBS patients.

Each patient was randomly assigned to receive a placebo, a vitamin D supplement, or a vitamin D and probiotic supplement. Over the course of 12 weeks, each patient completed several health questionnaires to monitor symptoms and quality of life.

The study found that 82% of the IBS patients were deficient in vitamin D. As expected, at the end of 12 weeks, the final results showed that those who had supplemented vitamin D had improved blood levels of vitamin D. In addition, the results also showed a strong link between vitamin D status and quality of life. Those who had supplemented vitamin D felt that their IBS symptoms had less influence on wellbeing compared to their vitamin D deficient counterparts.

Those supplementing vitamin D also showed improvement in all IBS symptoms as their vitamin D levels improved, although the study was too small to draw a firm conclusion about this. Lead researcher Dr Bernard Corfe stated that these results nevertheless “justify a larger and more definitive clinical trial.”

More research is needed to clarify the link between vitamin D and IBS. The gut is home to millions of vitamin D receptors, and vitamin D helps to protect the gut lining, preventing ‘leaky gut’, and it also reduces levels of inflammation in the digestive tract. Its role in the immune system means that vitamin D is also believed to be helpful in protecting against digestive infections and overgrowths.

Dr Corfe added: “Our data provides a potential new insight into the condition and more importantly, a new way to try to manage it.”

The study certainly suggests that those with IBS should ensure that they have adequate levels of vitamin D, especially if they are suffering with stress and anxiety. “It was clear from our findings that many people with IBS should have their vitamin D levels tested” says Dr Corfe, “and the data suggests that they may benefit from supplementation with vitamin D.”

1. Hyun Sun Cho et al (2011) Anxiety, Depression and Quality of Life in Patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Gut Liver. 5(1): 29–36
2. Tazzyman S et al (2015) Vitamin D associates with improved quality of life in participants with irritable bowel syndrome: outcomes from a pilot trial. BMJ Open Gastro 2:e000052.

Vitamin D: Building Muscle in Menopausal Women

Vitamin D: Building Muscle in Menopausal Women

Vitamin D Builds Muscle in Menopausal Women

A new Brazilian study suggests that post-menopausal women may benefit from vitamin D supplementation to increase muscle strength and reduce frailty (1). The study, conducted at Sao Paulo State University, found that older women given vitamin D supplements were stronger and had fewer falls.

Menopause and Muscle

It is well known that going through menopause increases women’s risk of bone loss, as a result of hormonal changes that influence bone health. However, many women are less aware of the effect of menopause on muscle strength.

During and after menopause, a decline in oestrogen levels leads to a gradual and ongoing decrease in muscle mass, known as sarcopenia.

This type of muscle loss is a key health concern for post-menopausal women for several reasons. Post-menopausal muscle loss puts women at risk of frailty, falls and reduced mobility. It can reduce their independence and quality of life. Additionally, a reduction in muscle mass also leads to a lower metabolism, putting older women at risk of unwanted weight gain.

Vitamin D and Muscle Mass

Vitamin D is crucial for healthy muscle function. It acts on special receptors in muscle, helping to boost muscle mass and strength. Vitamin D also plays a role in protein synthesis and works with calcium and magnesium to enable more powerful muscle contractions.

Unfortunately many adults in the UK have low levels of vitamin D. In fact, 39% of adults have low vitamin D levels in the winter months and older adults who spend more time indoors are particularly vulnerable to deficiency (2).

Trial Results

The double-blind trial tested the effects of vitamin D supplements versus a placebo on the muscle strength and muscle mass of post-menopausal women. Muscle mass was estimated by the use of a total-body DXA (an X-ray scan), as well as tests of hand grip strength and fitness tests.

At the end of the 9-month study, the women receiving the vitamin D supplement showed a 25% increase in muscle strength, while the placebo group actually lost muscle mass. Over the 9 months, the women receiving the placebo supplements also had twice as many falls as those taking vitamin D.

“We concluded that the supplementation of vitamin D alone provided significant protection against the occurrence of sarcopenia, which is a degenerative loss of skeletal muscle, says Dr. L.M. Cangussu, one of the lead authors of the study.

Supplementing Vitamin D – Do’s and Don’ts

The ideal way to optimize vitamin D levels is through sensible sun exposure. This can be difficult in the winter months and can be especially challenging for those with darker skin who have a harder time converting sunlight to vitamin D.

Current recommendations are that anybody over the age of 65 should be supplementing 10 micrograms (400 IU) of vitamin D each day. Vitamin D3 is widely considered to be a better form to take than synthetic D2.  Taking vitamin D supplements alongside a fat-containing meal will also enhance absorption. Finally, many people prefer to take vitamin D alongside vitamin K as these two vitamins work synergistically.

1. The North American Menopause Society (NAMS). “Vitamin D3 supplementation helps women build muscle even after menopause: New study demonstrates vitamin effectiveness in reducing degeneration and risk of falls.” September 2015
2. NICE. Vitamin D: increasing supplement use in at-risk groups. November 2014. Accessed 30/10/2015.

Beating Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis: Is Calcium the Key?

Is Calcium the Key to Preventing Osteoporosis?

World Osteoporosis Day takes place every year on October 20. The campaign, organised by the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF), aims to raise global awareness of the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis and metabolic bone disease.

Our bones are constantly being broken down and rebuilt in a process known as ‘bone turnover’. In our early years, bone is built faster than it is broken down, and we reach our ‘peak bone mass’ at some point during our 20s. After this time, preserving healthy bones becomes a vital health concern. If bone is broken down more quickly than it is remade, then osteoporosis may occur.

This condition is of particular concern to postmenopausal women who produce less of the bone-protecting hormone oestrogen. Women lose more bone during their menopausal years than at any other time in their life [1]. However, men are under-diagnosed when it comes to osteoporosis and are more likely to go untreated.

The Key Three: Calcium, Magnesium and Vitamin D

Calcium is widely understood to play a key role in bone health and in preventing osteoporosis. After all, 99% of the body’s calcium is stored in bone. However, a calcium-rich diet in the absence of other bone-building nutrients is not effective in building healthy bones. Good quality studies have even linked high calcium intake with increased risk of bone fracture. This is most likely because calcium must work alongside other nutrients to build and maintain healthy bones.

Calcium must be absorbed and retained effectively to benefit bones. This requires two more nutritional helpers: magnesium and vitamin D. These three nutrients work synergistically – none is effective without the others.

60% of the magnesium in our body is stored in our bones. Magnesium works hand in hand with calcium by stimulating the hormone calcitonin which helps to draw calcium into bone and keep it there. Magnesium is also required in order to convert vitamin D to its active form.

Unfortunately many of us fail to meet the recommended daily intake of magnesium. Deficiency in this mineral is a particular concern for girls. In a recent national survey, more than 50% of girls between the ages of 11 and 18 had inadequate magnesium intake, putting them at risk of osteoporosis in later years.

Vitamin D is also essential for calcium absorption, helping to transport calcium out of the intestine and into the bloodstream. An estimated 60-70% of the UK population are low in Vitamin D. Elderly people and darker skinned populations are at particular risk of osteoporosis due to this. It is difficult to obtain sufficient Vitamin D from diet alone. Supplements or sun exposure (around 15 minutes each day) are the best ways to obtain the daily requirement of this vitamin to support healthy bones and prevent osteoporosis from occurring.

Nutrients for Bone Retention

Building healthy bone is only one part of the picture. Once healthy bone has been built, it is important to ensure that it is retained. Preventing bone from being broken down is essential in warding off osteoporosis. Special compounds in plant foods play a key role in preventing bone from being broken down. These compounds have ‘bone resorption inhibiting properties’. They support bone health by ‘turning off’ osteoclasts, the cells that break down bone tissue.

Dried plums, a source of phenols, have been shown in human studies to improve bone density by preventing bone breakdown. Other phytonutrients such as quercetin and hesperidin, present in fruits and vegetables such as onions, broccoli and citrus fruits, show similar benefits. Including these fruits and vegetables regularly alongside sources of calcium, magnesium and Vitamin D is the key to nourishing strong and healthy bones, therefore preventing osteoporosis in later life [2].

Bone Boosting Recipes

Dried Plum ‘Bone Booster’ Snack Bars

Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 30 minutes Serves: 8

Special phenolic compounds in dried plums increase levels of a hormone linked to bone formation. These compounds also help to prevent bone from being broken down. Dried plums, or prunes, are also high in antioxidants and provide an excellent source of potassium, boron and copper – essential nutrients for bone health. Soy flour provides a source of ‘bone boosting’ phytoestrogens, while almonds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are useful sources of calcium and magnesium. [3]


  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • ¼ cup Dried Plum (Prune) purée
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 tsp grated orange zest
  • ¼ cup soy flour
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • ½ cup whole almonds
  • ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • ¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • ¼ cup raw sunflower seeds


Heat oven to 160°C. Spray an 8×8” baking pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper, leaving the paper overhanging on 2 sides. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together dried plum purée, honey, orange juice, egg white and orange zest. In small bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon and baking powder. Fold flour mixture, oats, almonds, coconut, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds into dried plum mixture.

Press mixture evenly into prepared pan. Bake about 30 minutes or until firm to the touch. Cool on rack; remove from pan, using paper to lift it out. Cut in four, then cut across in half to make 8 bars.

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 212
Cholesterol: 0mg
Total Fat: 12g
Saturated Fat: 4g
Sodium: 41mg
Carbohydrate: 22g
Protein: 6g
Fibre: 3g
Potassium: 159mg

‘Better Bones’ Banana Oat Bars

Makes one 9×9-inch pan. 6 Servings.

Oats and flaxseed provide lignans which support bone and hormonal health after menopause. Bananas provide potassium which helps to prevent loss of calcium from the body. Anti-inflammatory omega 3, in the ground flaxseed and walnuts, is linked with improved bone density. Special phenolic compounds in dried plums increase levels of a hormone linked to bone formation. These compounds also help to prevent bone from being broken down. Dried plums, or prunes, are also high in antioxidants and provide essential nutrients for bone health such as potassium, boron and copper.


  • 2 large, very ripe bananas
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup pitted, chopped prunes
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • Grated nutmeg or cinnamon (optional)


Heat the oven to 180°C and lightly grease a 9×9-inch square baking dish with olive oil.

Peel the bananas and mash their flesh in a medium mixing bowl until no large chunks remain. Stir in the vanilla, if using. Add the oats and stir them in. Stir in the prunes and nuts.

Pat the thick mixture evenly into the baking pan. Sprinkle the top lightly with cinnamon. Bake for 30 minutes or until the edges just begin to crisp up.

Per serving:

Calories: 200
Fat: 4.9g
Fibre: 5.6g
Sugar: 10.7g
Protein: 5.5g

Written by Nadia Mason

1. Feskanich D, Willett WC, Colditz GA. Calcium, vitamin D, milk consumption, and hip fractures: a prospective study among postmenopausal women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003;77:504-511.
2. Hooshmand et al (2011) Comparative effects of dried plum and dried apple on bone in postmenopausal women. Brr J Nutr 106(6):923-30.
3. Gunn et al (2015) Nutrients Increased Intake of Selected Vegetables, Herbs and Fruit may Reduce Bone Turnover in Post-Menopausal Women 7(4): 2499–2517.


The Vital Sunshine Vitamin

Around 10m people throughout England could have seriously depleted vitamin D levels. This is around a fifth of adults and a sixth of children.

Vitamin D is needed by the body, keeping bones and teeth strong whilst supporting a healthy immune system. And it’s after the long winter months that the
body’s reserves are at their lowest.

This much required vitamin is also known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’ as unprotected exposure to sunlight is our main source.

During the winter months (October through April) our bodies are unable to naturally synthesise vitamin D. This is because the sun lies too low in the
sky for us to process it. The only choices you have are to take an expensive trip abroad or to supplement your body – remember, the further you are through
these dark months the more depleted your body will be.

“Due to the lack of sunshine in the UK and the stresses and strains of today’s busy lifestyles it is becoming increasingly difficult to make our own
vitamin D, and winter certainly doesn’t help”, says Andrew Thomas (founder and managing director at BetterYou).

“Many people are suffering the effects of vitamin D deficiency but vitamin D is relatively easy to supplement and the health benefits are clear.”

Cardiff University recently conducted a range of studies which showed that applying vitamin D directly into the mouth, ideally under the tongue or on the
inside of the cheek, means it is absorbed directly through the mucous membrane and into the blood system. Using a liquid spray form achieves this perfectly and is a
fantastic way to supplement vitamin D if you prefer to avoid tablets.

How much vitamin D do you need?

The NHS measures vitamin D in nanomoles per litre (nmol/L). You should aim for levels between 75nmol/L and 150nmol/L, this level is understood to be
optimal for improved health.

View our Vitamin D category at


Movember: The Male Menopause

The Movember movement was established to inspire men to be more aware of their health needs, and to seek medical help if needed. Men are less likely to visit a doctor than women. They tend to put off making GP appointments which can mean that symptoms are more advanced and harder to treat. On the internet, television and in popular magazines, there seems to be less information about men’s health than women’s health.

A good example of this is the menopause. While there is a good awareness of the female menopause and its impact on women’s health, there is a lack of awareness of the male menopause, medically known as the andropause. The very notion of ‘male menopause’ is contentious and three quarters of British men have not even heard of it. Despite this, the symptoms of low testosterone are very real.

Andropause is marked by a decrease in testosterone levels that can affect men in middle age, causing symptoms such as low energy levels, decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, depression, irritability, increased body fat and loss of muscle mass. On average, from the age of 39, testosterone levels in men decrease by over 1% each year, while competing hormones such as oestradiol and prolactin begin to rise (1).

While andropause is often attributed to the inevitable ageing process, new studies suggest that dietary and lifestyle choices have a much bigger impact (2). Obesity and smoking have significant negative effects on testosterone levels. Stress levels, alcohol consumption, lack of sleep and exercise, nutritional deficiencies and environmental estrogens from plastics are all likely to affect men’s hormonal balance.

There are three key nutrients have been found to increase testosterone levels in clinical studies. The first of these is Vitamin D. Supplementing with this particular vitamin has been found to raise testosterone levels (3). The male reproductive tract is known to have Vitamin D receptors, suggesting that this is a key nutrient in male sexual health.

Magnesium supplementation has also been found to increase testosterone levels in both active and sedentary men after four weeks of supplementation (4). Magnesium is a co-factor in more than 300 biological processes in the body, and so ensuring sufficient intake is critical for anybody interested in achieving optimal health. Magnesium is needed for healthy metabolic pathways, which include hormone production. It also stops testosterone from binding to ‘sex hormone binding globulin’, meaning that it is more active in the body.

Finally, the mineral zinc has profound effects on hormonal health. Even marginal zinc deficiency is known to cause a drop in testosterone levels (4). Zinc is required for the production of testosterone from androstenedione. A deficiency in zinc leads to the conversion of testosterone to estrogen. It also increases the number estrogen receptors and decreases testosterone receptors. The best dietary sources are shellfish, beef and other unprocessed red meats.

Any man experiencing andropause symptoms should visit their GP for a routine check up. Hormone testing can confirm levels of circulating testosterone. The ‘free androgen index’, a measure of active testosterone levels, is a particularly important measure. As a general guideline, the normal range is between 0.7 and 1.0.


  1. Feldman HA, Longcope C, Derby CA, et al. Age trends in the level of serum testosterone and other hormones in middle-aged men: longitudinal results from the Massachusetts Male Aging Study. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2002;87:589-598.
  2. Endocrine Society. “Declining testosterone levels in men not part of normal aging.” ScienceDaily. (accessed November 10, 2014).
  3. Pilz S et al (2011) Effect of vitamin D supplementation on testosterone levels in men. Horm Metab Res Mar;43(3):223-5.
  4. Cinar V et al (2011) Effects of magnesium supplementation on testosterone levels of athletes and sedentary subjects at rest and after exhaustion. Biol Trace Elem Res. Apr;140(1):18-23.
  5. Prasad AS et al (1996) Zinc status and serum testosterone levels of healthy adults. Nutrition 12(5):344-8.

Your Child’s Health Checklist

It can be difficult getting your kid’s into a back to school mind-set after the summer holidays, so why not prepare them in advance by boosting the mental and physical performance of your little one with a diet packed with vitamins and nutrients and regular exercise over the next 6 weeks.

Follow our checklist to help you give your child a head start of their next school year:

  • Its summer so make sure your little one gets a small dose of vitamin D courtesy of the sun (all fair-skinned people need is a few minutes of sun on their hands, arms and face every day). However, if the sun isn’t shining, then be sure to include it in their diet through fatty fish, like salmon and tuna, and egg yolks.
  • Children need calcium to make strong bones, but they can only deposit this calcium until their early 20s. Make sure yours get their three servings a day – a serve is a 250ml glass of milk, a 200g tub of yoghurt or two slice of cheese (40g).
  • Poor concentration, failing memory, hyperactivity and mood swings can also be an indication of omega 3 (EPA and DHA) deficiency. Our brains need these long-chain omega-3 fatty acids for brain structure and function. Try supplementing your child’s diet with a kid friendly omega 3 supplement.
  • Iodine deficiency is the world’s most prevalent, yet preventable cause of brain damage and lower IQs according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Make sure your child gets between 90mcg and 120mcg a day. Yoghurt, cow’s milk, eggs, mozzarella cheese and strawberries are excellent sources of iodine.
  • Magnesium de¬ficiency has been linked with learning difficulties, hyperactivity and insomnia and it’s believed three quarters of children don’t consume enough of this mineral. A half-cup of cooked frozen spinach provides 75mg. You should aim to include 130mg a day.

More Top Tips

  • Exercise, chill time, and regular, nourishing meals and snacks enhance concentration by banishing energy wobbles.
  • Friendly foods include fresh fish, vegetables, pulses, whole grain carbohydrates, nuts, and seeds. Water helps too!
  • Cerebral zappers include sugar, caffeine, soft drinks, junk food, processed foods, excess salt, meat and dairy, and refined or hydrogenated fats and oils (be sure to read the labels!).
  • We all need sleep to function properly, but while adults need eight hours, children need a minimum of 10 hours shut-eye every night. Encourage regular exercise during the day, and participation in age appropriate extracurricular activities after school which will both result in adequate sleep at night.
  • Make sure your child is protected against colds with a drink of Manuka Honey and fresh lemon juice in hot water. Echinacea will also support the immune system, prevent infections, and minimise the risk of bronchitis and sinusitis.

Battling the Winter Blues

If the short, cold, dark winter days leave you feeling lethargic and energy-depleted, then you may be suffering from the winter blues, or its more severe form, seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Other symptoms include carbohydrate cravings, irritability, weight gain and the desire to avoid social situations.

The winter blues are triggered by a lack of sunlight – as the number of daylight hours decreases, levels of ‘feel-good’ hormones in our body begin to drop. The symptoms can appear in late autumn and don’t normally lift until the brighter days in early spring. Fortunately there are simple measures that can help to alleviate these troublesome symptoms.

There is certainly a link between low Vitamin D levels and seasonal affective disorder, although it is unclear whether there is a causal connection. A recent review of existing studies concluded that treating Vitamin D deficiency offers a simple way to improve mental health (1). It would seem sensible for those feeling the effects of the winter blues to test their Vitamin D levels, and to address any deficiency. Sunlight and supplementation are likely the fastest way to address deficiencies, although fatty fish, fortified milk and egg yolks will also help to boost levels.

Other studies have shown that omega-3s appear to help maintain healthy levels of the ‘feel-good’ brain chemicals dopamine and serotonin. Healthy cells membranes, which require good levels of omega-3 fats, are required for the brain to respond to serotonin and dopamine. A recent large double-blind trial of more than 400 adults supports its use in treating depression (2). Based on these results, ensuring adequate omega-3 intake is certainly a sensible approach for those affected by seasonal changes.

Studies investigating the effectiveness of supplements such as St John’s Wort and 5-HTP have had mixed results, though some studies have found that supplementation improves symptoms such as fatigue, sleep problems, anxiety and lethargy in those with SAD (3,4).

Dietary changes may also help to relieve symptoms. According to Judith Wurtman, Ph.D., co-author of The Serotonin Power Diet, a well-timed snack can help to relieve symptoms. Dr Wurtman led a study looking at the SAD-carb connection, concluding that a low-protein snack providing about 30 grams of carbohydrate was enough to provide a serotonin boost. A warm bowl of leek and potato soup in the evening might well provide that much-needed serotonin-boosting carbohydrate.

Light therapy is a non-invasive, natural, effective and well-researched treatment approach for those with SAD
Light therapy is a non-invasive, natural, effective and well-researched treatment approach for those with SAD

The most effective natural intervention, however, is probably light therapy. Light therapy is a non-invasive, natural, effective and well-researched treatment approach for those with SAD. Specially designed light therapy devices mimic the effects of sunlight to regulate levels of melatonin and serotonin. A recent meta-analysis concluded that light therapy works as an effective treatment for SAD no matter what time of day it is used, so long as it is used at least once daily (5). Dawn simulation is especially useful, and studies have found that this approach is more effective in alleviating SAD symptoms that standard bright light therapy or placebo, alongside additional benefits such as less morning drowsiness (6).

Those looking for a natural way to address the winter blues may benefit from the following approach:

1. Ensure that you are getting sufficient amounts of omega-3 and Vitamin D. You can have your levels checked by a nutritional therapist.

2. Exercise regularly. Try a 30-minute run or brisk walk in the daylight.

3. Start the day with a protein-rich breakfast, but try a carbohydrate-rich meal or snack in the evening. Good options are sweet potato, brown rice, lentils, rye bread and butternut squash.

4. Try a light therapy lamp or a dawn simulation device, making time to use the device at least once each day for the best results.


1. Anglin RES et al (2013) Samaan Z, Walter SD and McDonald SD. Vitamin D deficiency and depression in adults: systematic review and meta-analysis. Br-J-Psych 2013, 202:100-107.

2. Lespérance F, Frasure-Smith N, St-André E, et al. (2011) The efficacy of Omega-3 supplementation for major depression: A randomized controlled trial. J Clin Psychiatry. 72:1054-1062.

3. Ghadirian AM et al (1998) Efficacy of light versus tryptophan therapy in seasonal affective disorder. J Affect Disord 50:23-7.

4. Wheatley D. (1999) Hypericum in seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Curr Med Red Opin 15:33-7.

5. Golden RN et al (2005) The Efficacy of Light Therapy in the Treatment of Mood Disorders: A Review and Meta-analysis of the Evidence. Am J Psychiatry 162(4):656-62.

6. Avery DH et al (2001) Dawn Simulation and Bright Light in the Treatment of SAD: A Controlled Study. Biol Psychiatry. 50:205-216.


Vitamin D May Prevent Uterine Fibroids

Women with adequate Vitamin D levels are 32% less likely to develop uterine fibroids, according to a new study published in Epidemiology journal this month (1).

Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths attached to the uterus, and they normally affect women of childbearing age. Many women with fibroids experience no symptoms at all. In others, fibroids can cause symptoms such as heavy periods, pelvic pain, frequent urination, difficulty emptying the bladder and backache. As a result of these debilitating symptoms, fibroids are one the most common reasons for women to undergo hysterectomy.

Fibroids occur in around 20% of women, but those of African descent have been shown to have a higher incidence of fibroid formation (50-80%). They are a significant concern for women because of the difficult symptoms linked to their growth. In addition, fibroids are a particular concern to women of childbearing age as they can have a negative effect on fertility. They can block the fallopian tubes, affect blood flow to the uterine cavity, change the shape of the uterus and prevent sperm from travelling through the cervix.

In the recent study, led by Donna Baird of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), researchers measured levels of Vitamin D

The Sun
Exposure to the sun for more than one hour can decrease risk of fibroids

in 1,036 women between the ages of 35-49. Circulating levels of Vitamin D, also known as 25-hydroxy D, were measured using blood samples. Women with more than 20 nanograms per millilitre were classed as having sufficient levels of the vitamin, although many specialists believe that the minimum level for sufficiency should be higher still.

Study participants also completed a questionnaire on sun exposure. Those who spent more than one hour outside per day had a decreased risk of fibroids, with an estimated reduction of 40 percent. It is interesting to note that fibroids are more common in black women, and that black women also tend to have lower levels of Vitamin D as skin pigmentation reduces the formation of Vitamin D in the skin (2).

Scientists are often quick to point out that “correlation does not imply causation”, meaning that a correlation between two factors does not mean that one causes the other. However in this case the researchers provide evidence of a causal relationship. The researchers noted that treatment of cultures of human uterine fibroid tissue with a form of Vitamin D resulted in decreased cell proliferation accompanied by inhibition of molecular pathways for fibrosis. In other words, Vitamin D was found to play active role in slowing the growth of fibroid tissue.

The study authors conclude that the link between Vitamin D and uterine fibroids warrants further investigation, and it is hoped that these findings will encourage further research in this area. In the meantime, it would be wise for those affected by fibroids to take measures to ensure their Vitamin D levels are sufficient.


1. Baird D et al (2013) Vitamin D and the Risk of Uterine Fibroids. Epidemiology. May 2013. 24:3, 447-453.

2. Harris S (2006) Vitamin D and African Americans. Am Soc Nutr. April 2006. 136:4, 1126-1129.


Choosing the Best Supplements: Part One

Choosing the right kind of supplement is extremely important, and yet the choice available can create lots of confusion. I am frequently asked about how to select the most suitable type of supplement. Will the supplement be absorbed properly, and is a ‘natural’ form always better than a synthetic form? Are capsules better than tablets? Which brand is best? Some simple pointers can help you to choose the right supplement for you.

Is Natural better than Synthetic?

Many people prefer to take vitamins in their natural form as they believe that nutrients derived from plants and other natural materials are more effective. Although this is not always the case, there are certainly instances where this belief holds up. Vitamin E, for example, is almost 40% more potent in its natural form that in its synthetic form. The natural form of Vitamin E is called d-alpha-tocopherol and this natural form, usually derived from wheat germ or soya oil, is undoubtedly superior.

Likewise, the natural form of Vitamin D, cholecalciferol or D3, has a more sustained effect on Vitamin D levels in the body than its synthetic counterpart Vitamin D2.

Generally, however, the natural and synthetic forms of most vitamins and minerals tend to behave in similar ways. Synthetic forms of some nutrients, such as Vitamin C, can in fact work out cheaper and can be more concentrated.

Perhaps the most important consideration is that vitamin supplements derived from natural sources may well contain as yet unknown nutrients that help increase their effectiveness. Vitamin C, for example, is more effective when taken alongside bioflavonoids, and these nutrients are almost always found together in nature. Supplement manufacturers can utilise this natural Vitamin C ‘boost’ by combining a potent synthetic Vitamin C supplement with additional bioflavonoids. By replicating this natural combination manufacturers can improve the supplement’s potency.

Improving supplement absorption

Getting the best out of your supplements also means making sure that you are taking them correctly. There are a number of lifestyle and dietary factors that can affect supplement absorption. Supplements should always be taken separately from alcohol, especially if the supplements contain magnesium or B vitamins. Alcohol lowers levels of digestive enzymes from the pancreas, meaning that supplements may not be broken down and digested (1). Alcohol also damages the cells lining the stomach and intestines, impairing absorption (2).

Calcium and magnesium are better absorbed alongside proteins

As smoking influences the absorption of minerals such as calcium, it is not recommended to smoke during meal times, especially if you are taking your supplements with a meal.

Stress is another lifestyle factor that can hinder supplement absorption. As stress can effectively shut down digestion, it would be wise to try to take your supplements after a leisurely meal rather than on the run during a busy day.

To ensure maximum absorption, most vitamin and mineral supplements are best taken immediately after a meal. Calcium and magnesium are better absorbed alongside proteins. Vitamins A, E and D are all fat-soluble, and so are best taken alongside a meal containing fats or oils.

Other important factors when choosing a nutritional supplement include bioavailability, the form of delivery (tablet or capsule) and the manufacturing standards of the supplement company.


(1) Korsten, M.A. Alcoholism and pancreatitis: Does nutrition play a role? Alcohol Health & Research World 13(3):232-237, 1989. 

(2) Feinman, L. Absorption and utilization of nutrients in alcoholism. Alcohol Health & Research World 13(3):207-210, 1989.