Vitamin D Deficiencies role in skin conditions

Ireland, Wales, and Scotland all have high percentages of people that suffer from Rosacea, Eczema, Vitiligo, Psoriasis and Urticaria. Is it just a coincidence that countries that lack enough sunshine and vitamin-rich foods also have populations that suffer from a variety of skin conditions?

Previously I wrote about nutrient deficiencies and nutrient density influencing Acne & Rosacea sufferers; this is also relevant to the article Coeliac disease and skin conditions. All research continues to point to food, vitamin absorption and our environmental factors playing a considerable role in overall wellness.

Research suggests that to form a healthy immune system a daily intake of 5,000-10,000 I.U. (125-250 micrograms) of Vitamin D3 is required. For many of us, we may remember stories from our parents of being forced to consume tablespoons of horrid Cod Liver Oil. Although the problem with fish oils is they may do more harm than good; rancidity of sourced fish oils is of a major concern; despite there is a possibility to gain quality cod liver oil. We will at a later stage be writing an article just on cod liver oil, it is not a simple subject and new research emerging is rewriting our understanding of liver oils.

Fish oil the essential fatty acid lie everyone believes

There is a huge trend promoting the health benefits of fish oils, polyunsaturated fats, and essential fatty acids. What is the worry with this is the research against the health benefits is very suppressed. There is allot of research that flies in the face of the health benefits associated with these oils and acids. In fact, a great deal of the research highlights cancer increasing properties of the oils and acids. Polyunsaturated oils could be seen as one of the largest lies of the last decade and is directly causing an increase in cancer and health complications.

The Food Safety Association of Ireland recommends that everyone in Ireland should take a vitamin D supplement.
The big lie of fish oils and the associated health benifets

It is estimated that over 55% of Irish inhabitants have Vitamin D insufficiency. There are links between Vitamin D deficiency and severe health complaints such as Rickets in children, some types of cancers, diabetes and a range of autoimmune diseases and cardiovascular disease. Research shows Vitiligo, Psoriasis, Eczema, and Urticaria are all linked with Vitamin D deficiency.

Who is at risk for Vitamin D deficiency?

  • People with obesity
  • People that suffer from pigmented skin
  • Infants that are breastfed
  • Elderly institutionalised people
  • Living below or above 35 latitude
  • People using drugs containing corticosteroids, phenytoin, carbamazepine and anti-retroviral drugs
  • People suffering malabsorption conditions like Crohn’s disease, Coeliac disease, pancreatic insufficiency or after gastric bypass surgery
  • Multiparity
  • People that completely cover their skin in clothes
  • People that spend little time in the sun

The Food Safety Association of Ireland recommends that everyone in Ireland should take a vitamin D supplement.

The science of skin colour

We are a pale lot in Ireland, and that is the direct effect of evolution trying to create a better method of coping and delivering the ability to absorb nutrients.

Ireland and Scotland have very low levels of sunlight which is why we have that very pale skin.

The colour of our skin is a direct correlation to the proximity of our ancestors to the equator. Because the dark skin has a natural SPF value of between 4 to 6, this does not serve you very well when you live in geographical locations with low levels of sunlight. Over time and as we settled throughout the world, we developed all tones of skin colour. Ireland and Scotland have very low levels of sunlight which is why we have that very pale skin.

Our skin chemical factory is pretty smart containing a precursor that turns UVB rays into Vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol. Following a metabolic road through the liver to a destination of the kidneys then transformed into calcitriol. When you consume foods rich in vitamin D, it follows the same metabolic road metabolising into active Vitamin D3.

Vitamin D supplements help provide treatment for skin conditions

Stress is one of the primary aggressors with people that suffer from Psoriasis. It is an autoimmune disorder and prevalent in individuals with vitamin D deficiency. Increasing the intake of vitamin D reduces the severity and frequency of Psoriasis flare ups.

Generally starting in childhood Eczema or atopic dermatitis is a chronic skin condition that is also linked to asthma. Eczema sufferers experience a recurring itchy rash and the condition often put into the ‘genetics.’ basket. As research mounts, we understand more about how these conditions start and the genetics is more likely linked to prolonged exposure to certain environmental factors. Increasing vitamin D intake is a recognised treatment and prevention for Eczema sufferers. Helping to stabilise and strengthen the immune system reducing the severity and frequency of the skin condition.

Vitiligo Vulgaris
Directly caused by Vitamin D deficiency Vitiligo is a disorder of the immune system whereby the immune system attacks the melanocytes in the skin, and this leads to that blotchy appearance where the pigmentation is missing. Light therapy and vitamin D based topical and oral medication show some promise in the treatment of this condition.

Another autoimmune condition that produces hives raised red bumps on the skin that is aggravated by stress and environmental pollutants. Vitamin D supplements aid the treatment process and lessen the severity and frequency of the skin condition.

A combination of advertising, modern life and misinformation has caused a pandemic of vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D is an essential component of our immune system but with so much advertising telling us to cover up and always wear a factor 30 SPF we are just not getting enough sun time. While it is true that pale skinned people especially need to take care when gaining the essential rays, it is still imperative to get sunlight onto the naked skin.

gaining 15 minutes a day of sunlight with bare legs, arms and torso is good for health

The problem is this does not happen and getting burnt once a year in Spain does more harm than good.

People develop skin conditions from all kinds of reason but what is becoming glaringly apparent is the links between vitamin nutrient deficiencies. Vitamin D deficiencies accounting for osteoporosis, autoimmune disorders, kidney failure, dental problems, neurologic disorders, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, chronic fatigue, muscle aches and pains, high blood pressure, and even depression.

Getting enough vitamin D is so crucial to good health and a strong immune system that everyone should be taking steps to increase their intake. Getting enough from the sun is not happening even in sunny countries like Australia. Our modern life is spent in the shade. Cities are built up putting areas in relative darkness. When we do venture out into the sun we are more often than not covered from head to, toe and what is exposed is doused in factor 30+ sunscreen.

Evolution has made you pale to try and compensate for the lack of sunlight.

The lighter your skin, the easier you create Vitamin D from the sun. You do not need to tan or turn pink; you just need up to 15 minutes a day in enough sunlight to produce healthy levels of Vitamin D. The more skin you can expose to the UVB rays the more Vitamin D you produce. It is a balancing act, as the higher the sun is in the sky, the more quickly you can produce the vitamin. On a good sunny day, your body can make 10,000 to 25,000 IU of vitamin D; in under 15 minutes.

Can I get enough Vitamin D from my diet and particular foods?

Although some foods do contain Vitamin D, you are not able to get the needed amount to satisfy good health. You only have two options, get more sunlight onto bare skin and or take a Vitamin D3 supplement.

You were designed to get everything you need from nature; you are pale to make the most of the Irish, Scottish and English sun. Many Irish people comment that when they are in Australia or Spain, they feel just so much better (apart from burning easily). With the high availability of strong sunlight their Vitamin D intake goes up and they feel all the associated health benefits.

The simple answer is we need to be getting more sunlight onto as much bare skin as possible. Without sunscreen applied. There is no reason to burn or even spend enough time in the sun to turn pink.

How much Vitamin D you get out of the sun is dependent on many factors

More skin means more Vitamin D production.
The middle of the day is the optimum time for producing Vitamin D. (Although not a good idea if you are in a hotter climate like Spain or Australia). Then you should stick to before 11 am and after 3 pm.

It is governed by where you live.
The closer we live to the equator the easier it is to gain the necessary amount of Vitamin D.

Our skin colour governs the speed of Vitamin D production.
The (naturally) darker you are “not tanned” the longer it takes to make the needed vitamin. All native Irish, Scottish, and Welsh are Fitzpatrick Skin Types I & II you will usually burn after 15 minutes of (Irish summer sun exposure), you have evolved to handle the correct amount of sun governed by the country you live.

In a nutshell, get your kit off and get into the sun for 15 minutes and feel so much healthier.


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Emma Ryall
Educator, Proprietor, Aesthetician at Zest Skin Clinic & Laser Hair Removal
Licenced Aesthetician, CIBTAC, ITEC and CIDESCO accredited professional therapist with over 14 years industry experience, specialising in skincare. Emma is also a master trainer City & Guilds – Accreditation No: 500/5753/4
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