“ Brand: City Assays „
Blood Spot Test For Vitamin D
If you have read any of my reviews over the last few years you may know that I suffer from ME, which was something that occurred after I was taken ill with a heart infection from a virus related to polio in 1996. The disease has caused many symptoms and has affected my life severely making me a lot more sedentary. This is due to the damage it caused to the autonomic nervous system which controls breathing, temperature control, digestion, heart rate and many others including the post exertional malaise that occurs after exercise. So it was with great regret some years ago that I finally sold my hiking boots that were so much part of me, recognising that if I was to mentally beat the disease I would have to life a life within limits. These limitations have meant that I have to take care over aspects of life that maybe wouldn't have been so relevant, and one of these is my vitamin D levels. Although this review does relate to my personal circumstances it has a relevance for anyone living in the UK especially if you are in certain locations or groups within the community.
What Is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is something that has affected the lives of human beings for centuries, and it was discovered as early as the 1600s that children were suffering from a disease that was affecting the development of their major bones, especially in the lower legs and was named Rickets. By the 1800s and after the industrial revolution it was known that cod liver oil given to children was alleviating this but it was not understood why until much later. By the end of the 1800s vitamin D was discovered and it was realised that it was found not only in fish oils, but was increased when people were allowed to bask in sunlight, and so people with tuberculosis were placed in sanatoriums and were exposed to daily sunlight as it was known to help to treat their disease.
Following on from that today current research is showing that the closer you live to Equatorial regions the lower the rates of certain types of cancer, including prostate and breast, and furthermore research is showing that women who have breast cancer are less likely to have a recurrence of the disease if their levels of vitamin D are optimal.
Another very important finding is with regard to Multiple Sclerosis. Research is suggesting that the vitamin is extremely important in helping to prevent the disease and to minimise flare ups, and as Scotland has one of the highest levels of the disease in the world, with a peak incidence in Orkney, this is of major importance. Vitamin D deficiency is especially important in Scotland where last year Scotland's Chief Medical Officer advised the use of supplements for certain groups within the community such as pregnant women, children, the elderly and those who live a life mainly indoors.
The vitamin is also thought to be important with regard to heart disease as adequate levels help to keep blood pressure down. This is an interesting factor as blood pressure levels tend to be lower on average in the summer when there is more sunlight than in the depth of winter. It is also implicated in depression and many find that optimal levels bring depression symptoms under control.
Vitamin D is in fact a hormone and is made in the body when sunlight triggers a chain of chemical events that start in the skin. Chemical changes then continue in the liver and eventually the hormone is made into its active form in the kidneys. This is why those with kidney disease are unable to produce the hormone naturally. It is present in some foods including fish oils but the main source is the sun. Furthermore all of the UK is in the area where it is known that between October and April the sun is not high in the sky or intense enough to provide the vitamin D levels needed so levels will fall during these months.
Now the reason I became interested in this hormone some years ago was in relation to protecting against osteoporosis as this is something that is extremely common in our society, and furthermore vitamin D levels are known to be lower than they should be in some people with ME and Fibromyalgia. Having ME I decided that I would supplement some years ago and so I took a small dose for some years as a protective measure.
When my daughter started her degree course in Dietetics a couple of years ago she explained to me that it would be prudent to actually know the levels in my body rather than just blindly supplementing, and so I decided to pay for a private test to ascertain these levels. Some GPs may do this for you, but it is not something they are obliged to do without good reason, as to test the entire country would be a massive cost to the NHS. As I had no symptoms relating to a deficiency I thought about it and decided to use the test myself, as the one that is available to the public is actually an NHS laboratory in the Midlands that has a long history of testing the levels and is highly respected. I thought I could always go and see my GP if my test results warranted further investigations.
The Test and My Experience.
Ordering the test is easy and all the details can be found at www.vitamindtest.org.uk. All you have to do is to call them to request a testing kit and this I did last September. The girl who answered the phone was polite and helpful. The cost was £25 and I ordered two- one for myself and one for my husband who was also interested as he has a high risk of cancer as several family members have had the disease.
The testing kit arrived within a few days and was easy to use. It came with full explanations and information about the way the test worked, and what to expect from the results together with a consent form. You simply had to prick your finger using the lancet provided and then place spots of blood on the test card in 4 places as indicated. This was quite hard in practice as I don't bleed much, so I had to make sure I had a good drop, as you had to ensure that a large blob falls in the spot required. If you fail you could try again and move onto the next spot - the idea is they need a good sample to work with. My first two were a little weedy, but the last two were fine, and so we posted off our kits and waited for the results to arrive by email which was within a few days.
I was very impressed with the report that I received as it was clear and easy to interpret. Bearing in mind that in July last year I had been to The Maldives for a week, and I was supplementing 400iu per day my result came back as insufficient.The results are in nmol/l and to give an idea- less than 15 is severe, 15-30 is deficiency, 30.1-50 is insufficient and greater than 50 is optimal, and mine was 49.6. I was pleased as it was almost adequate but not quite, and certainly without the supplement and the hot holiday I had I am sure it would have been worse. My husband who also takes a supplement had a reading of 54.6 so he was in the adequate group. As a result of these results I increased my supplement to 1000ius per day and I will retest in April at the end of the winter to make sure my level is optimal. It is important not to supplement too much as high levels of the vitamin can cause calcium to be deposited in arteries which is dangerous.
Vitamin D supplements are inexpensive - 1000iu at Nature's Best are £8.95 for 180 tablets and the 400iu tablets are less expensive, so it is easy to purchase these as a safeguard especially in the winter months. Summer blood levels tend to be higher as the vitamin can be stored, so just a few minutes outside on a warm day can yield 10,000iu as long as the skin is exposed.
In an ideal world it would be excellent if the nation as a whole could be offered the test for free as part of a healthy preventative measure, but with so much pressure on the NHS this seems unlikely. In the meantime I hope this review has provided food for thought as this important hormone is proving to be more important in terms of health than was ever thought previously, and has implications for the immune system as well as for the bones and the circulation, and in terms of cancer prevention it may be vital if research continues to see a prevalence in countries that have less sunlight.
The test I used was professional, clear to interpret and reliable and I would have no hesitation in recommending to anyone interested in finding out their levels. If mine had been severely low I would have gone to the GP for advice which would be my recommendation to anyone who takes this test and who discovers they are in the lower categories.
City Assay Test
Department Of Clinical Biochemistry
0121 507 4278