There has recently been a lot of discussion regarding the importance of getting enough Vitamin D.
Often referred to the ‘sunshine vitamin’, there are very few foods which naturally contain Vitamin D so we tend to rely on getting our intake from sunlight. However, at certain times of the year in the UK sunlight is in short supply and the sun’s rays don’t contain enough UVB radiation for our skin to be able to make Vitamin D. Therefore, we have to ensure we are getting enough from the food we eat and/or from supplements instead.
For many of us, despite some recent lovely weather here in the UK, our lives have taken a shift and we may have been outside far less as our movements became limited throughout ‘lock-down’. For many months, our work, family and social lives have also been far more constrained to the confines of our house. This could mean that taking a Vitamin D supplement is necessary for many more of us.
Vitamin D is vital for several important bodily functions from supporting strong and healthy bones to maintaining a strong immune system to help our bodies fight off pathogens, which are the viruses, bacteria, and foreign bodies that cause infection or disease. Vitamin D can also help to regulate our systems and improve brain function – perfect to keep us focused if we are still WFH at the moment!
How does our body get Vitamin D from sunlight?
When UV-B sunshine rays land on the skin, they are absorbed and then converted into vitamin D3.
In order for your skin to convert these UV-B rays into the Vitamin D3 that we need, experts say that it needs to be exposed to direct sunlight (without sunscreen) between the hours of 10am to 3pm for around 10-30 minutes depending on the levels of melanin in the skin. However, it is also important to ensure you are being careful not to overexpose yourself to the sun and use sun protection when necessary.
How do I know if I am deficient in Vitamin D?
Recent studies have shown that 1 in 5 people in the UK don’t have sufficient Vitamin D levels and most people don’t even realise they have a deficiency. Most of the signs that you might have a Vitamin D deficiency are not always easy to notice as they can be associated with other potential health issues. It is worth looking at your diet to ensure you are getting enough Vitamin D as it could help you to maintain a healthy body throughout the year.
Below are some of the common symptoms of a deficiency:
- Painful bones and back
- Depressed mood
- Hair loss
- Muscles pain
- Weakened immune system (so you are frequently ill)
- Inflammation and swelling
- Trouble sleeping
So how much do I need to take daily in order to be balanced?
Government guidelines recommend you take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D throughout the year if you don’t get a lot of sunlight, or if you usually stay covered up.
Although this doesn’t sound like much, many of the regular foods that we eat don’t contribute significantly to our recommended daily Vitamin D intake. For example, you would have to eat 10 eggs a day to get enough… and we’re not sure we fancy that!
If you eat plenty of Vitamin D rich foods like oily fish, egg yolk, meat and fortified products like margarine, some breakfast cereals and yoghurts and you ensure that you get enough sensible sun exposure, you should be able to reach your recommended requirement. However, it is recommended by many health authorities to take daily supplements to make sure you get enough, especially around Autumn and Winter.
It can be even harder for vegans and vegetarians because the type of Vitamin D we need, Vitamin D3, is found pretty much solely in animal products. However, fortified plant-based milk along with fortified orange juice and fortified cereals can help.
Read more via the NHS website here.