Updated: May 8
It's called the 'Sunshine Vitamin' for good reasons as unless you are living in tropical climates you simply aren't getting enough. So what is it and what makes the sunshine vitamin so important? Read on to find out....
What it is?
Vitamin D despite its name is not a vitamin, but is a prohormone, or precursor of a hormone. However it is a fat soluable vitamin and is considered to be one of the essential vitamin our bodies need to maintain optimum levels of health. It is made naturally from direct sunlight on our skin when we are outdoors. In the UK during spring and summer, weather permitting, from april through to september most people can get all the vitamin D they need without spending too much time in the sun.
However, as we spend a large amount of our life living under overcast and cloudy skies and working indoors, it has never been easy getting all the sunshine vitamin that we need (its estimated over 90% of the population). Now with our time outside severly restricted to one hour daily exercise and essential activities due to the coronavirus or covid-19, its become harder than ever to naturally geting the correct levels.
What it does
It is essential that your body has vitamin D as it is vital to regulating and absorbing calcium and phosporous which is important for normal growth and development of bones and teeth, facilitating normal immune system functions and like some studies have shown. A lack of vitamin D can lead to bone deformities such as rickets in children and soften (weaken) the bones in adults. It also aid in improved resistence against certain diseases i.e. cardiovascular, diabetics, some skin conditions and even cancers.
How much sunlight do I need?
Not that we need an excuse to soak up some sun rays but some studies suggest that for people of european and lighter skin tones 10 to15 minutes between late morning and early afternoon during the months from april to september is the best time to get the required amount of UVB exposure to meet requirement. Exposed bare arms, legs, or back is all you need, as sunscreen acts as a barrier to the sun rays. And if you do longer always wear a good sunscreen for protection.
Darker skintone may require much longer than this as melanin, which gives skin its colour lowers the skin's ability to make vitamin D in response to sunlight exposure.
How do I know if I am deficient?
Although some of the symptons might be confused with other ailments, signs to look out for are:
* Muscle pain and weakness
* Poor concentration
* Restless sleep
* Weight gain
* If you're feeling that you may be lacking, or unsure consult your GP who can do a blood test to check your levels.
Who is at risk?
* If you have darker skin tone, African, African Caribbean, or Asians
* Infants and children up to the age of five
* Pregnant and breast feeding women
* The elderly and those housebound not spending enough time outdoors
* People who spend a lot of time working indoors or covering their skin
Is Supplements safe and how much should I take?
According to professional guidelines...
* Babies from birth to one who are breastfed should be given a daily supplement or vitamin drops containing 8.5 to 10 micrograms of vitamin D to make sure they get enough. Babies who are formula fed should not be given supplement as their formula is already fortified with vitamin D.
* Children aged 1 to 5 years old should be given a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D
* In our current cirumstances as we are spending the majority of our time indoors,
it may be a good idea that adults and teenagers consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D until the present crisis is passed, ( always consult your GP if you feel uncertain).
* All adults and teenagers of a darkerskintone who must have much more sunlight due to the melanin in their skin should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D throughout the year.
Products to try....
All from Holland & Barrett Health Stores. These are not paid product placements.
Holland & Barrett Vitamin D3 Spray £9.99 Nature's Garden Fast Acting Liquid Vitamin D3
Holland & Barrett Mushroom Vegan Vitamin D Capsules Holland & Barrett D3 Tablets £19.99 £8.99
Can I take too much Vitamin D supplements?
* Although rare, taking too much vitamin D over a long period of time can cause a build up of calcium in the body and its advisable that you do not take more than 100 micrograms of vitamin D a day as it could be harmful. This applies to adults, including pregnant and breastfeeding women and the elderly, and children aged 11 to 17 years.
* If you have a medical condition consult your GP before taking any supplement, this includes vitamin D.
* Do not increase the dosage of vitamin D to children or infants than the recommended amount. Again it is advisable to speak to your GP and follow their advise.
For much of the year we rely on our diet as a soucre of getting vitamin D you can play a role in upping your levels of vitamin D by adding foods that are good soucres of the vitamin:
Good Sources include:
* oily fish – salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines
* red meats
* eggs yolks
* Fortified foods; such as most fats and breakfast cereals
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