We are now well and truly into Autumn, which means that our days are getting shorter and and we will start seeing less and less daylight as we progress into Winter, which leaves the question everyone’s asking – “Are we getting enough Vitamin D?”
Research over the last few years has indicated that a large percentage of the world’s population is low in vitamin D and a recent study showed that 1 in 5 people have a vitamin D deficiency.
So how do we get Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is also known as the ‘Sunshine Vitamin’ as we get the majority of our vitamin D from sunlight. When our skin is exposed to ultraviolet-B radiation (UVB), the sun’s energy is absorbed through the skin and carried to your liver and kidneys, where it is converted into the highly metabolically active form of vitamin D, called calcitriol. This is no longer considered a vitamin but rather a steroid hormone. This in turn helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in our bodies.
Vitamin D has a number of benefits:
- Vital for healthy and strong bones, teeth and muscles
- Improves brain development and function
- Reduce inflammation and supports the immune system
But, during Autumn and Winter, the sunlight in the UK doesn’t contain enough UVB radiation, meaning our bodies are not able to make vitamin D during these months. When you don’t get enough vitamin D, this can lead to deficiencies and put you at a higher risk of bone abnormalities, such as rickets in children, which has seen a large increase over the last 5 years.
What are the signs of Vitamin D Deficiency?
- Tiredness, aches and pains, and a general sense of not feeling well
- Poor bone or tooth health
- Severe bone or muscle pain or weakness that may cause difficulty walking, climbing stairs or getting up from a low chair
- Stress fractures, especially in your legs, pelvis, and hips in severe cases
So how much Vitamin D do we need?
The amount of vitamin D we need is slightly controversial, however, Public Health England guidelines recently recommended that everyone gets 10 micrograms per day; although we need to remember that everyone is unique and that we all absorb vitamin D at different rates.
It is still uncertain how much sunlight you actually need to be exposed to to reach the recommended level, so this means we need to rely on getting our Vitamin D from good food sources and sometimes even supplements during these months.
How to keep your levels topped up?
The best way to obtain optimal vitamin levels is through your diet, but this can prove hard when it comes to Vitamin D as it is found only in a small number of foods and the levels differ between these foods, but making sure you eat a varied and nutritious diet should help.
Key food sources include:
- Fortified foods such as cereals
- Fortified milks such as soya or almond milk
- Egg yolks
- Oily Fish such as salmon
While supplementation is widely recommended, it is unique to each person and other components such as dosage and ingredients can vary. Misinformation means that people self-diagnose and start taking high levels of Vitamin D, when they may not need it.
While most people are familiar with the importance of Vitamin D, unfortunately, it is not common knowledge, that supplementing with, or getting an adequate amount of Vitamin K2 in the diet is just as important.
To explain it simply: Vitamin D and Vitamin K2 work together as a team and exist in a delicate balance. Vitamin D helps regulate and increase calcium in the body while Vitamin K2 helps our body to use the calcium and ‘sends’ it to our bones. There is a similar relationship between Vitamin D and Vitamin A and magnesium too. They all work together synergistically. This in turn can result in a Calcium excess and a Magnesium deficit, which can actually result in further, more serious problems for your health such as calcium deposits in the soft tissues.
While this may sound confusing, the simple fact is…
Always speak with a nutritionist or GP before taking any specific, high dose supplements. Instead, why not think about taking a good quality multivitamin that would be beneficial to your overall health and wellbeing.
The bottom line
- Everyone is different and everyone is unique.
- Avoid self diagnosing, and avoid overdosing on vitamins. Moderation is key.
- Always try and get your nutrients straight from your food. Eat a varied and healthy diet.
- If you think you might have low Vitamin D levels then speak to a nutritionist, or your GP for testing.
- Take a good quality multivitamin for overall health and wellbeing.
- Get outside!