Vitamin D is a vital nutrient that regulates calcium in the body to maintain healthy bones, teeth and muscles. Vitamin D is found in food and sunlight, sunlight is the primary source of this vitamin and exposure to the sun is how we get the most absorption. This is why it’s known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’ as our levels are highest during the summer months when we’re exposed to more of the sun’s UVB rays.
Some people can become vitamin D deficient through lack of exposure to the sun or not eating foods which are rich in vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to weak and deformed bones. For those who are at risk of a vitamin D deficiency, supplements may be necessary to prevent this.
“Vitamin D is an important nutrient for bone, teeth, and muscle health. It’s very common for UK people to be vitamin D deficient due to a lifestyle of limited sun exposure or unhealthy diet. However, many people do not know they’re vitamin D deficient. Your health may be suffering as a result of this so it’s important to see your GP about getting your levels checked. Some people are at a greater risk of becoming vitamin D deficient, particularly vegans as there is not enough of this nutrient in their diet. In these cases supplements may be required to prevent deficiency.”
What does vitamin D do?
Vitamin D is a nutrient that the body needs to grow bones, teeth and muscles and keeps them healthy and strong. It does this by regulating calcium and phosphate in the body. When the body absorbs vitamin D it is converted into a hormone. The way in which we get vitamin D into the body is through sunlight, food and supplements.
We get most of the absorption from the sun, during times of the year when there is more sunlight. Between the months of March to September we get most of our vitamin D and this usually gives us enough to keep our bones, teeth and muscles healthy throughout the year as there is a lack of sunlight from October to February. Vitamin D is also found in foods such as oily fish, red meat, liver, and egg yolks.
However, the amount of vitamin D you get all depends on how much time you spend outdoors in the sunlight or whether you’re eating enough of the foods that contain vitamin D. Not getting enough vitamin D can have negative consequences for your health. Vitamin D deficiency is a common problem due to not eating a balanced diet and not getting enough sun exposure. Working indoors for long hours as many of us do is not giving us the nutrients we need for a strong immune system and healthy, bones, teeth and muscles.
What is vitamin D deficiency?
Vitamin D deficiency is a lack of vitamin D due to limited exposure to the sun or not eating enough of the foods which contain this nutrient. Not absorbing enough vitamin D poses a range of health problems, particularly to the strength and development of bones. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to bone and skeletal deformities and diseases such as rickets which affects bone development in children making the bones soft, weak, and deformed. Bone pain and back pain have also been associated with vitamin D deficiency.
As vitamin D helps with muscle strength, a lack of this nutrient can cause weakened muscles. Weakened bones and muscles can cause serious injuries such as fractures if you were to fall. If you have low levels of vitamin D you may also feel tired more often and get sick regularly as another important function of vitamin D is boosting your immune system and fighting off infection.
Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to more serious conditions such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and cognitive impairment in the elderly such as dementia. It’s important to get enough vitamin D into the body to improve your overall health.
Many people do not realise they have a vitamin D deficiency and this may be an explanation to some of their health problems.
How to increase your Vitamin D levels
Increasing the amount of oily fish in your diet will help to increase vitamin D levels, however, you will not get enough of this nutrient just by eating the right foods. Food does not give as much vitamin D as the sun does, so increasing your time spent outdoors is one of the best ways of getting this vitamin into your body. Vitamin D comes from the UVB rays from the sun, and UVB rays are at their highest intensity in the afternoon when the sun is at its highest point, so taking a stroll during this time each day will provide your body with enough vitamin D.
If you’re not able to get outdoors in the sun regularly or your diet doesn’t provide you with a sufficient amount of vitamin D, you can get your dose in supplement form.
Vitamin D supplements
Vitamin D may be necessary during the winter months when there is little sun exposure. Supplements may be particularly beneficial for those who are at risk of developing a deficiency such as vegans whose diet does not contain enough vitamin D. The effectiveness of supplements have been debated, with some believing that those who take supplements have improved health compared to those who don’t. However, for those who are at risk of low vitamin D levels it is worth taking supplements. If you know you’re at risk of a deficiency, for instance, if you’re vegan, elderly, diabetic, or obese, supplements can help to prevent vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D supplements are taken daily and are passed from the liver to the kidneys where it is converted into calcitriol (hormone) and released into the cells to regulate calcium and phosphate.
Vitamin D has a vital role in your health, and is one of the most important vitamin supplements you will take. Having normal levels of vitamin D prevents illnesses associated with a deficiency and maintains healthy bones, teeth and muscles, as well as boosting your immune system.