Why you need to take vitamin D this winter
Ok, so summer is officially over here in the UK. Now is a great time to start thinking about your vitamin D levels. I’m sure we have all heard about vitamin D and its benefits, especially in the last 12 months or so.
There is a lot of research out there showing the link between low vitamin D and severity of covid-19. One 2020 study concluded that;
‘’Vitamin D reduces the severity of COVID-19 in regards to pneumonia/ARDS, inflammation, inflammatory cytokines and thrombosis, it is our opinion that supplements would offer a relatively easy option to decrease the impact of the pandemic.’’
Scotland is already offering free vitamin D supplements to those shielding and England could follow suit.
The current recommendation from The Department of Health and Public Health England (PHE) is that adults and children over the age of one should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms (µg) of vitamin D (400 IU) between October and March.
So, do you have your vitamin D ready? If not, carry on reading…
Vitamin D 101 – all you need to know
Vitamin D is a truly important vitamin and should not be neglected. Below are just some of the effects that vitamin D has on your body:
Bone health: Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. These nutrients are needed to keep bones, teeth, and muscles healthy. Preventing osteoporosis in later life and rickets in children etc.
Immune system health: Vitamin D plays a role in helping your immune system destroy pathogens and bugs from the environment.
Covid 19: Research links intensive care unit coronavirus patients with low levels of vitamin D.
Mood: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): this can affect some individuals during the months when there is less sunshine leading to symptoms of depression. This is linked to a drop in Vitamin D levels.
So how do we get vitamin D?
Sunshine is the main natural source of vitamin D and we get around 80% of our needs that way and only around 20% comes from food.
Vitamin D is sometimes called the ‘sunshine vitamin’ as your body makes vitamin D under the skin when you are outside in daylight. However, up to 50% of the world's population may not get enough sun! Especially those in the northern hemisphere – us in the UK included.
For the majority of the population, the government (PHE) recommends 15 minutes outdoors in the sun (without sunscreen on), between 11am and 3pm in the summer, with arms and legs and face exposed.
The UVB rays that stimulate the production of vitamin D do not pass through the glass, so you must be outdoors. Also, using sunbeds isn't a recommended way of making vitamin D. However, In the UK, between October and early March, we don't get enough vitamin D from sunlight.
Between October and March, the angle of the sun is too low for enough UVB rays to reach the earth’s surface and start the production of vitamin D under our skin. So, we have to rely on the reserves of vitamin D that our body has stored up during the summer months to keep us going.
What can be done?
As mentioned, the current recommendation from The Department of Health and Public Health England (PHE) is that adults and children over the age of one should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms (µg) of vitamin D sometimes expressed as 400 IU between October and March.
The Department of Health also recommends that people (listed below) who have a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency take 10 µg of vitamin D all year round:
- those with dark skin from African, African-Caribbean and South Asian backgrounds because their bodies are less able to produce vitamin D
- those who aren't often outdoors – for example, if you're frail or housebound
- those who are in an institution like a care home
- those who usually wear clothes that cover up most of their skin when outdoors for cultural reasons
So how to get vitamin D in the winter?
As mentioned above, only 20% of vitamin D comes from food. The main food source of vitamin D is fish. Oily fish in particular; salmon, maceral, sardines, anchovies etc.
NHS recommends eating two portions of fish a week (140g each) one of those portions should be oily fish… don’t shoot the messenger non-fish eaters!
We also find vitamin D (not much though) in:
- egg yolk (eggs enriched with vitamin D has 10 x more vitamin D than normal eggs)
- red meat, liver in particular
- some cheeses
- mushrooms (ones exposed to UVB light or left in sunlight for two hours)
- fortified milk (can be bought at most supermarkets)
- fortified breakfast cereals (can be bought at most supermarkets)
To help you eat more vitamin D foods this winter, here are my three vitamin D reach meals for you.
If you don't like fish, taking cod liver oil will help you get your vitamin D. But you need to take a sufficient dose. Taking one tablet is not always enough – we need to get 400 IU that’s a bare minimum!
Another great way to top up our vitamin D reserves is a vitamin D supplement.
My suggestion: always buy vitamin D in liquid form instead of a tablet. Also, look for vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) instead of D2 (ergocalciferol) form. D3 is much easier for your body to absorb and will get into your system much quicker than the D2 form.
So this week, head to your local health food shop (or the internet) and get yourself and your loved ones a good vitamin D, if you haven’t already.
If you need help choosing your vitamin D, let me know so I can send you my favourite good and trusted source of vitamin D3.
Stay well, stay healthy.
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