You might have heard all the vitamin D advice under the sun. From promoting healthy bones to Covid-19 protection, it really seems like we’re talking about the alpha leader of the vitamin pack. There is so much info out there that you might be asking yourself, why isn’t there a simple answer?!
We all want to look and feel healthy, so we’re aiming to shed some light on why this sunshine vitamin is so important to your health and if it’s realistic to rely on your diet for your daily dose.
In general, you can’t just sit around expecting your body to magically create these babies. It’s just not going to happen. Your body relies on external sources to get it’s daily hit. Once you’ve metabolised the vitamin, it can then get to work and here are some of the reasons why it’s always the winning employee of the month!
VITAMIN D – What it’s capable of
Research suggests that vitamin D could alleviate symptoms of depression, help with lack of sleep, strengthen your immune system and so much more. While these studies are gaining the spotlight, its BIGGEST function is linked to bone health.
It’s easy to forget, but this discovery is what lead to its initial fame. By regulating calcium and phosphate levels, vitamin D is responsible for mineralising your skeleton, which is critical for strong and healthy bones throughout your life. This is why the UK Department of Health recommends daily vitamin D supplements for babies to ensure strong and healthy bones from the very start.
Vitamin D deficiency
The recommended daily intake of vitamin D is 10-20 micrograms (400 – 800 IU) for adults, yet many Brits keep falling short.
While severe deficiency can lead to rickets, this disease is now well controlled.
Mild deficiency is still a cause for concern as it leads to other conditions and injuries which can easily slip under the radar, such as osteoporosis.
With fragile bones come bodily pains and muscle weakness, which means you’re more likely to fall and experience fractures.
The reason we’re talking about vitamin D now is because many of us have spent so much time isolated indoors during lockdown. Experts also believe that Vitamin D could help protect us from respiratory tract infection.
Adrian Martineau, a professor of respiratory infection and immunity in London says:
“Vitamin D could almost be thought of as a designer drug for helping the body to handle viral respiratory infections […] It boosts the ability of cells to kill and resist viruses and simultaneously dampens down harmful inflammation, which is one of the big problems with Covid.”
With Covid-19 looming in the background, those sunny holidays abroad might be put on hold, so where can we get vitamin D from?
On average we get 90% vitamin D from the sun and only 10% from our food.
Food, sun and supplements.
The foods that contain the highest levels of vitamin D include eggs, fish and dairy products such as fortified cow’s milk and cheese.
Fish are the clear winners here. A portion of salmon, mackerel or herring packs 10-20mg of vitamin D, but the majority of these foods still fall short. Egg yolks for example contain 1.5mg, so you’d need to eat 6-7 eggs to reach the recommended intake!
When exposed to the sun, your skin absorbs UV rays to manufacture its own vitamin D, but with a thinning ozone layer we’re facing a modern day paradox. It’s super important to use sun cream and protect your skin from direct sunlight to avoid premature aging and reduce cancer risks.
So what’s the right balance? It’s simple. From April – September you can get enough vitamin D with roughly an hour of direct sunlight per week! That’s about 10 minutes a day.
When it’s cold out, you might think you could sit behind a window and reap the benefits. Nope. The UVB rays can’t get through and your skin won’t work its magic.
Many people um and ah about supplementing their diet but in this case supplements are just as good as sun-exposure and much better than a standard diet. The benefit here is that, when sun-rays are limited in winter you’re able to maintain your daily requirement of vitamin D.
There are many doses and brands on the market and overloading on vitamin D can also be toxic, so it’s always best to speak to a health & wellness specialist beforehand.
As we get older, vitamin D is an even bigger game changer.
We’re an aging population and, at Spinal Care Clinics in Brentwood, we’re seeing more and more age-related bone diseases such as arthritis and osteoporosis. For anyone suffering from such conditions, you’ll know it’s no fun! It can be painful and increase your chances of sustaining other injuries.
As we get older our skin becomes thinner and more prone to burning in sunlight so reaching your daily vitamin D levels through a healthy, balanced diet or with supplements is high priority.
The take home message here is the following. Your dazzling body relies on lifestyle choices, such as diet and environment, for essential processes like hardening your bones and immune system. That’s impressive but your body is no powerbank. It can’t really store Vitamin D and supplements are the most reliable way to keep your levels in check.