31 May 2020
Compared to other vitamins which we absorb primarily from food sources, vitamin D is a bit of an odd duck. What makes it so unique is that our bodies actually create vitamin D through sun exposure. When the cholesterol in our skin cells is exposed to the sun’s UVB rays, a conversion occurs which produces vitamin D3. Voila! Just like that, we’re all set for the day.
But of course, the downfall of this system is that we don’t always get enough sunshine, and vitamin D only lasts for so long in the body before we need more of it. With that in mind, let’s take a look at why we need vitamin D, how much we need, and how to get more of it.
Indoors and Vitamin D
Summer is prime vitamin D season, but with many of us forced to spend more time indoors than we usually would, there’s a real risk of people around the country missing out on the sunshine hours they need.
For this reason, it’s currently recommended that adults take 10micrograms of vitamin D per day if they are not able to regularly access safe outdoor space.
What Is Vitamin D?
We’ve covered how our body creates vitamin D, but what does it actually do that makes it so important? Well, vitamin D plays an important role in regulating how much calcium and phosphate is circulating the body at any one time. Calcium and phosphate are nutrients that keep our teeth, bones and muscles at their prime.
Ultimately, without vitamin D, we’re at higher risk of developing bone conditions such as osteomalacia and osteoporosis in adults, or rickets in children.
Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include bone, muscle and back pain, fatigue, tiredness, depression and more. We think you’ll agree, making sure we’re all getting enough vitamin D is pretty important!
Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D?
The big questions then, is are you getting enough vitamin D right now? Well, the good news is that from April- September, most of the UK gets enough sunlight to keep our vitamin D levels in check. But even during the summer months, you might still be at risk depending on the sunlight levels where you live, as well as your habits and physical characteristics.
- Don’t spend much time outdoors
- Are usually fully covered when you’re outdoors
- Have dark skin
While the first two might be fairly self-explanatory, the last one may need some explanation. Darker skin tones have been shown to need longer periods of sun exposure before the process of UVB to vitamin D occurs. To be on the safe side, it’s worth taking a supplement if you are in this category.
Vitamin D During Winter
From October – March, the sun levels in the UK are too low for most of us to get an adequate amount of vitamin D. And while there are edible sources of vitamin D, the chances are that you’re not eating enough of them to keep your levels high.
Sources of vitamin D from food include:
- Red meat
- Egg yolks
- Oily fish including salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel
There are also some foods which have been fortified with vitamin D, including some breakfast cereals and fat spreads.
Unless you have a diet particularly high in the above, the advice is to take a daily vitamin D supplement.
How Much Sun Exposure Is Optimal?
One of the difficult aspects of knowing whether you’re getting enough vitamin D is that we don’t actually know how much sun exposure we need per day to fulfil our quota. Even if there was a defined amount of time spent in the sun we needed, it would still be impossible to apply this to the whole population.
Factors such as location, cloud coverage, skin tone and clothing can all impact how much vitamin D is produced in an individual. Estimates range from as little as 15 minutes in full sun for a person with light skin, to a few hours for darker skin tones.
What we do know is that ideally, we should all be getting some time in the sun on a daily basis.
Sunscreen and Vitamin D
As its the trigger of the sun’s UV rays that allow our body to create vitamin D, many people have questioned whether sunscreen use might lead to a deficiency. So far, the research doesn’t show any evidence that people who use sunscreen regularly are at risk of developing a vitamin D deficiency.
Another important consideration is that the risks that come with too much sun exposure outweigh the risks of being low in vitamin D. Once you take into account that its possible to top up your vitamin D through supplements, the use of sunscreen is an absolute no-brainer – you don’t have to choose one or the other.
Vitamin D Boosters
If you’re looking for easy ways to improve your vitamin D levels on overcast days or when you’re stuck indoors, we have a few options that can help.
A great all-in-one multivitamin, Perfectil Platinum is packed with beneficial nutrients including vitamin D, C, E, B2, B3 and B12 among a host of others. This will do much more than just improve your bone health, its fantastic for skin, hair and nails too!
A highly concentrated supplement which includes vitamins D and C, Omega 3 Gold is also high in sustainably sourced omega 3 fatty acids and contains a premium turmeric extract with 95% curcuminoids.
CBD is well known for its anti-inflammatory properties, making it a great base for any immune-supporting supplement. The ginger, turmeric and papain in Vitality CBD reduce pain and inflammation, while vitamin D keeps your bone structure healthy and strong.