Vitamin D deficiency: The amount of sunlight you need every day to avoid symptoms

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With summer drawing to a close, the amount of time we spend outside and in the sun is likely to reduce. For those low on vitamin D, this could be a cause for concern.

Vitamin D is vital in keeping bones, teeth and muscles healthy.

This naturally occurring vitamin is often known as “the sunshine vitamin” because the sun is one of the best sources of vitamin D.

However, the sun is not the only place this nutrient naturally occurs.

What are the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency?

A vitamin D deficiency is usually determined with a blood test for calcium and phosphate levels and liver function.

However, there are some signs and symptoms you may begin to experience if you are suffering from an undiagnosed deficiency.

Symptoms include:

  • Frequently feeling unwell, or picking up viruses or infections
  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Bone and back pain
  • Depression
  • Impaired wound healing
  • Hair loss
  • Muscle pain

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How much sunlight do you need daily to avoid vitamin D deficiency?

Sunlight is one of the best natural sources of vitamin D.

According to the NHS, people in the UK get the most vitamin D from sunlight between late March and the end of September.

The NHS states: “Most people can make enough vitamin D from being out in the sun daily for short periods with their forearms, hands or lower legs uncovered and without sunscreen from late March or early April to the end of September, especially from 11am to 3pm.”

However, those who are enjoying the sun are encouraged not to burn and to protect their skin using sunscreen throughout the year.

Sitting indoors by a sunny window will not increase vitamin D levels, as the Ultraviolet B rays needed for nutrient production are unable to penetrate the glass.

In the UK winter months, sunlight does not contain enough UVB rays to make vitamin D.

What other natural sources of Vitamin D are there?

Although the winter months are void of enough sunlight for vitamin D production, there are other natural ways of boosting your intake.

Certain foods are high in vitamin D, and it is encouraged people try to up their consumption of these items during the winter months.

Food items rich in vitamin D include fatty fish and seafood such as tuna, mackerel, shrimp, oysters and sardines.

Vitamin D can also be found in mushrooms, egg yolks and fortified foods including plant-based milk alternatives, certain cereals and yoghurts, and tofu.

You can check if a food has been fortified by reading its label.

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Are there any other ways to boost your vitamin D intake?

Supplements are another way to boost your vitamin D intake if nutrient-rich foods aren’t something you can incorporate into your diet.

Vitamin D exists in two forms, D2 which comes from plants and D3 from animals.

Research suggests D3 may be more effective at raising vitamin D levels.

Vitamin D supplements can be bought from most pharmacies, supermarkets and health food stores, but it is important consumers are aware of what they are purchasing.

For most people, a dosage of between 1,000 and 4,000 IU (international units of vitamin D) is considered a safe daily dose.

Alternatively, UV lamps can also be a helpful way of boosting vitamin D.

When the skin is exposed to the UV-B radiation pumped out by these lamps, it mimics the action of the sun and increases vitamin D production.

However, it is important not to spend too long in front of these devices as they can be dangerous. Experts recommend spending no more than 15 minutes at a time in front of a UV lamp.

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