Dr Ellie on why people should be taking Vitamin D supplements
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Just days before Christmas we reach another important date in the UK – the shortest day of the year. Today (December 21) we will experience just seven hours and 49 minutes of daylight. While for many of us this will seem like just another potentially gloomy winter’s day, it could have an impact on our health.
This is because we rely on sunlight for much of our vitamin D intake.
GP for health and wellbeing app Evergreen Life, Doctor Brian Fisher, spoke exclusively with Express.co.uk to explain more.
What is vitamin D needed for?
“We already know vitamin D is important for muscles, bone and teeth, but we’re now learning how important it may be to our overall health, especially to our immune health,” Doctor Fisher said.
“The activated form of vitamin D interacts with most cells in your body and plays a crucial role in keeping you healthy. Its role is well understood for healthy bones, muscles and teeth.
“Evidence is accumulating which indicates that vitamin D may contribute to other aspects of health, too. Further studies are needed to confirm.”
He said that research suggests it may also help maintain:
- Energy levels
- A strong immune system (evidence suggests vitamin D is antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory)
- A healthy barrier function, such as along the lining of the gut, respiratory tract, blood vessels and skin.
Signs of a vitamin D deficiency
He warned: “Vitamin D deficiency isn’t always easy to notice, as most people with suboptimal or deficient levels experience no symptoms at all.
“Severe deficiency can cause rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.”
Signs of rickets in children:
- Skeletal deformities – children with rickets may have thickening of the ankles, wrists and knees, in severe cases bowlegs, soft skull bones and, rarely, bending of the spine
- Weakened and painful bones – in severe cases, bones may be more prone to fractures, and children may not want to walk and may waddle
- Tiredness – children with rickets may tire easily
- Poor growth – children with rickets may grow up to be shorter than average
- Poor dental health – including weakened tooth enamel, cavities and delayed tooth eruption.
And children with severe vitamin D deficiency may show bowing of the legs (where the knees curve outwards even when the ankles are together).
In adults symptoms can include:
- Tenderness of the breastbone or shin bone
- Bone and muscle pain
- Poor gut health
- Poor sleep
- Weight gain
- Low back pain
- Poor wound healing
- Frequent infections
- Poor skin (psoriasis and eczema)
- Low mood
- Hair loss.
Where to get vitamin D
Doctor Fisher said: “By the end of winter, the body’s vitamin D reserves, built up during the summer months, have been exhausted.”
He shared his tips on replenishing these reserves.
Get some sun – Depending on the time of day, month, and your location, there might not be enough UVB to produce vitamin D.
Most of us simply aren’t getting enough, especially here in the UK. Sensible sun exposure, particularly between 10am and 3pm, produces vitamin D in the skin that may last twice as long in your blood compared with vitamin D from supplements.
To make vitamin D, the sun must be high in the sky and this doesn’t happen in the UK between October and March. The shadow rule can help us work out whether the sun is in the right position to produce vitamin D.
Take supplements – In the UK, from October to mid to late March, it’s necessary for most people to take supplements.
Vitamin D supplements are safe and inexpensive (compared with drugs) but bear in mind that vitamin D is fat soluble so any supplement is best taken with food containing fat to support absorption, which may affect you if you’re on a low-fat diet.
Diet – Foods containing vitamin D aren’t usually enough to meet most people’s needs on their own, but they’re still excellent foods to include, especially as they also provide “co-nutrients” that support the absorption and function of vitamin D in your body
Vitamin D is found in:
- Oily fish
- Egg yolks
- Liver and red meat
- Fish oil supplements like cod liver oil
- Some fortified cereals and milk.
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