DEBBIE MURPHY COLUMN: Take measures to top up the sunshine vitamin

With an awful lot of recent discussions in the media about Vitamin D, I thought an article covering this essential vitamin may be helpful for us all, writes Debbie Murphy.

By Janet Bew (edited by)
Thursday, 27th January 2022, 9:38 am
Updated Thursday, 27th January 2022, 9:40 am
Vitamin D is essential for our bones, muscles and teeth
Vitamin D is essential for our bones, muscles and teeth

We are just about halfway through the dark winter months, and this may be another reason for thinking about Vitamin D right now.

And why is that? Because a large source of it comes from the sun.

The government advice is that we should all consider some sort of Vitamin D supplement during the colder seasons as our bodies can find it difficult to get adequate amounts from the sunlight during this time.

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But how much should we take and what happens if we don’t get enough?

Let’s cover the basics:

Vitamin D has an important job of regulating the calcium and phosphate in our bodies. Without it, our bone, muscles and dental health can all be affected, so a lack can be detrimental to many systems in our bodies.

In some severe cases, a deficiency can lead to conditions such as rickets (in children) and osteomalacia in adults (bone pain).

Symptoms of a deficiency in Vitamin D are sometimes hard to spot, as they are quite vague, such as tiredness, general aches and pains, which can be prevalent in a busy life anyway!

If you are concerned though, you can get a Vitamin D check done, if your GP thinks you need it, or you can pay for a private check, which can be done via an easy finger prick test in the post.

During the spring and summer, the body should be able to create the Vitamin D it needs from the sunlight, and we also can get some Vitamin D from our diet, but when we are outside less and days are shorter, we may find a supplement quite useful.

How much you need is quite a debatable subject, but the latest guidelines from the NHS would suggest a supplement of 10mg or 400IU a day is adequate.

Infants and young children should not be left out here, and if you visit www.healthystart.nhs.uk you will see if you are entitled to free supplements for your child.

You can buy Vitamin D drops and supplements for children but ALWAYS refer to the packaging and don’t exceed the amount advised.

You can try to increase your Vitamin D by eating lots of food that provides a source of it. These are foods such as oily fish (mackerel, salmon, sardines), red meat (in moderation), liver, egg yolks and fortified cereals and milk.

Regular cow’s milk is not usually fortified with Vitamin D, so it’s worth sourcing a milk/milk alternative if you want to help increase this vitamin in your diet.

Can you take too much Vitamin D? Yes! There are some products and influencers on social media that could tempt you into taking more Vitamin D for a number of health claims, but beware. If you take excess Vitamin D over a long period of time it can cause a build-up of too much calcium, which can actually weaken bones and damage the heart.

There are some reports currently that suggest Vitamin D may help reduce the risk of coronavirus, suggesting it can improve symptoms or even reduce the risk of contracting it. However, the general advice from reputable sources shows there is still not enough evidence to support these claims.

Following advice on supplements from the Government, eating a varied diet with plenty of brightly coloured vegetables and fruit, keeping active and getting fresh air when you can, will all help keep your Vitamin D topped up, for you to be at your best.

Think about your diet and lifestyle a little, we don’t know what’s round the corner, but we can be prepared for it!