Vitamin D – Sunshine in a Bottle!

Vitamin D is nicknamed the “sunshine vitamin” because our bodies synthesise it when our skin is exposed to sunlight. But here in the UK, the sun isn’t strong enough for most people to make adequate vitamin D from October to March. That’s why supplements are vital for health.

Vitamin D helps us absorb calcium for strong bones and teeth. It also supports muscle function and immune health. Babies, children, pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers have particular vitamin D needs. Certain groups are at high risk for deficiency and require diligent supplementation.

Why Vitamin D Matters

  • Promotes calcium absorption for bone health
  • Supports muscle function
  • Bolsters immunity
  • Needed for growth and development in babies and children

Unlike other vitamins, our bodies can synthesise vitamin D from sunlight. But the UK only gets strong enough sunlight from April to September. Diet alone doesn’t provide what we require. Oily fish, egg yolks, and fortified cereals contain some, but not enough.

Government guidelines say everyone should take 10 micrograms of supplemental vitamin D daily from October to March. Those at high risk require it year-round. Deficiency causes bone diseases like rickets, osteoporosis, and osteomalacia. You can test yourself at home with a Vitamin D Deficiency Test Kit if you are unsure about your levels.

At-Risk Groups Need More

Certain populations are prone to vitamin D deficiency and need diligent supplementation:

  • Darker skinned individuals, who produce less vitamin D from sun exposure
  • Those who cover skin for cultural reasons, limiting sun exposure
  • Babies and children under 5 years, who require it for growth
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women, who need extra for fetal and infant development
  • Institutionalised elderly, who get limited outdoor time
  • People with minimal sun exposure:
    • Homebound individuals
    • Those in long-term care facilities
    • Those working night shifts

Breastfed infants require supplementation from birth to 12 months. Babies on formula don’t need added vitamin D if they consume 500ml daily. Kids 1-4 years need it year-round to meet needs of rapid growth.

How Much Do We Need?

  • Infants 0-12 months: 8.5-10 micrograms
  • Children 1-4 years: 10 micrograms
  • Adults: 10 micrograms from October to March

Pregnant and breastfeeding women require higher doses tailored to their needs and should consult their doctor.

Higher doses up to 25 micrograms are safe for most. Blood tests can check levels in those with deficiency symptoms like bone pain, muscle weakness, or growth issues. But most people don’t need screening if they supplement properly.

Getting Your Vitamin D

Vitamin D is readily available without prescription from Zoom Health and at pharmacies, supermarkets, and health food stores. The Healthy Start program provides free vitamins to pregnant women and children under 4 in low-income families.

Choose the right vitamin D supplement and take it regularly. Together with sensible sun exposure in spring and summer, supplements offer a simple way to get the “sunshine vitamin” you need for vitality.

Vitamin D and COVID-19

Some research indicates vitamin D may reduce COVID-19 severity by supporting immune function. Groups at high risk for deficiency may benefit from testing and treatment.

Early studies found COVID-19 patients with low vitamin D had higher complications and death rates. More research is underway on vitamin D’s role in COVID-19. Testing levels and treating deficiency shows promise for high-risk groups like the elderly.

Supplementing with vitamin D is safe, simple, and low cost. Optimising levels may support immunity against COVID-19. Those at high risk should discuss testing and treatment with their doctor.

Photo by artawkrn on Unsplash

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