Vitamin D – deficiency, benefits and how to improve your levels

Vitamin D – deficiency, benefits and how to improve your levels

Vitamin D is probably one of the least talked about or written about vitamins. Yet it does play a role in our bodily health. Many people are surprised that their blood test results show a deficiency, particularly during the winter months.

Vitamin D is also commonly known as ‘the sunshine vitamin’, as our bodies glean the majority of what we need from sunny climes. So, what happens when the sun doesn’t shine?

The body does not produce this vitamin naturally and most people rely on sunlight – but in the winter months when our levels start to fall, we need food and/or supplements to keep our levels steady. Both phosphate and calcium, important for muscular/skeletal growth, are promoted by Vitamin D, but the production of calcium is helped the most. Continued lack of the vitamin causes damages to the bone structure and can accelerate diseases such as osteoporosis or osteomalacia in adults.

Vitamin D (along with A, K and E) are all fat soluble and as such are stored in the body. It is by far the best choice to get the right intake of Vitamin D from food sources and not supplements, unless you follow your medical professionals’ advice closely. It is rare, but possible, that toxicity may occur from excess use of supplements. Anything recommended by the official and relevant government department in each country will have the necessary advice on usage. Most health institutes in the majority of countries recommend around 15 minutes a day for exposure to the sun, with as much of your body uncovered, if possible. When the ultraviolet rays from the sun reach your skin, they are absorbed into the body then synthesized into Vitamin D.

It would appear that most health boards are in agreement with the following levels required for the body’s healthy Vitamin D level.

Babies 0-12 months = 400 IU

Over 12 months – 70 years = 600 IU

 Over 70 years = 800 IU

Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency

  • Fatigue

  • Sweating, particularly around the scalp area

  • Muscle weakness and spasms, cramp

  • Weight gain

  • Feeling low or down

  • Aching bones and joints, bones breaking easily

  • Getting ill more often and taking longer to recover

  • Wounds taking a long time to heal

You may not experience any of these or maybe one or two, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a deficiency. If you would like a breakdown of vitamin (and also mineral) levels in your blood), it’s a very simple procedure to take a test and receive results in super quick time. From this, you can decide what action to take and have a discussion with your medical professional. Check out our tests today, but remember that these symptoms you may be experiencing could be nothing at all, or unrelated to Vitamin D deficiency. Tests will, however, show any other vitamin deficiencies that you may have, so it is well worthwhile.

More Benefits of Vitamin D

As well as those mentioned above in terms of physiology i.e. Strong bones, teeth, muscles,, there is an aspect of mental health involved as well. When the sun shines, we feel good, we generally all feel in a good mood and ready for action. Vitamin D helps this along the way, so you could say it ‘promotes the feel good factor’.

Proud of your hair? Want to keep it looking good, full and healthy? Good levels of Vitamin D are believed to reduce stress, and science has proved that it is linked to keeping your hair on!

Vitamin D also helps to improve your immune system, so that feeling of wellness is all encompassing. Amazing that a lesser known vitamin has so much to offer.

What foods are best for Vitamin D?

There is a large range of foods that can help your supply of Vitamin D, which you would normally include in a balanced diet.

The following dietary sources will help to boost your level:

  • Fatty fish such as tuna, salmon, sardines, mackerel
  • Egg yolks and cheese
  • Mushrooms
  • Fortified products such as cereal, orange juice, milk
  • Milk alternatives such as soy or almond milk

Not all fortified foods concentrate on Vitamin D, many supply support to your Vitamin B12 level. As this is another vitamin that is important for the body, it is not a problem if what you consume has both benefits.

Truly, the best source of Vitamin D is sunlight. Topping up your levels by using foods that contribute to your level is the next best thing. Remember that you may not even realise that you have a deficiency, but it is quite common during the winter months. Taking a test is a bonus, to lessen any concerns you may have if you experience any of the symptoms, or not. Get out in the sun as much as possible when it is there to enjoy, and if it’s very hot, do use sunscreen to prevent another set of problems.