As we are now in the depths of winter sunshine will be in short supply for the next three months. Sunshine is vital for the body to produce Vitamin D. It is produced when the skin is exposed to sunlight and so during the winter months our bodies are unlikely to producing enough to maintain good health. There is very little Vitamin D in our food even if we eat healthily (we would need 20 glasses of milk a day to obtain enough!) It is estimated that 50% of the population will be deficient in the winter and it is even higher (70-80%) in non-Caucasians.
So why is Vitamin D so important for you?
We have always known that vitamin D is important for good bone health and the prevention of osteoporosis. It enables your body to extract calcium from the gut and helps to maintain good bone health. A deficiency may cause osteoporosis in adults and Rickets in children (cases of Rickets have increased by 400% in the UK since 1996!).
Did you know that Vitamin D also has an effect on:
- Our immune system – it helps us to fight infections including colds and flu so especially vital at this time of year.
- It helps regulate our blood sugar levels including insulin production.
- It increases the level of the hormone Serotonin which helps to improve our mood and sense of wellbeing.
- Research has shown there is a link between low Vitamin D levels and the development of prostate, breast and bowel cancer.
- Low levels of Vitamin D increases the risk of developing dental diseases.
- Low levels of Vitamin D may be a contributor to heart disease.
- Vitamin D appears to have an anti-inflammatory effect within the body and so helps control muscle and joint pain.
What are the symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency?
Symptoms of a deficiency are wide and varied but can include;
- Generalised aches and pains
- Impaired immune system – more colds and flu
- Softening of the bones
- Low mood
- Tiredness and poor-quality sleep
My Take Home Message on Vitamin D
- Vitamin D is essential for bone health and many other aspects of our health and well being
- Deficiency in the UK in winter is very common and may have health consequences for many individuals
- The only way to know if you are deficient is to have your blood levels tested.
If you would like a copy of my fact sheet on vitamin D which includes how to have your blood levels tested and advice on supplementation please feel free to email me.