Why You Should Be Upping Your Vitamin D Intake

Photographed by Mark Iantosca
We all need sunshine on our skin because it is the primary source of Vitamin D. The human body makes this vitamin as a response to exposure to ultraviolet-B (UVB) light from the Sun. Low levels of warm sun rays and vitamin D, especially in winter months, can lead to deficiency which, if allowed to persist, as scientific research shows, raises the risk of serious health complications and chronic illness. It can also make us more vulnerable to Seasonal Affective Disorder. Most of the face creams and moisturisers we use contain SPF, which protect from UVA rays, but also limit our sunshine intake. A recent survey suggested that 6 out 10 people stay indoors during work hours in Britain and most (80%) leave in darkness. Here are a few things to consider…
Why vitamin D? Vitamin D helps us in many ways, including maintaining a healthy body weight; regulating our ability to fight or be protected from illness; keeping the brain working well; reducing the effect of asthma attacks and risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. Vitamin D is linked to the maintenance of healthy bones and research has suggested it can aid mental performance in women over 30 when taken regularly. People with darker skin seem to need more supplementation when the sun is not available as a source. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to high blood pressure especially in people with dark skin. Our ability to make vitamin D diminishes with age also.
Signs of vitamin D deficiency Although symptoms differ from person to person, some common signs of deficiency include chronic pain, constant feelings of tiredness and weakness, frequent infections, depression and weak bones. As a result, the advise from doctors and other healthcare professionals is that we all make sure we have adequate daily intake of Vitamin D. “As a precaution I advise patients of all ages and backgrounds to supplement Vitamin D from October to April,” says Dr Benson of the London GP surgery, Crouch Hall Road. “Although the research evidence isn’t resounding, the winter months are a period that could leave many people vulnerable to health consequences of this type of deficiency”.
Food sources of vitamin D We can get vitamin D from a limited number of foods. Fish, beef liver, cheese and egg yolks contain vitamin D. Foods fortified with vitamin D2 and D3 can be taken alongside supplements. Some countries fortify breakfast cereals, bread, pastries, oil spreads, margarine, milk and other dairy products. However to ensure that you have the recommended intake, consider daily supplementation as well.
What to know when choosing your Vitamin D supplement Although there are several kinds of Vitamin D that are beneficial to our bodies, there’s also conflicting reports as to whether vitamin D2 or D3 or a combination of booth is more important for the body’s needs. Some studies indicate that a combination of vitamins D2 and D3 is more effective in our bloodstream. However Dr Benson’s advice is that “supplementing with vitamin D3 is sufficient.” Other reasons why you should consider increasing your intake of Vitamin D Vitamin D can improve the body’s immune function. With colds and flu viruses around in winter, it might be worth the protection. Vitamin D plays a vital part in strengthening muscles and reducing inflammation. This is important due to reduced outdoor exercise during winter months if you have embarked on a New Year fitness regime or are accident-prone.

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