Vitamin D is an interesting nutrient. It is fat soluble and present only in a few foods, including dairy products, oily fish and red meat. However, unlike many other nutrients, we can also make our own Vitamin D, through direct sunlight on our skin. Most people can meet their Vitamin D requirements through eating a healthy diet and spending time outdoors in spring and summer. In the UK, winter sunlight does not have enough radiation to make Vitamin D and if we are not vigilant, it is possible to suffer from Vitamin D deficiency.
Consequences of Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D is vital for healthy bones, muscles and teeth and it regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in our bodies. It is also thought to help reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. It is known to be necessary for healthy cell growth and a robust immune system. With Vitamin D deficiency there is a risk of developing bone conditions such as rickets and osteomalacia, which manifest as bone deformation. Osteoporosis is another bone condition that can develop due to Vitamin D deficiency.
There are other health problems that have been attributed to Vitamin D deficiency including:
- Low mood
- Impaired wound healing
- Hair loss
- Muscle and bone pain
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
- Cognitive impairment
So how can you avoid Vitamin D Deficiency in Winter?
You can build up your stocks of Vitamin D during the summer by getting outdoors and letting the sun do its magic. However, if for whatever reason you are not able to do this, you will need to look at your diet to avoid developing Vitamin D deficiency. Recommended daily intakes for Vitamin D vary from person to person, depending on age and the presence of other health conditions. Toxicity from too much Vitamin D is rare.
Include foods high in Vitamin D in your diet
- Oily fish for example mackerel and salmon
- Fish liver oils
- Liver (although it is an acquired taste!)
- Red meat
- Dairy products such as milk, egg, cheese
- Cereals and other foods that are fortified with Vitamin D
Consider taking Vitamin D Supplements
There are groups of people who may benefit from taking Vitamin D supplements: these include people who are housebound or remain covered up when outside. People with dark skin may not get enough Vitamin D from sunlight alone. Other people who risk Vitamin D deficiency include pregnant and breast-feeding women and young children. Strict vegans or people with milk allergies may also be at risk of developing Vitamin D deficiency. Some people are unable to absorb vitamin D from their food: those at risk include people suffering from intestinal disorders such as Chron’s disease. Vitamin D supplements are widely available and may be purchased at supermarkets and pharmacies.
How do you know if you are Vitamin D Deficient?
A simple blood test will show how much Vitamin D is if your body. If you are concerned that you are at risk of Vitamin D deficiency, a trip to your doctor should help set your mind at ease.
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