The Importance of Vitamin D and How to Boost Your Levels
Over recent years, Vitamin D has been highlighted as a vitamin of particular importance, thanks to its integral role in promoting overall health. It’s a unique vitamin in the sense that our most effective form of intake comes from sun exposure and not from food, making improving your levels of Vitamin D more of a ‘lifestyle’ issue and less of a nutritional issue.
There have been studies that suggest up to 1 in 5 of the UK population is suffering from low levels of vitamin D. This isn’t particularly surprising in the autumn and winter months, mostly because of the sudden sharp drop in temperature during the autumn and winter months, plus the reduced hours of sunlight.
This of course is a double-whammy – there are fewer hours of sunlight full stop, but when it is out there’s a good chance it’s too cold to allow for any skin exposure to it!
This leads to a vitamin D deficiency and its associated health problems.
Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency is associated with a lot of health problems, but these are the main things to keep an eye on, especially if you haven’t had much sun exposure recently.
They could be an early warning sign that you need to take steps to top up your vitamin D levels…
- Hair Loss
- More noticeable fatigue and tiredness
- Reduced immunity
- Lower than usual moods
- Joint pain
- Impaired Wound Healing
If any of these symptoms start, take steps to increase your exposure to sunlight and/or take a supplement for a few weeks. If the symptoms persist or cause you any worry or concern, always consult your doctor.
How Increase Vitamin D Levels
The first and most effective port of call is to increase the amount of sun exposure you receive. Even in the UK, there are still sunny days – when they happen, try your best to get out and about in it, exposing as much of your skin to it as you can!
Without patronising, simple ways could be by wearing shorts when out for a walk or when gardening.
Activities where you raise your body temperature mean you can expose more skin to the sunlight without getting too cold, so perhaps going for a jog or bike ride whilst wearing shorts means you’ll be able to expose skin to the sun without worrying about the cold.
The general advice is that the sun in the winter does not produce enough UVB radiation to create any significant level of Vitamin D production in the skin. Despite that, I still think it’s a good idea to get out in the sun when you can – it’s helpful for mental and physical health, plus even a slight boost to vitamin D production is better than no boost!
The NHS advice is to take vitamin D supplements containing up to 10 mcg per day to bring up levels (these are general guidelines – if you have a specific medial requirement, always listen to your doctor). There are multiple places you can buy vitamin D supplements, but just check they contain at least 100% of your RDA (recommended daily allowance) of the vitamin.
Most of the recognised brands are more than good enough for most requirements.
This is last in the list because the generally accepted wisdom is that it’s difficult to ingest enough vitamin D through food alone.
That being said, there are foods than can help you on your way, so a diet rich in the following will certainly help you boost your vitamin D levels, even if only slightly…
- Fatty fish such as tuna, mackerel, and salmon
- Foods fortified with vitamin D, like some dairy products, orange juice, soy milk, and cereals
- Beef liver
- Egg yolks
Finally, if your budget and freedom allows, why not head off on a winter holiday?! You don’t even need to go long-haul to catch a few winter rays. The Canary islands are only a 4 hour flight away and maintain an average temperature of over 20 degrees throughout the winter – perfect for helping you to top up your winter vitamin D levels! With return flights costing significantly less than £100, a winter sun holiday needn’t break the bank either!
Vitamin D Conclusion
Vitamin D levels are fundamental to good overall health, so taking the time to make sure your levels are topped up is well worth the effort. Eating a good diet rich in the foods above, making sure you expose your skin to the sunlight (but not enough to burn yourself!) and taking the necessary supplementation over the winter is important.
They are simple steps, but important nonetheless. Stay healthy and keep that vitamin D level high!