Now that the summer is over and the darker half of the year is starting, it is important to consider the health benefits of vitamin D. Vitamin D does not occur in adequate levels, naturally, in food. Although your body does produce good amounts from the sunlight but this is when you allow yourself to be exposed.
It is vital to ensure that you receive enough of it during the time of the year when sunlight is in short supply. You should also ensure you are choosing a good supplement if you know you are prone to having low levels of vitamin D. As many as 9 out of 10 of us may be deficient in Vitamin D, so it is wiser to start building up levels from Autumn rather than to leave it to become a real health problem by Winter time when natural light is really in short supply.
The sunshine vitamin
Vitamin D is often referred to as the sunshine vitamin because unlike other vitamins, our body makes 90% of our vitamin D when our skin is exposed to the ultraviolet B (UVB) rays from natural sunlight. The other 10% we get from our food. Food sources include cod liver oil, egg yolks, butter and sardines. There are numerous benefits our bodies can reap from vitamin D but our levels often drop over the winter months as we simply can’t get enough sun.
Spotting the symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
- Weak immune system, including frequent coughs and colds.
- Fatigue, bone ache, joint and muscle pain
- SAD or depression
- Headaches and migraines
Five reasons to boost your Vitamin D during winter:
Vitamin D can boost your immunity
Vitamin D is an important part of the immune system and people who have low vitamin D levels have a higher chance of developing the flu.
Influenza (flu) epidemics are seasonal, occurring in winter when vitamin D levels are dramatically lower. Supplementing vitamin D could be the difference between you getting the flu and you making it through the season unscathed. Combine this with a flu vaccination to give yourself increased protection.
It can protect your lung function
Breathe easy as the sunshine vitamin is good for your lungs too. A study on smokers found that those with good vitamin D levels had better lung function than those with a vitamin D deficiency. While smoking negatively impacted the lungs in general, the smokers that had low vitamin D levels saw a faster decline in their lung function.
It can help you shed your ‘winter coat’
Vitamin D has been proven to lower insulin, improve seratonin (the feel-good hormone) levels, control appetite and even improve fat-loss efforts. If you have lower insulin levels you’re more likely to utilise the fat in your body and less likely to store it on your body. Having adequate amounts of serotonin allows you to feel better naturally, which can limit that ‘winter blues’ emotional eating.
It can help curb your appetite
Beyond the clear impact on our mood, gloomy winter weather can make us supplement happiness with food. Rising vitamin D levels are known to activate the production of a hormone called leptin, which helps us slim down by signalling to our brain that our stomach is full.
It improves muscle function and pain relief
If you have chronic or unexplained pain; or suffer from achiness or fatigue, you may want to get your vitamin D levels checked.
What foods contain vitamin D?
Oily fish such as; salmon, sardines and mackerel
Fortified fat spreads
Fortified breakfast cereals
Another source of vitamin D is dietary supplements. At Dears Pharmacy, we stock a range of capsules and drops to boost your levels over the winter.
Are there different types of vitamin D?
Vitamin D3 (also known as cholecalciferol) is the type of vitamin D produced by the sun. It’s the type you’ll find in Fultium Daily D3 Capsules and Drops. The other type is Vitamin D2, a plant-based form of vitamin D.
What does vitamin D do
The main job of Vitamin D is to help your body to absorb calcium from food – the building block of strong healthy bones and teeth.
The sun changes a form of cholesterol in your skin into vitamin D. When it gets into your intestines it starts absorbing calcium for you.
What is vitamin D good for
Vitamin D contributes to the maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. What’s more, it also helps your immune system and muscles to function properly. So it contributes to enjoying an active and healthy lifestyle for as long as possible.
It is essential for the normal growth and development of bone in children.
How many hours of sunshine do I need
For much of the year, it’s impossible to get vitamin D from the sun, because it’s not strong enough.
As a rough guide, on clear sunny days between about April and September, you should be able to get enough from about 20 minutes full exposure to the sun between 11.00 and 3.00 pm. Remember though, if you use sun protection it may need longer, and strong sunscreen can block the production of vitamin D completely.
How can I tell if the sun is strong enough
There is a simple way to tell if the sun is strong enough for you to produce vitamin D. Your shadow will be equal to (or smaller than) your height.
Can’t I just eat more fish
Oily fish is the best source of dietary vitamin D, but getting enough vitamin D from diet alone can be hard, especially when NHS Choices recommends weekly limits on different types of fish.
Why can’t I just wait until I’m older
Building up bone strength when you are younger will be beneficial later on. The stronger your bones are when you reach your 30s, the longer it will take for bone loss to lead to osteoporosis.
Who’s most at risk from vitamin D insufficiency
We will all begin to lose bone mass in our thirties, which is why the government recommends that people should take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D.
Some groups of people are especially at risk:
the elderly, such as those who are frail or housebound and spend little time outdoors
those in an institution such as a care home
anyone who usually wears clothes that cover up most of their skin when outdoors
people from minority ethnic groups with dark skin, such as those of African, African-Caribbean or South Asian origin
Are there any symptoms of less healthy bones
Generally, you can not tell if you have insufficient vitamin D, or if your bones are not as healthy as they should be. Symptoms only appear when your levels are very low or have been low for some time. These can include:
frequent bone fractures
soft bones that may result in deformities
Guidelines on Vitamin D
The government provides clear advice about this.
Children aged 1 to 4 years should have a daily 10 microgram vitamin D supplement.
The government recommends that babies are exclusively breastfed until around 6 months of age. As a precaution, all babies under 1 year should have a daily 8.5 to 10 microgram vitamin D supplement to ensure they get enough.
Babies who have more than 500ml of infant formula a day do not need any additional vitamin D as formula is already fortified.
At Dears Pharmacy we stock a range called Fultium which is available in capsules and drops.
Is Fultium Daily D3 Halal and Kosher certified?
Yes, the gelatin in Fultium Daily D3 capsules is Kosher and Halal certified.
Is Fultium Daily D3 suitable for vegetarians?
Fultium Daily D3 drops are suitable for vegetarians.
Fultium Daily D3 capsules
Easy to take one-a-day capsule. Free from artificial preservatives and sweeteners. The capsule gelatin is Halal and Kosher certified.
Fultium Daily D3 Drops
Fultium daily D3 Drops are ideal for children* under 12 years old.
They’re also suitable for vegetarians, and those who dislike swallowing capsules. They are free from artificial preservatives and sweeteners.
Infants under 1 year
5 drops per day (8.5μg)
Age 1 and up
6 drops per day (10μg)
At Dears Pharmacy, our pharmacists and their teams are here to provide advice and support on Vitamin D as part of our Preparing for Winter Service.
Call in to your local Dears Pharmacy for support and advice in our locations in Edinburgh & Fife.