Vitamin D deficiency warning: The best time of year to start taking vitamin D supplements

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As summer turns to autumn and the nights begin drawing in, it’s not just your garden that will be missing the sunlight. Our bodies create vitamin D from exposure to sunlight, but during the winter in the UK there isn’t enough daylight for us to do that. So when should you start taking vitamin D supplements?

What is vitamin D?

Unlike other vitamins, vitamin D works more like a hormone.

Vitamin D helps to balance the amount of calcium and phosphate in your body.

You need these nutrients to keep your bones, teeth and muscles healthy.

However, a whopping one billion people are estimated to have a vitamin D deficiency worldwide.

What are the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency?

The symptoms of lacking vitamin D can be subtle so you’ve got to know what to look out for.

In serious cases, a lack of vitamin D can lead to children developing rickets: a bone deformity.

Adults can develop a condition called osteomalacia as a result of low vitamin D.

These are five tell-tale signs of vitamin D deficiency:

  • You’re sick all the time: Vitamin D keeps your immune system fighting fit, so a lack of vitamin d might be why you’re always under the weather.
  • You’re always tired: Low levels of vitamin D can leave you feeling exhausted. If you’re tired all the time, you might be low on vitamin D.
  • Your bones and back hurt: Vitamin D keeps your bones strong, so if they’re hurting this can be a sign you have low vitamin D.
  • Your wounds don’t heal quickly: Vitamin D helps heal any cuts or wounds, so if yours don’t close up quickly, this could be a symptom of low vitamin D.
  • Your muscles hurt: If you’re struggling with aching muscles after doing any exercise, it could be down to a lack of vitamin D.

You are also more likely to suffer from a vitamin D deficiency if you have dark skin.

This is because dark-skinned people have more melanin in their skin.

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How can I get more vitamin D?

During the spring and summer months, most people get all the vitamin D they need from sunlight – as long as they’re spending plenty of time outside enjoying the sunshine.

However, between October and March, we don’t get enough vitamin D from the sun in the UK.

You can get more vitamin D by eating foods that are high in vitamin D, these include:

  • Oily fish, like sardines, mackerel and salmon
  • Red meat
  • Liver
  • Eggs

Do I need to take vitamin D supplements?

The NHS advice on vitamin D is that during the winter months, everyone over the age of four should consider taking a 10mg vitamin D supplement.

This is because while it is possible to get some vitamin D from your food, it’s difficult to get as much vitamin D as you need from diet alone.

That becomes even more difficult if you eat a plant-based diet, for example, so miss out on some of the most vitamin D rich foods.

If you’re considering a vitamin D supplement, the best time to start taking it is October, and you should continue taking it until around March.

Some people choose to take vitamin D supplements all year round, but that’s up to you.

The Department of Health and Social Care suggests if you don’t often go outdoors and if you wear clothes that cover most of your body, you should take a vitamin D supplement throughout the year.

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