Erm, what is vitamin D and why do we need it?

Erm, what is vitamin D and why do we need it?

Are you a bit confused or unsure about vitamins? We need sooo many different kinds in order to function and stay healthy and, well, there’s a lot of info out there. Vitamin D is the one you’ll hear about lots. It’s to do with the sun, right? Right. Here’s why it’s super important and why we need it…

Vitamin D is the key to strong bones

Vitamin D helps our bodies to absorb calcium, which means our bones, teeth and muscles stay healthy. So, in order to maintain strong bones, teeth and muscles, we need calcium and vitamin D. (Basically, vitamin D is calcium’s helping hand.)

We get most of the vitamin D we need from the sun

Ah yes, that magical golden sphere in the sky that we see every now and then. Unless you live in sunnier climes (Californians, we envy you) you probably won’t get all of the vitamin D you need from the sun. From about late March/early April to the end of September, we should be able to get all the vitamin D we need from sunlight. How? Well, the body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin when we’re outside. This means that from October to March, we don’t get all of the vitamin D we need.

DON’T PANIC. There are other ways to get vitamin D

Before you book yourself a ticket outta here and bankrupt yourself in the process, there are other ways we can find vitamin D. This includes: foods such as oily fish (e.g. salmon, mackerel, herring and fresh tuna), red meat, liver and egg yolks. It is difficult to get all the vitamin D you need from your diet, though. You might want to consider taking a supplement anyway.

If you can’t eat those foods (i.e. if you’re vegetarian/vegan/allergic) you can take supplements to help

Pop along to your local supermarket or health food shop and talk to someone about vitamin D dietary supplements. If you’re diagnosed with a vitamin D deficiency, your doctor will prescribe you a higher dose of supplements.

There are certain groups of people that may be at risk of vitamin D deficiency

The Department of Health recommends that you take a daily supplement containing 10mcg of vitamin D throughout the year if you: aren't often outdoors – for example, if you're frail or housebound, are in an institution like a care home or hospital, or you usually wear clothes that cover up most of your skin when outdoors.

People with dark skin from African, African-Caribbean and south Asian backgrounds may also not get enough vitamin D from sunlight. They should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10mcg of vitamin D throughout the year.

If you do choose to take a vitamin D supplement, make sure you’re careful with how much you take

There is such a thing as having too much vitamin D and this can be damaging. 10mcg will be enough for most people but if you’re unsure of how much to take or whether you should take a supplement, have a chat with a doctor, nurse or pharmacist. They’ll be able to help!

Protect your skin in the sun

Remember to always look after your skin if you’re out and about in the sun. Cover up or use sunscreen to prevent skin damage and skin cancer.

If you think you might be deficient in vitamin D, it’s definitely worth seeing your doctor to discuss your symptoms. The good thing is that if you are, it’s really easily solved!

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