Fake News seems to be the ‘in’ phrase in the media these days, thanks to The Donald. So in researching this post, I have done my best to provide a balanced article, based on the views of acknowledged experts and also providing links to allow you to make up your own minds. Or maybe, unlike me, you have known about the importance of VITAMIN D.
Yes, I know we get Vitamin D from the sun, but I obviously did not think that it was that important, because I have spent the last twenty-five years hiding from it. We don’t get a huge amount of sun here in Ireland, but whatever little we got wasn’t going to get near my skin! Yes, I was the suncream queen.
A few years ago, I started taking a supplement, because I realised that my obsession with protection in both winter and summer had probably made me D-deficient. Below you can see I use a spray which delivers 1000 iu a day of D3 and is found found in most Health Stores.
Why do we need Vitamin D?
1 It is essential for strong bones and teeth
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus from food, which is important for the maintenance of healthy bones, muscles and teeth. Without enough of the nutrient, bones can become brittle and soft. Low levels are linked to rickets in children and osteomalacia (soft bones) and osteoporosis in adults.
2 There is plenty of research to suggest that it also protects against disease
Not only does vitamin D help boost the immune system (it triggers cells that seek out and destroy any bacteria and viruses) but it may also help protect against many auto-immune diseases, including multiple sclerosis (MS) and rheumatoid arthritis. And what’s more, it seems that these diseases tend to be more common in countries where people have less exposure to the sunlight that the body needs to make Vitamin D on its own. Now it is thought that it protects against certain types of cancer such as bowel and type 1 diabetes.
We know that sunshine enhances mood and that the inhabitants of countries who live in sunnier climes are generally happier. So there is a link between Vitamin D and depression. But a more recent study suggests that higher rates of Alzheimer’s and Schizophrenia are both linked to not getting enough of the vitamin.
I was fascinated to read a few weeks ago that Vitamin D – the sunshine vitamin – can play a role in helping to prevent colds and flu and that, in fact, it may be more effective than the flu vaccination in doing so. This new study was just published in The British Medical Journal and a summary of its findings can be found here www.bbc.com/news/health-38988982
How do we get it?
1 Exposure to the sun
Vitamin D is made by UV rays touching the skin. In other words, no sun protection, no clothes and outdoors. This is the best way to get our Vitamin D and it is not possible to make too much as the body self-limits, but how much we need varies from website to website. According to the W.H.O., you only need five minutes a day, but other authorities recommend fifteen to twenty minutes. The best advice is that you need to stay out for half the amount of time it takes your body to turn pink! So again there is huge conflicting evidence and it is difficult to get the information you need.
Your age, where you live and your skin type all play a part. For example, here in Ireland, we need to be out in the sun between April and October, as after that the sun is too low in the sky to have an effect. The lucky people in Florida can produce Vitamin D all year around. Also, the best time to expose your skin is around midday. If your shadow is longer than you are, you are wasting your time. Have a look here www.vitamindcouncil.org to get all the information you need.
So it is no wonder that here in Ireland we rely on supplements to get our sunshine vitamin. My mum used to ensure we took the much maligned cod liver oil as children, and that was when we spent all summer playing outside and before we covered ourselves in high factor sunscreen. I do not wish to be a harbinger of doom, but here is a link to a recent report on sunscreen which you might also like to peruse. I think you will agree that it is frightening: www.collective-evolution.com
Like many others in recent years, the sun has become my public enemy number 1 and when on holidays I have been so terrified of burning, wrinkles and skin cancer that I return as white as I went. But I have been taking a supplement during the winter months for the past few years, which while not as good as the real deal, is better than nothing!
In Ireland we have some fortified milks and of course oily fish like salmon and tuna and egg yolks and butter contain small amounts, but according to most experts it is not possible to get enough from diet alone.
Who has risk of deficiency?
People who live in countries with little sunlight
People who spend too much time indoors, particularly older people
People with darker skin
People who wear full sunscreen all the time
Ask your doctor to give you a blood test to determine if you have adequate levels of vitamin D in your system. If you don’t have enough of the nutrient, you may need to take a supplement, either over-the-counter or by prescription. If you are on other medication, you need to check if there are any contra effects.
As with any supplement, be careful. Too much Vitamin D can lead to excess levels of calcium in the blood, which can cause nausea, vomiting and kidney problems.
Vitamin D has many benefits for the human body. Whether you get it through sunlight, diet, supplements, or a combination of all three, make sure you are receiving enough of this crucial nutrient. It’s an important part of a healthy lifestyle and diet.
So get the bikini out and sit out for fifteen minutes or so (the tummy area is good place to produce it) and harness that sunshine. Below I share a photo of me in sun (holding tummy in) last year on our cruise, but I had factor 50 on so no D for me!