So It Turns Out I Should Be Taking Vitamin D Supplements...

At the recent 1 year check the Health Visitor told me I should be giving Little Vitamin D. She also told me off (in a friendly way) for not taking enough care of myself and suggested that I might benefit from taking Vitamins too. I find it interesting that while the NHS say most people shouldn’t need to take vitamin supplements, they actually recommend that everyone takes Vitamin D supplements for half the year. 

Thinking back to my school biology lessons I struggled to remember much about Vitamin D other than that our bodies can make it from sunlight. So why should we need to take a supplement of something our bodies can create? I understand taking supplements with Vitamin C, like these elderberry capsules, because our body can't make it's own Vitamin C or store it for long, but that's not the case for Vitamin D. I did a bit of investigating and thought it might be helpful to share.

Why are Vitamin D supplements needed?

In the winter many of us don’t get enough sunlight. I know that when I was working in an office I would often get in before the sun was fully up and leave after it was dark so I could go days without being out in direct sunlight during the winter months. If you add in sunlight being weaker in the winter and how much skin tends to be exposed it’s not surprising that our bodies struggle to make enough.

What I find interesting is that there have been an increase in the number of children exhibiting problems thought to be caused by Vitamin D deficiency because it’s not only during the winter they don’t get enough Vitamin D. We are so concerned that children will get burnt (and be at risk of skin cancer) that we smother them in suncream, stick on hats and loose clothing which all make it hard for their bodies to make enough Vitamin D naturally in the Summer months too.

View over a field with trees and low lying cloud and blue sky. Winter is a time of year when people need extra vitamin D in their diets
Winter days make it hard to get natural Vitamin D

Where else can we get Vitamin D from?

Of course Vitamin D isn’t just made from the sun, it is available from food in small amounts too. Some of the foods which have Vitamin D are oily fish (e.g. salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines), red meat, liver, egg yolks and fortified foods.
If you need some inspiration for adding Vitamin D to your diet Shona Wilkinson (Lead Nutritionist at Nature's Best) suggests: 
Having 2 to 3 portions oily fish a week to benefit from their Vitamin D and Omega 3 (which is good for cardio vascular and skin health). Canned oily fish is a store cupboard stable and is great for a quick snack. 
Having sliced mushrooms in your fridge so you can sprinkle them over salads or add to soups
Scrambled or boiled eggs for breakfast will fill you up with protein as well as providing you with Vitamin D
Ricotta cheese has Vitamin D in and can go in lots of dishes.
Look for breakfast cereals which are fortified with Vitamin D, but check they aren’t loaded with sugar too.
When looking for a supplement Vitamin D3 is believed to be better absorbed than Vitamin B2

Why is it such an important Vitamin?

Vitamin D has an important role in regulating the amount of calcium and phosphate in our bodies. I have always thought of rickets as caused by a lack of calcium, but it can be caused by not having enough Vitamin D to allow our bodies to use the calcium properly. Rickets affects bone development in children resulting in bones being soft and weak, this can lead to deformities (such as bowed legs) or an increased risk of fractures. In adults it is called osteomalacia and can cause bone pain and muscle weakness.

How much Vitamin D do we need?

-Breastfed babies from birth to one of 8.5 to 10 micrograms (formula fed babies don’t need a supplement until they have less than 500ml formula a day). I had previously heard that babies didn't need supplements if the mother was taking them, but recent research queries this.
-Children aged 1 to 4 should have a daily supplement of 10 micrograms a day
said Little and I should be taking Vitamin D supplements I have been investigating why the NHS recommends Vitamin D.
Anyone over the age of 5 should have 10 micrograms of Vitamin D a day. The Department of Health says it may be beneficial in supplement form from September to April and all year round for people who aren’t often outdoors, people who keep their skin well covered up and those with dark skin.  

What should I do If I’m worried about my level of Vitamin D?

If you are worried that you aren't getting enough of Vitamin D or that you might have any vitamin deficiency you could see a doctor and ask for advice. Another option which many might find easier is to arrange initially for private nutritional testing. If you are in the US you can get 15% off various tests using my link

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