Commonly known as ‘the sunshine vitamin’, vitamin D is unlike any other type of vitamin.
Produced by the body in response to your skin being exposed to sunlight, vitamin D refers to a group of fat-soluble secosteroid-hormones which help regulate your intestinal ability to absorb calcium, magnesium and phosphate.
In turn, these nutrients help keep your bones, teeth and muscles healthy, steering clear of any associated vitamin D deficiencies like rickets or osteoporosis.
Where do you find Vitamin D?
As we’ve mentioned already, vitamin D is commonly associated with sunlight. This is because, when the sun hits our skin, our bodies are able to create the vitamin ourselves and utilise its various protective benefits.
However, since sunlight isn’t always available – especially between October and early March – many of us do not get enough vitamin D in this way and, instead, have to rely on other means of getting it.
In the summer months, we should all be able to get enough vitamin D through sunlight alone but, during the winter months, there is an increased need for us to change our diets in order to see the effects.
Listed below are some of the best sources of vitamin D in food:
- Egg Yolks
- Oily Fish (i.e. salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel)
- Fat Spreads
- Breakfast Cereals
- Red Meat
As well as these food products, many people will typically use a dietary supplement – either a pill or one of our patches – to ensure they are getting enough vitamin D per day.
Talking of which…
How much Vitamin D do you need?
The amount of vitamin D you need changes depending on your age.
Babies up to one year old will require 8.5 – 10 micrograms per day, whereas older children and adults will need 10 micrograms, or 400 International Units (IU).
This rule also applies to anyone pregnant or breastfeeding, as well as anyone with a vitamin D deficiency (more on that later), who will also require a daily dose of 10 micrograms (or 400 IU).
Are dietary supplements recommended?
As long as they are taken in a safe and controlled manner, dietary supplements have been shown to make a significant difference to the overall health of individuals.
In certain studies, for example, vitamin D has been found to significantly improve the immune response, playing a key role in reducing the risk of conditions like multiple sclerosis, heart disease and influenza.
Similarly, other studies have found that taking vitamin D supplements can help regulate mood and ward off various mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
There have also been associations seen between vitamin D supplement use and weight loss, hypothesised to be due to the appetite-suppressing effect that the extra calcium and vitamin D gave.
One key thing to remember when it comes to choosing your vitamin D supplements is the form they come in: D2 or D3.
Put simply, vitamin D2 supplements are also known as ergocalciferol and are derived from plant-based sources. Vitamin D3 supplements, on the other hand – as we use in our vitamin patches – are also known as cholecalciferol and are derived from animal-based sources.
What if I take too much?
First things first, it’s important to know that you can never have too much vitamin D from sunlight, so you won’t be at risk of taking too much through that route.
However, due to the increased risk of sunburn, you should always remember to cover up or protect your skin from excessive sun exposure.
If you take too much vitamin D through supplements though, this could lead to potential issues over a prolonged period.
For example, excessive vitamin D use can lead to too much calcium building up in the body, causing a condition known as hypercalcaemia. This, in turn, could weaken the bones and cause damage to surrounding organs like the kidneys and heart.
As such, taking more than the recommended dose isn’t recommended – a daily dosage of 10 micrograms should be more than enough.
If you do want to take more though, adults (including breastfeeding and pregnant women) should never take more than 100 micrograms per day, whereas children aged between 1 and 10 years old should be limited to half of this amount – a maximum of 50 micrograms per day.
Who is most at risk?
People with limited exposure to sunlight are most at risk of vitamin D deficiency since they won’t be getting it via this natural route.
Therefore, the groups of people who tend to be most at risk typically include:
- Housebound Individuals
- Elderly Individuals (i.e. in a care home environment)
- Covered Up Individuals (i.e. burqas)
There is also an increased risk of vitamin D deficiency in individuals with dark skin – for instance, people with an African, African-Caribbean or South Asian heritage. This is, again, due to being unable to get enough vitamin D through sunlight.
What conditions are caused by Vitamin D deficiency?
The importance of vitamin D cannot be understated; since it is so vital to calcium absorption and bone growth, there are a number of detrimental conditions that can be caused by being deficient.
Too little vitamin D in children, for example, could lead to rickets – a condition known to cause weak or soft bones like bowed legs, stunted growth or a large forehead. This, in turn, could then lead to the development of misshapen bones in adults, during a condition known as osteomalacia.
Heart disease, depression, weight gain and many cancers (breast, colon, prostate) have now been linked to vitamin D too, while taking supplements has also been shown to potentially help a range of conditions, like autism, autoimmune disease, diabetes or chronic pain.
Vitamin D is one of the key minerals your body needs to stay in good health. However, when sunlight is at a premium – as is the case under the current lockdown restrictions – it’s imperative to find an alternative means of getting it into your system.
A vitamin D supplement can help with this significantly. And, if you’re looking for a more effective means of getting it into your body, the vitamin patches we offer here at PatchWorksUK bypass the stomach and liver, delivering the nutrients in a more effective way than the oral route.
If you would like to find out more about vitamin D and the various benefits it can provide, please do not hesitate to contact us or follow us on Facebook or Instagram for further hints, tips and insights on how to live a healthier lifestyle.