Are you getting enough Vitamin D?
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a group of vitamins that helps the body absorb calcium, magnesium, and phosphate from the intestines. It also has many other benefits on our bodies. Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) and vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) are the most important compounds within Vitamin D.
When exposed to direct sunlight, your body naturally creates vitamin D on its own. Because we don't get much sunlight here in Ireland, a lot of people have low levels of vitamin D. Therefore, it is important to obtain it from food and/or vitamin D supplements.
Sources of Vitamin D:
Most people should get a sufficient amount of vitamin D from the sunlight during the summer in Ireland. The body will create vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin. From October to early March there will not be enough sunlight for us to create enough vitamin D.
During these months, you can take dietary supplements containing vitamin D. Vitamin D can also be found in a small number of foods that include:
- Oily fish – such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel
- Red meat
- Egg yolks
- Fortified foods – such as some fat spreads and breakfast cereals
You can't overdose on vitamin D through exposure to sunlight. But always remember to cover up or protect your skin if you're out in the sun for long periods. This is to reduce the risk of skin damage and skin cancer.
Benefits of Vitamin D include:
Building and maintaining healthy bones and teeth
Your body requires vitamin D to develop and maintain strong bones. Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. If you don't have enough vitamin D, your body can't absorb calcium which is what makes your bones and teeth strong. Not having enough vitamin D can cause health problems like rickets and osteoporosis.
The nervous system works better with the help of vitamin D. It helps the brain cells to grow and develop by stimulating their maturation. Additionally, vitamin D assists in preventing inflammation and oxidative stress from damaging brain cells.
Vitamin D helps make chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, serotonin, acetylcholine, and catecholamine, are important for mental health. So, vitamin D has a direct impact on your mental well-being.
Vitamin D helps to promote normal skeletal muscle function, while maximising muscle strength and performance. It is an important nutrient for keeping bones and skeletal muscles healthy. Additionally, vitamin D actively contributes to the body's breakdown of protein and muscular inflammation.
Vitamin D deficiency:
Some people do not get enough vitamin D from sunlight if they have little to no sunshine exposure. You may need to take a daily supplement of vitamin D throughout the year if you:
- are not often outdoors – for example, if you're frail or housebound
- are in an institution like a care home
- usually wear clothes that cover up most of your skin when outdoors
Symptoms of a deficiency in vitamin D include:
- Lower back pain
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle aches
- Bone pain