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The Importance of Vitamin D During Winter

As winter approaches, Evolve Medical’s experts share important advice on maintaining our daily intake of vitamin D to stay healthy and avoid deficiencies.

Vitamin D is essential to maintaining our overall health. Yet with winter just around the corner, the risk of vitamin D deficiency is much higher across the UK. But what exactly is vitamin D and why is it so important to ensure we get enough of it during this time of year?

In this blog post, we’ll be exploring the many benefits of Vitamin D, including how to avoid Vitamin D deficiency throughout the winter season.

 

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin” is produced in the body whenever exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. These nutrients are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. 

Vitamin D supports overall health, helping the body to fight infections. Ironically, the one time of year when our immune systems tend to be lower than usual also happens to be the one season of the year when the UK historically sees little sunshine. That’s why it’s more important than ever that we make sure our vitamin D levels are maintained via other sources during the wintertime.

 

How Much Vitamin D is Needed?

According to NHS guidelines, adults and children over the age of one require 10 micrograms of vitamin D per day. This includes pregnant and breastfeeding women, to ensure that the mother still gets her recommended daily dose of vitamin D while feeding her baby. Babies who are having more than a pint of infant formula milk a day should not be given vitamin supplements. This is because formula is already fortified with vitamins A, C and D to ensure they get the intake of nutrients needed for health growth. Babies who are being breastfed should be given a daily vitamin D supplement from birth, whether or not you’re taking a supplement containing vitamin D yourself. Find out more about baby vitamin D drops on the official government website. 

 

What Foods Are Rich in Vitamin D?

Alongside natural sunlight, vitamin D can also be found in a selection of foods. Contrary to popular belief, cow’s milk isn’t the best source of vitamin D out there, due to milk produced in the UK not being fortified. Fortified foods have nutrients added to them that don’t naturally occur in the food.

High doses of vitamin D can be found in the following:

 

  • Red meat
  • Egg yolks
  • Mushrooms
  • Oily fish – such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna
  • Fortified foods – such as cereal

Vitamin D Deficiency

If a person is exposed to little or no sunlight, it’s likely their body will be unable to produce enough vitamin D. This can quickly lead to a vitamin D deficiency which can cause various health complications. 

Other possible contributing factors that can lead to a vitamin D deficiency are:

  • Not spending enough time outdoors
  • Old age – elderly people who are in care homes or housebound  
  • Wearing high coverage clothing where little skin is exposed when outside
  • Not eating enough foods that are rich in vitamin D

 

What Are the Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency?

Vitamin D deficiency can be difficult to notice because symptoms may not show for several months or years and they can often be misdiagnosed as other common illnesses. However, some people reportedly experience no symptoms at all.

With this in mind, it’s helpful to know what signs and symptoms to look out for.

  • Frequent illness or infections

One of the key roles that vitamin D plays is supporting immunity, helping us to fend off any viruses or infections. If someone is constantly facing illness, this could be a sign of vitamin D deficiency. 

  • Low mood or depression

Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD) is a common illness that some people experience across the colder months and can cause low mood and depression, due to a lack of warm weather and sunshine. This lack of exposure to sunlight can cause vitamin D deficiency over time so it’s a good idea to take a vitamin D supplement to combat this during winter.

  • Chronic inflammation 

A recent study has found a correlation between low vitamin D levels and inflammation, with researchers revealing that the correction of a deficiency in affected individuals could reduce inflammation and potentially mitigate the risk of chronic inflammatory illnesses. 

  • Fatigue and exhaustion

An easily overlooked symptom is tiredness, due to how many of us experience this on a regular basis. While fatigue can be down to other issues, such as insomnia or stress, continued exhaustion can be an indicator of vitamin D deficiency. 

 

Vitamin D Supplements

During the autumn and winter seasons, it’s important to consider alternative ways of getting your daily intake of vitamin D as there is less sunlight for the body to produce vitamin D across the colder months.

Consuming foods that are rich in vitamin D is one good way to boost your intake, but as it’s difficult to get enough vitamin D from food alone, official NHS advice states. “everyone (including pregnant and breastfeeding women) should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D during the autumn and winter.”

Between April to the end of September, most people can get an adequate amount of vitamin D through natural sunlight and a balanced diet, so it may not be necessary to take a vitamin D supplement during this timeframe. 

For more tips on how to boost your healthcare routine throughout the winter, be sure to take a look at the Evolve Medical blog, or follow us on Facebook and Instagram for further expert advice.