Are you getting enough vitamin D?

Are you getting enough vitamin D?

September 22, 2023

A recent paper, published by the British Journal of Nutrition, revealed that 81% of Irish adults not taking supplements are not reaching the RDA of vitamin D.

Are you concerned about your vitamin D levels? Keep reading this article and take proactive action for your wellness.

What is vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a unique fat-soluble vitamin that functions akin to a hormone within the body. Its primary function is to regulate the levels of calcium and phosphorus. These minerals are crucial for maintaining strong bones, teeth, and proper cell functions.

Vitamin D exists in two main forms: vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Plant-based sources, such as mushrooms exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light, primarily provide Vitamin D2.

Vitamin D3 is produced in the skin when exposed to sunlight. It is also present in animal-based foods such as fatty fish and egg yolks. Both types of vitamin D can be used by the body. However, vitamin D3 is more effective in increasing and maintaining vitamin D levels.

What are the primary sources of vitamin D?

The most common source of vitamin D is sunlight. When your skin is exposed to sunlight, it produces vitamin D naturally. However, there are also dietary sources of vitamin D, such as fatty fish (like salmon and mackerel), fortified dairy products (like milk and yogurt), fortified cereals, and egg yolks. Additionally, vitamin D supplements are available for those who may have difficulty getting enough vitamin D through sunlight and diet alone.

Vitamin D in Ireland

Ireland is located at a higher latitude, which means that during certain times of the year, the angle of the sun is such that it may not provide enough UVB radiation for the skin to synthesize vitamin D effectively. This can be particularly problematic during the winter months when sunlight exposure is limited.

The significance of this vitamin goes beyond bone health. It plays a crucial role in:

  1. Bone health: vitamin D aids in calcium absorption, ensuring that our bones remain strong and healthy. It is a key player in preventing osteoporosis and fractures, especially as we age.
  2. Immune function: vitamin D supports the immune system by regulating immune cell activity and reducing inflammation. It contributes to our body's defence against infections and illnesses.
  3. Mood regulation: research suggests that vitamin D may play a role in mood regulation and mental health. Adequate vitamin D levels are associated with a reduced risk of depression and mood disorders.
  4. Heart health: vitamin D may help regulate blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease by supporting cardiovascular health.

Vitamin D deficiency symptoms

Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency can vary from person to person, but some common signs include:

  1. Fatigue and weakness: feeling excessively tired and weak, even with enough sleep and rest.
  2. Bone pain: aches and pains in the bones and muscles, often accompanied by an increased risk of fractures.
  3. Mood changes: low levels of vitamin D have been associated with an increased risk of depression and mood disorders.
  4. Impaired immune function: frequent illnesses or infections due to compromised immune system functions.

It's important to remember that other factors can cause these symptoms too. It's best to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis.

Around 300,000 people in Ireland have osteoporosis, says the Irish Osteoporosis Society: taking enough vitamin when young can lower the chances of getting it.

How can I test my vitamin D level?

Consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and to discuss any concerns or symptoms you have.

You can try a home sampling test kit that lets you take a blood sample when you want and get the results at home.

What can I do if my vitamin D levels are low?

If you think you have low vitamin D, talk to a doctor before changing your diet, lifestyle, or taking supplements. They can provide personalised advice based on your specific situation.

Some general recommendations would be to:

  1. Increase sun exposure: spend more time outdoors in the sunlight, especially during the midday hours when the sun's rays are strongest. Aim for about 10-30 minutes of sun exposure on your face, arms, and legs, without sunscreen, a few times a week.
  2. Consume vitamin D-rich foods: include foods that are naturally rich in vitamin D in your diet. Some examples include fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, fortified dairy products like milk and yogurt, fortified cereals, and egg yolks.
  3. Take vitamin D supplements: If you are unable to get enough vitamin D through sunlight and diet alone, consider taking vitamin D supplements. Consult with a healthcare professional to determine the appropriate dosage for your specific needs.
  4. Get regular exercise: engaging in regular physical activity can help improve your vitamin D levels. Exercise outdoors, when possible, to maximise sun exposure.

Remember, always consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and to talk about any worries or symptoms you have.

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