The long stretch of wonderful weather has been a great way for many of us to top up our levels of vitamin D, the ‘sunshine vitamin’. But why is vitamin D so important? And how can we get it safely from the sun while still protecting our skin?
Most people are aware of the importance of vitamin D for our bones. However, an ever-increasing amount of evidence shows its importance in many other aspects of health, particularly for our immune system. A large study published this year in the BMJ showed that higher levels of this important nutrient were associated with lower levels of cancer in general and a 50% reduction in rates of liver cancer. Appropriate levels have also been linked to a decreased risk of diabetes, auto immune disease, heart disease, depression, obesity and many other chronic conditions. A large European study linked low levels of vitamin D to increased risk of all-cause mortality.
Where can I find vitamin D?
Some foods include small amounts, including fortified milks, oily fish, egg yolks and mushrooms. However, sunshine’s UVB rays are the best source. All of us have different requirements and differing abilities to produce vitamin D from the sun. Factors that influence our production include age and skin pigmentation. As a rule, the darker your skin, the more sunshine you will need. Ireland’s northerly latitude means that we are too far from the sun throughout much of the year to be able to make vitamin D. Another reason to enjoy the current sunny weather while we can.
It’s still important to protect your skin though. You don’t even need to get a tan to get sufficient amounts and should never let yourself burn. Most of us get enough sunshine to make our daily requirements in just 10 – 15 minutes of direct sunshine. We recommend protecting your face and allowing the sun to do its work on your arms and legs. Read more about keeping your skin healthy naturally, watch Heather sharing her tips or try our simple, all-natural coconut body butter with just 3 ingredients. It only takes 5 minutes to make and can help keep your skin soft, supple and glowing.
How much do I need?
We all have different nutritional requirements. And our levels of vitamin D are no different. We know from research carried out in UCC that the majority of people living in Ireland do not have sufficient levels of vitamin D. But it’s impossible to know what your levels are without testing. This is done via a simple blood test. Some GPs can do this and it’s always worth checking with your GP, especially if you are having blood tests done for other reasons. We also offer vitamin D testing through our four Irish clinics. Contact us on 01 4020777 to find out more.
If most of us need more, why can’t I just supplement?
Vitamin D is fat soluble, which means that we can store it for several months. This also means that taking too much vitamin D can be harmful. We always recommend testing to find out what your own requirements are and supplementing at safe levels.
If you do need to take a supplement, as many of us do through the winter, chose your supplement carefully. Vitamin D3 has been shown in studies to be twice as effective as D2 in increasing levels of vitamin D. In clinic, we usually recommend taking liquid D3, either in spray or drop form.
So take a few minutes every day to top up your levels of vitamin D naturally while you can and enjoy the sunshine.