Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin – could you be deficient?

At this time of year, we start to think about the winter and shorter darker days. Having just had a fairly sunny English summer our vitamin D levels should be at optimal levels, but you would be surprised at how many of us are lacking in this essential vitamin.

Its estimated that approx. 75% of the UK population are deficient in Vitamin D. It’s not really surprising as the only way to really get enough Vitamin D is by full sun exposure on bare skin – and to be honest, as many of us spend much of the day inside or at our desks, the short spells in the sun don’t really give us enough sun exposure to ensure Vitamin D reaches optimal levels.

We used to think that Vitamin D was only needed for healthy bones and teeth, but more and more research is being done which shows that it is involved in a huge number of body mechanisms. As a result, the symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency may be wide spread and can include; tiredness and general aches and pains, an inability to lose weight and some people find that they are always hungry. You may also experience depression or feel generally low as well as experiencing frequent colds, coughs or infections. However, not everyone experiences all of these symptoms. If you have a severe vitamin D deficiency you may have pain in your bones and weakness in your muscles, which may mean you have difficulty getting around.

It’s very difficult to get enough vitamin D just from the food we eat and if you are someone who spends a lot of time indoors, or uses sunscreen when out in the sun it may be worth checking your levels. This is very simply done either through a blood test or an easy, inexpensive finger prick test.

It’s worth noting that pregnant women have a higher Vitamin D need as do people who are very overweight or obese and for those who are at a higher risk of deficiency including ethnic minority groups with dark skin and those who cover up for religious reasons such as nuns and those who wear veils, the recommendation is to supplement with vitamin D the whole year round.

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, then it might be worth having a chat with your GP or a Registered Nutritional Therapist to find out if low Vitamin D is the reason or if something else if the cause.