Vitamin D is necessary as it helps the body to absorb calcium. Calcium is important for healthy bones, muscles, and teeth. But are you getting the vitamin D that you need?
How to get Vitamin D
Certain foods have very small amounts of vitamin D in them; however, these levels are not high enough to be sufficient for the body. Therefore, the body needs to be exposed to direct sunlight so that it can manufacture its own vitamin D. Most people get enough vitamin D through sun exposure simply by going about their daily activities such as shopping, gardening and walking. However, it is important that you are not wearing sunscreen – the skin needs to be unprotected. For people with fair skin, a minimum of five minutes and a maximum of fifteen minutes is enough between September and April. In May to August, two to three hours of sunlight over the week is required. During summer, ensure that the exposure occurs before 10am and after 3pm. People that have darker skin will need to be exposed to the sun for longer in order to get adequate levels of vitamin D, perhaps as much as three to four times the amount. This is because the pigments in the darker skin stop the ultraviolet radiation from being absorbed as fast.
As well as getting adequate amounts of sun, it is important to exercise moderately, and eat foods that are rich in calcium. Also eat foods that contain vitamin D, which include:
- fortified milk
- fortified soy drinks
- fish (tuna, salmon, sardines etc)
The Risks of Not Getting Enough Vitamin D
A vitamin D deficiency may result in various musculoskeletal problems such as rickets in children and osteoporosis in adults. Elderly people that are deficient in vitamin D are also more likely to fall as their muscles are weaker and they may have a balance problem.
People that May Suffer from Vitamin D Deficiency
People that are more likely to suffer from a vitamin D deficiency include:
- babies whose mothers have a vitamin D deficiency
- children that are exposed to little sun
- adults that are exposed to little sun
- people that cover most of their body
- people that are largely housebound
- people with darker skin
- people in residential care
- older people
- shift workers
- people with medical conditions such as certain bowel diseases