Considered the ‘green light’ for longer, lighter days and all-round brighter times ahead, the changing of the clocks in 2021 has huge connotations of a world returning to normality – a world returning to health.
And whilst the spring/summer season will see many people begin to enjoy a healthier social life, it is a time that our bodies’ vitamin D stores are at their lowest. As we come out of the dark winter months with depleted vitamin D levels, we can be more susceptible to cold viruses that often peak during the spring months.
So, whether you continue to spend most of your time indoors or you have filled your diary with garden gatherings and outdoor dining plans, here is why we recommend you continue to top up your vitamin D levels to keep the immune defences strong.
Why can’t I rely on sunshine to get enough vitamin D?
Due to the inconsistent British weather and our increasingly indoor lifestyles, we can remain unexposed to adequate direct sunlight throughout April and beyond - inhibiting the body’s synthesis of this essential vitamin.
Whilst working from home may allow for more flexibility to get outdoors and spend time in the sunshine, we tend to cover 75 per cent of our bodies with clothing, or - on rare warmer days - many people apply sunscreen to protect from sunburn, preventing effective penetration of Vitamin D-activating UVB rays.
When we polled the British public, more than two thirds of people said they believe they get their vitamin D from sunlight by spending on average 24 minutes out in the sunshine per day. However, cloud cover and low levels of UVB radiation in the northern hemisphere means that sunlight alone is not always sufficient enough to produce adequate amounts of this crucial vitamin.
Who is most at-risk of vitamin D deficiency?
Among those considered most at-risk of vitamin D deficiency are:
- Expectant mothers and infants
- Children under the age of 5 and those in their teenage years
- The elderly or house bound
- People following a plant-based diet
- Those with darker skin tones.
Office workers and people that are house bound (with consistently low sun exposure) are also considered at-risk of suboptimal levels of the nutrient.
Vitamin D deficiency is more likely to occur for those with jobs that mean they struggle to spend sufficient time outside, which is why supplementation has become essential for so many, all year round.
How do I know if I am deficient?
Some of the signs of low vitamin D include, tiredness and fatigue, low mood and frequent coughs, colds and infections.
Low levels of the ‘sunshine vitamin’ can manifest in many ways and, as these symptoms are not exclusive to vitamin D deficiency, it’s not surprising that as many as 88 per cent of people admit to having never tested their levels.
There is a growing amount of research that suggests vitamin D supplementation is essential for boosting the immune system and helping our bodies to fight against infection and disease, so if you feel you are more susceptible to illness, it is a good idea to test your vitamin D levels.
Should I be supplementing Vitamin D, and how?
In 2016, The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), reviewed guidance for supplementation and made a recommendation that everyone should consider supplementing a minimum of 400iu (10ug) of vitamin D per day, throughout the year – including pregnant and breastfeeding women and infants from birth.
For many people, using traditional methods of supplementation, such as tablets and capsules, can be challenging.
This is particularly important for children and older adults who may struggle to swallow tablets, along with those that have conditions such as IBS, Crohn’s, Colitis and coeliac disease, as the amount of nutrients the body can absorb through the gut may be suboptimal.
Our top tips for supporting your immunity with vitamin D this Spring:
- Where possible, spend some time out in the sunshine during the middle portion of the day, bearing uncovered skin such as the arms or legs for around 20 minutes.
- Consider taking a vitamin D supplement all year round, even if you reduce your dosage over summertime.
- Aim to eat a balanced diet that includes oily fish, eggs and fortified cereals.
- Don’t let a vitamin D deficiency add to your worries as the pandemic continues to affect our lives. If you think you may be deficient, you can test your levels easily by purchasing an at-home kit Once your results are determined, you can begin supplementing according to your own needs.