Spring is here!
Its the first day of Spring although it doesn’t really feel like it today. Everyone loves the feeling of the warm sun on their face especially at this time of year. The sun is more important than just making us feel happy it also has important health benefits – vitamin D.
The various potential health benefits of vitamin D have been in the news recently. Did you know that over 90% of our vitamin D is synthesized in the skin following exposure to ultraviolet B radiation (UVB) from the sun? However living in the Northern Hemisphere we risk being vitamin D deficient since during the Winter months the sun is not high enough in the sky to provide the adequate levels of UVB rays to enable skin vitamin D synthesis to take place.
The good news is that vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. This means that provided we get enough sun exposure during the months March to October we are able to make enough vitamin D to store to last over the Winter months. Exposing the face and arms for just 20 minutes a day during the Spring and Summer months is a great way to make some vitamin D. Dietary sources are found in foods such as egg yolk, salmon, mackerel, sardines, fortified milk and cereals and wild mushrooms. However it is difficult to get enough vitamin D from food sources alone. These food sources are difficult to absorb and then need to go through further modifications in the liver and the kidney before they are in the same form as that made in the skin.
Why is vitamin D important?
Vitamin D deficiency is linked to weak bone diseases, rickets in children and osteoporosis in older adults. Vitamin D works to assist the uptake of calcium from the intestines and assists in bone mineralization. It has also been linked to improving the immune system to fight viruses and bacteria, decreasing heart disease and decreasing the risk of diabetes. If we are deficient in Vitamin D the body is unable to uptake calcium and therefore releases hormones that act on bones to release the calcium from bones into the blood steam so that the muscles including the heart can still function properly and therefore putting us at risk of weaker bones.
Who is at risk of vitamin D deficiency?
- Anyone who spends long periods of time indoors
- Races with darker skin since they require higher levels of UVB over longer periods to produce the same amount of vitamin D
- People you wear clothing that covers their skin and therefore never synthesize any vitamin D in the skin
- People who due to concerns over melanoma always use high factor sun block and therefore never allow the skin to be exposed to the beneficial UVB to synthesize any vitamin D
- Breast fed babies if mum is vitamin D deficient
- Infants and children under 4 years of age due to rapid bone growth
- Adolescents during rapid bone growth
If you are concerned
If you are concerned that you may have a vitamin D deficiency contact your GP who can send you for a simple blood test. In an older person your GP may also send you for a bone density scan if they are concerned about osteoporosis. Your GP may prescribe vitamin D supplementation however you should never take vitamin D supplements without consulting the GP since dietary supplemental vitamin D can be toxic in excess. At Valere Osteopathy we can help by assessing if you are at risk of osteoporosis, provide diet, exercise and lifestyle advise to ensure you stay fit and healthy. You can always try and catch a few rays of sunshine every day now Spring is here (when the sun does make an appearance) to ensure you maximise your stores for the long dark Winter months. Call Julie Boyd at Valere Osteopathy and Naturopathy on 020 8444 6725 or enquire via the website www.valereosteopathy.co.uk