Why do we need Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is important for the development of healthy bone, muscles and teeth and low levels are linked to illnesses including rickets in children and osteoporosis in adults.
Evidence is also emerging that vitamin D may help reduce the risk of bowel cancer and other cancers and may be linked to a number of other diseases.
With this in mind it is important to make sure your vitamin D level is sufficient for good health.
How do we get Vitamin D?
Eating a healthy balanced diet
Choosing foods that contain vitamin D is an important part of maintaining a health vitamin D level. The best foods to help with this are:
- Cod liver oil.
- Oily fish such as salmon and fresh tuna.
Other foods with small amounts of vitamin D include:
- Egg yolks.
- Breakfast cereals that have added vitamin D
- Milk with added vitamin D
Exposure to Sunlight
Sun exposure is the best natural source of vitamin D. When ultra violet (UV) radiation touches the skin vitamin D is made.
During the summer months in Ireland spending a few minutes in the sun is the best way for your body to produce vitamin D. It is unlikely that your skin will make vitamin D in the winter months. But, the body can store enough to last between 30 – 60 days.
Because UV exposure is also linked to skin cancer getting a balance between safe sun exposure and vitamin D production is important. You don’t need to spend hours in the sun to produce enough vitamin D. Extra time outdoors doesn’t equal more vitamin D, but it does increase skin cancer risk.
Walking outdoors for a few minutes to get your lunch, to pick up the children or hang out the clothes all counts.
The World Health Organisation advice is to get 5 to 15 minutes of casual sun exposure to hands, face and arms two to three times a week during the summer months. In this way sun exposure as you go about your daily life really makes a difference.
- Never let your skin redden or burn to get vitamin D.
- Take extra care if you have fair skin because you are more at risk of sunburn.
- Never use a sunbed to increase your vitamin D levels.
- It is important to protect your skin with the SunSmart code to reduce skin cancer risk.
Taking a daily Vitamin D supplement
According to the HSE, taking a daily vitamin D supplement is another way to meet your vitamin D needs. They suggest taking a supplement that provides 5 micrograms of vitamin D3 per day. However, it is always a good idea to talk to your doctor before taking a supplement.
The HSE also recommend that all babies from birth to 12 months are given a vitamin D supplement. To find out more about this speak with your GP.
Vitamin D: who is at risk of deficiency?
There are a number of people who are at risk of having a low vitamin D level. They include:
- People with darker skin.
- People who cover up their bodies completely when going outside.
- Older people who don’t get outdoors much.
- People who avoid the sun.
- Women who are pregnant.
- Babies who are being breast feed and whose mums have low levels of vitamin D.
- People with certain conditions which affect vitamin D metabolism.
If you are worried or at risk of having a low vitamin D level talk to your GP or Pharmacist about taking a vitamin D supplement.
For more information visit: https://www.cancer.ie/reduce-your-risk/sunsmart/vitamin-D?gclid=CMTMisTiuc8CFaNZ2wodIXEJQQ#sthash.vIWCygQ1.dpbs