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Why vitamin D is so important (especially in UK winters)

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I’m convinced I suffer from seasonal affective disorder and this year it has been worse than ever.  The winter has seemed so long this year and now spring is meant to be here, yet we had a foot of snow this past weekend and freezing temperatures.  Combined with working at home and barely leaving the house, cabin fever has set in and I’m feeling pretty gloomy right now.   It got me wondering whether vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, has any effect on our happiness levels.  Perhaps the lack of daylight is not exactly the cause, but rather the lack of vitamin D from the sunlight.

It would seem my theory could be correct as this study has found a link between the two.  I’m sure there’s so much about the sun and its positive effects on our bodies that we don’t yet understand, but I know sun makes me happy and it could very well be because of the vitamin D it allows our bodies to produce.  Unfortunately in the UK we don’t have enough sun to produce vitamin D in the winter months.

The NHS says ‘During autumn and winter (from October until the end of March) the sun isn't strong enough in the UK to produce vitamin D.’

This year I have unfortunately let SAD get the better of me and I’m sure I’ve not had enough vitamin D.  This could be the cause.  I have been consoling myself by looking at holidays for next winter to make sure I’m not in the UK for the entire stretch of cold weather!  Next year, however, I plan to be more prepared and supplement my diet to see if it helps with my happiness and ensure I have a yearlong sufficient supply of this sunshine vitamin.   You can easily buy high strength vitamin D3 supplements online from Nature's Best. If you’re meat free and dairy free like me then search for a vitamin D2 supplement which is vegan friendly.

How do we get vitamin D?

  • We make around 90% of the vitamin D we need from direct UV sunlight on our skin
  •  A very small amount comes from foods such as fatty fish, beef liver, cheese and egg yolks
  • Some other foods are fortified with vitamin D
  • Our bodies turn it into a hormone called “activated vitamin D” or “calcitriol”
  • We need to get the majority from the sun and won’t get the right amount from food sources
  • 10 minutes exposure to the sun on uncovered skin could be all we need to produce enough
  • Excess vitamin D is stored by the body and does not go to waste

What does vitamin D do?

  • Vitamin D manages the amount of calcium in our bodies and allows us to absorb calcium and phosphorus
  • It allows cells all over our body to communicate properly
  • It contributes to the normal functioning of muscles
  • Maintains healthy teeth and bones

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What are the risks of a deficiency?

If you are deficient in vitamin D then you could experience a wide range of health issues.  Here are just some of the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency.

  • Severe deficiency causes rickets in children, so it will prevent this
  • A severe lack also causes osteomalacia in adults resulting in thin, weak and brittle bones
  • Low levels could be linked to depression and SAD

What are the health benefits of vitamin D?

  • Strong and healthy bones, muscles and teeth
  • Possible reduced risk of cancer, multiple sclerosis and cardiovascular disease
  • A strong immune system to help fight off bugs (this could explain why we’re more likely to get colds and flu in the winter months)
  • It can slow weight gain (perhaps why we’re less hungry in the summer?)
  • It could prevent vision damage
  • Healthy pregnancy
  • Healthy infants

If you live in an area like the UK that lacks enough sunshine in the winter to produce your own vitamin D, then make sure you supplement your diet to ensure you have plenty.