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  • Writer's pictureWGYG

Getting your vit D stash

Anyone close to me will know well not to contact me on rainy grey days – they are not my finest. Not only does my mood dip by about 70%, but my energy levels and motivation take the hit too. I am so solar powered, it’s untrue. I even got a sunshine tattooed inside my arm to remind me of this fact.

Many a time, we’ve toyed with the idea of moving abroad to sunnier climates. I truly believe it would benefit our (mainly my) health and happiness so much. But, then we always get held back by the quality of our lives here in the UK and the ease of everything – the amazing state school our boys attend, our lovely little townhouse, being close to friends and family, and our circle of trustees: Babysitters, PTs, Yoga instructors, Acupuncturists, Chiropractors etc etc…

The Power of Vitamin D

There is significant ongoing debate about the power of vitamin D. Within the scientific and medical community people’s views differ about how much vitamin D your body actually needs. I belong to the side who agree that it is very important to your mental and physical wellbeing.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. Its primary function is to aid calcium absorption, which promotes growth and mineralization of your bones. It also contributes to health functioning of your immune, digestive, circulatory, and nervous systems (1Trusted Source). Emerging research suggests that vitamin D may help prevent a variety of illnesses, such as depression, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. However, the ‘how’ is still relatively poorly understood.

How much vit D do I need?

The Institute of Medicine and The Skin Cancer Foundation recommend an allowance of 600 International Units (IU) for the average person between the ages of 1 and 70. (400 IU is recommended for infants under age 1 and 800 IU is recommended for everyone over age 70.)

You can ask your GP for a blood test to check your vitamin D levels if you suspect yours are low, or also there are various home tests, such as Thriva, where you can pay for a private test done from the comfort of your own home.

The sunshine vitamin v sunscreen protection argument

Vitamin D is commonly referred to as the “sunshine vitamin”. This is because it’s produced in your skin in response to sunlight. When your body is exposed directly to sunlight, it produces vitamin D naturally. Pretty darn cool.

We are all regularly told to wear tonnes of sunscreen and avoid the sunshine because of the risk of skin cancer, however, we are also told that using very high factor sunscreens affect our ability to get sufficient amounts of Vitamin D through the sun. This is also true for kids, who need to help fight infections and keep their bones strong, but who we are encouraged to smother with factor 50 + wear sunsuits + wear hats + stay in the shade. The two pieces of scientific advice don’t quite add up here then do they? Do we pile on the sunscreen and miss out on the vit D, or wear less sunscreen and increase the risk of sunburn and other skin nasties?

Well, I recently read this good article from the website who try to explain it in simple terms. This is the biggest take out that I look from the article:

“The truth is, it doesn’t take much sun exposure for the body to produce vitamin D. Even committed proponents of unprotected sun exposure recommend no more than 10 to 15 minutes of exposure to arms, legs, abdomen and back, two to three times a week, followed by good sun protection. That minor amount of exposure produces all the vitamin D your body can muster. After that, your body automatically starts to dispose of vitamin D to avoid an overload of the vitamin, at which point your sun exposure is giving you nothing but sun damage without any of the presumed benefit.”

So, a vital takeaway here: It seems we should let our bodies (and our kids) be exposed to the natural sunlight for small periods of 10-15 minutes a few times each week, before lathering up with sunscreen. I actually felt a sense of relief and calm after reading this as for once it finally made sense to me how to find that balance of vitamin D exposure & protection from the sun’s harmful rays.

Other ways to top up with Vit D – mushrooms ‘n’ all!

So, aside from UV exposure (because really if you live in the UK like me, you may not have experienced this for a good few weeks now), the question is, what other ways can we obtain vitamin D?

The answer is from food and supplements.

Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna are especially good sources – packed with the stuff. Small amounts are also present in egg yolks, beef liver and cheese. Taking a cod liver oil supplement will give you 1,360 IU - more than twice the daily recommended intake of vitamin D!

Vegan or veggie? Some fortified cereals, almond milks, rice milks and soy milks are good sources. Quaker's Oats, Kellogg's Special K and Multi Grain Cheerios are all fortified with Vitamin D. Also, it seems that mushrooms are golden for veggie and vegan diets. All mushrooms contain vitamin D and are one of the few non-fortified food sources you can find.Check out the Mushroom Council website for more info!!!!


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