Well, we're nearly at the end of another good old British summer - it would have been nice to see a little bit more actual summer sunshine but that's English weather for you! Soon we will be heading into the Autumn season, the days will getter shorter and there will be even less of the sun's rays reaching us.
Vitamin D is essential for both physical and mental health
Feeling the warmth of sunshine on our skin, is for many, an instant mood booster. However, while it's great for putting a smile on our face and a spring in our step it is also vitally important for vitamin D production; that's why many refer to it as the 'Sunshine Vitamin'. Vitamin D is essential for both physical and mental health and is most well-known for its role in maintaining healthy bones. It is needed for the body to absorb calcium and phosphate from our diet, minerals that are important for strong bones, as well as healthy teeth and muscles. It is also very important for facilitating a normal immune system, improved resistance against certain diseases, regulating mood and warding off depression.
During autumn and winter UK doesn't get enough sunlight for vitamin D synthesis
In the UK, sunlight-induced vitamin D synthesis is only effective between late March and September and not from October onwards throughout the winter months, this is because the sun is too low in the sky and does not contain enough UVB radiation. Unfortunately, we cannot turn to food to top up levels during this time because vitamin D is found naturally in only a limited amount of foods: oily fish, red meat, liver and eggs are all natural sources. And even though these foods contain vitamin D, it is not in large enough amounts to make it possible to get what our bodies need from diet alone.
Supplementation is essential
Therefore, now is the time to prepare yourself for winter and start thinking of a strategy to prevent a vitamin D deficiency - a rounded approach is always best so this means eating as many foods containing Vitamin D as you can as well as taking a good quality supplement.
For vitamin D to have the maximum beneficial effect there are some other key nutrients (cofactors) that your body needs to have available - these include magnesium, vitamin K, and zinc so ensure that your diet contains plenty of these nutrients too.
It is important to note that some of us are more at risk of not having enough vitamin D even in spring and summer, including those with dark skin, those who are not outdoors often or cover up their skin when outdoors, or those in care homes. These groups of people are advised to take a vitamin D supplement all year round.
Public Health England state the recommended dose of vitamin D is 10 micrograms (400 International Units (IU)) per day however if you are unable to find a vitamin D supplement providing 10 micrograms (400 IU), products providing up to 25 micrograms (1000 IU) are suitable for everyone.
A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.