• Melissa Campbell

Are you Part of the Low Vitamin D Epidemic?



The other day I read a shocking statistic. Almost 1 billion people across the world have a vitamin D deficiency!


Wow! That is a LOT of people and furthermore this likely does apply to you because a survey conducted in the UK, suggests that “1 in 5 of us are deficient and that EVERYONE over the age of 5 during the months of October to March should consider taking a daily supplement”.


This is a big deal because vitamin D does a LOT of things to keep us feeling healthy.

In today’s post, I am going to outline a few things that you can do to help boost your vitamin D levels as well as why it’s important!… including making a few healthy food choices!



First of all, what are the symptoms of being low in Vitamin D and why do we need it?


One big symptom of being low in vitamin D is feeling rundown and tired, along with catching every cold/bug that comes around which is usually what happens during the times when the sun is at its lowest.


Feeling depressed and losing your hair also are two common signs that you might be low in the “sunshine” vitamin.


You might already know your body needs vitamin D to build and maintain strong bones over the course of your life so having a long-term deficiency can lead to weaker bones and muscles.


Along with bone health, this crucial vitamin plays other important roles as indicated above it is an important vitamin for immune health.



Vitamin D works like a hormone in your system, helping your body’s immune, digestive, circulatory, and nervous systems do their jobs.


Scientists also are looking into how vitamin D might help prevent diseases such as depression, diabetes, cancer, and even heart problems.


The thing is, getting enough vitamin D can be kind of tricky (particularly if you live in the UK and/or eat a plant-based diet and/or are vegan) because unlike other vitamins, there are not many food sources that are naturally high in vitamin D.


You can get your quota of vitamin D from the sun but sunscreen blocks the sun and the vitamin D and if you have darker skin, you will also need more sun exposure.


Coupled to that, in the UK during the months of October to March the sun doesn’t contain enough UVB radiation for our skin to be able to make vitamin D.


NHS England recommends that during these months, we need to rely on getting our vitamin D from food sources (including fortified foods) and supplements.


Here are some other risk factors that increase the potential for vitamin D deficiency:


  • Aging

  • Pregnant or breast-feeding women

  • Being overweight

  • Having dark skin

  • Living far from the equator

  • Using sunscreen every time you go out

  • Staying inside

  • A diet low in fish or dairy

  • Lack of sun in the UK between October – March



What to do?


Here are some practical tips for naturally raising your vitamin D level.


1. Get Summer Sunshine. Yes, even though we are told to avoid sun exposure, it doesn’t take much to raise your vitamin D level. Although sources vary, research suggests anything from 10-30 minutes of exposure is all you need (people who live further from the equator or who have darker skin might need more time).


2. Eat your eggs (especially the yolks). Studies show that free-range chickens that eat a diet of grain fortified with vitamin D have more than the daily requirement of the vitamin.


3. Fatty fish – I don’t eat meat or fish but some of you may know that fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, tuna, and mackerel (including canned varieties) contain vitamin D. However, being a vegetarian, I would ask you to consider non-animal food sources, sustainability and the fact that most fish nowadays are farmed. According to Healthline, farmed salmon contains only 25 percent of the vitamin D of wild-caught salmon.


4. Mushrooms that have been grown in sunlight. Many common varieties of mushrooms in the UK are now enriched in vitamin D. Look for the label that says “Mushrooms enriched with vitamin D” or “UV treated mushrooms; a controlled light treatment was used to increase vitamin D levels.



5. Ask your doctor about taking a vitamin D supplement. Advice from 2016 suggests that during October to March everyone should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D but it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before adding a new supplement to your routine as there is a lot of debate about how much vitamin D you need.



Different health/medicine groups recommending anywhere from 600 to 1,000 IUs per day. Your doctor can make a recommendation for your unique situation and decide whether they want to test your level before recommending a dosage.


I personally supplement all year round and take Vitamin D3 (which can be plant-based - check the label to make sure it is vegan) and I choose to buy from Veridian; a brand I trust.


If you do have a deficiency, raising them back to normal levels can make a huge difference in boosting your immunity along with your energy levels and moods especially in the winter months!



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References:


Vitamin D Council: https://www.vitamindcouncil.org/review-establishes-vitamin-d-deficiency-risk-factors-prevalence-and-treatment-for-individuals-worldwide/#.XaGjHOhKhPY


The British Nutrition Foundation: https://www.nutrition.org.uk/nutritioninthenews/new-reports/983-newvitamind.html


NHS England https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/how-to-get-vitamin-d-from-sunlight/