By Lori Cohen
Could a simple vitamin deficiency be making you feel bone tired?
We look into why you may need to top up your Vitamin D intake.
Modern life means we spend more time at work, school and indoors than ever. Getting outside is great for our mental and physical health generally, but there’s an excellent reason experts are encouraging us to kick our ‘indoor habits’ and expose our bodies to more sun. Safe sun exposure (avoiding the hours between 11am and 2pm when UV rays are at their most intense) is not only good for us; it turns out to be essential. That’s because when our skin absorbs that beautiful UVB, our kidneys and livers can convert the sunlight into a nutrient we call Vitamin D.
THE SUNSHINE VITAMIN
The length of time we’re exposed to the rays and the amount of melanin in our skin determines how much Vitamin D our bodies can form. Those with darker skin and people using sunscreen can absorb less because the melanin (which gives skin its colour) prevents all the rays from reaching the substance in our skin where it is converted into the vitamin. To naturally produce enough Vitamin D, aim to get up to 30 minutes of sun exposure every day. If you have light, sensitive skin you’ll need less. If it’s overcast, you’ll need to increase it. You get the picture. Of course, we also get the vitamin from dietary sources such as fatty fish, cheese, eggs and beef liver, but our skin makes most of it when it’s exposed to sunlight.
WHAT IS VITAMIN D TOXICITY?
• Vitamin D toxicity, also called hypervitaminosis D, is a rare but potentially serious condition that occurs when you have excessive amounts of vitamin D in your body.
• Vitamin D toxicity is usually caused by mega doses of vitamin D supplements — not by diet or sun exposure. That’s because your body regulates the amount of vitamin D produced by sun exposure, and even fortified foods don’t contain large amounts of vitamin D.
THE LOWDOWN ON LOW LEVELS
A lack of Vitamin D can have severe consequences for both children and adults, says homeopath Dr. Laura Chella. ‘A lack of Vitamin D can affect the absorption of calcium and phosphorus and that can lead to thin, brittle bones, which we call rickets in children. If this happens in adults, then we can call it osteomalacia.’ Children also need it to assist in the formation of healthy teeth. Our bodies need Vitamin D to absorb calcium and promote bone growth. ‘We often see vitamin D deficiency in the elderly because they don’t go out a lot and their appetites shrink,’ explains Laura. Brittle bones
are expected in our retirees, but the number of children in first world countries suffering from rickets is soaring. Other more subtle changes in our kids are causing concern. Shortsightedness in adolescents is on the rise, for example, which is being linked to too little exposure to natural light. Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to peanut allergies. Laura explains that early research seems to show there’s an association with increased levels of Vitamin D and protection against cancer. ‘It’s a loose association, but one that I think is important and shouldn’t be ignored,’ she says. Vitamin D also plays a role in our immune system. Without enough of it, we’re more susceptible to illness.
Signs you or your child may be vitamin D deficient:
• Bone pain, stiffness, and brittle bones.
• Muscle aches, tiredness, malaise, low mood, and fatigue.
• Constant infections and illness
VITAMIN D FOODS FOR STRONG & HEALTHY BONES
• Cod liver oil
• Rainbow Trout
• Beef liver
• Cheddar cheese
• Orange juice
THE CASE FOR SUPPLEMENTING
Increasing sun exposure and adding vitamin D-rich foods into the diet doesn’t work for everyone to solve their low levels, explains Laura. ‘Some people are deficient in the process it takes to manufacture vitamin D in their bodies.’ A simple blood test can determine your Vitamin D levels and if you’re found to be lacking, and you haven’t been able to ‘eat yourself healthy’, try the following, says Laura. Take Vitamin D3. ‘This is the most absorbable form of a D vitamin. It’s also called cholecalciferol. You want to get about 5000 IU a day through a quality vitamin supplement if you have a deficiency, but 1000 IU is appropriate as a maintenance dose.’ Vitamin D is available as a tablet, liquid, or even transdermal patch. Give baby a boost. You can use a nasal spray formula such as Better You DLux Infant Daily Vitamin D Spray for babies. ‘If you’re concerned your baby isn’t eating enough of the right foods or has been indoors a lot because of poor weather, an oral spray is advisable to give them about 800 IU. If the baby is breastfed, you’ll need about half of that. Formula is already fortified with Vitamin D.’