The benefits of Vitamin D
Our body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight on our skin when we are outside, and it is important because it helps to control the amount of phosphate and calcium in the body which is needed to keep a person’s muscles, bones and teeth healthy. Along with sunlight, vitamin D can also be found in foods such as red meat, egg yolks, oily fish, and liver. Due to people not receiving enough vitamin D between October and early March due to the lack of sunlight, it is important that we get it from the foods we eat during this time.
During the summer months, most people can get enough vitamin D from being outside in the sun for a short time with their hands, forearms and lower legs uncovered, without sunscreen on, especially between the hours of 11am and 3pm when the sun is at its strongest, but it is important to be careful that your skin doesn’t start to burn. I think that perhaps walking somewhere for a few minutes may not require sunscreen, but if you are sitting outside for an hour or so, it is important to be protected from getting burnt.
It is not actually known how much time being exposed to the sun is needed to make enough vitamin D to meet our body’s requirements, but this is because there are many factors which affect how vitamin D is made. These include a person’s skin colour and how much skin a person actually exposes to the sun. However, symptoms for not having enough vitamin D include fatigue and tiredness, getting sick often, having pain in your muscles, bone and back, experiencing depression, bone and hair loss, and having wounds that heal slowly. People who are more at risk of being vitamin D deficient are those who are not outside very often, such as people who are housebound and people who are in an institution, such as a care home. People who wear clothes that cover up most of their skin when they are outside are also at risk.
Going outside in the sun can be a chore if you don’t like it, but remembering the benefits of being exposed to the sun is important. This summer I will make sure that I get as much vitamin D as I can in a responsible manner, but I will also make sure that, as always, I will remember my sun tan lotion if it’s going to be a long afternoon. The sun shouldn’t be hidden from – it should be celebrated as long as our exposure to it is sensible, and living the UK, we can never be sure how long we will see it for!
Sarah Keeping MBPsS MSc PgDip GDip BA (Hons)
Follow Sarah on twitter at @keepingapproach