With warmer weather now upon us, summer is officially here in the UK. By now, many of us know that vitamin D is a by-product of a reaction that occurs when UV rays strike the skin. Also acting as a hormone, vitamin D supports our immune system health, balances mood, and prevents heart disease. But in the summer, and surrounded by constant sunlight, how do we know we are still getting enough vitamin D? Plutus Health CEO Martin Ricketts shares his advice.
Let’s talk about vitamin D
Vitamin D contributes to optimum health. Its qualities help the body absorb calcium and phosphate from our diet. These minerals are essential for healthy bones, teeth and muscles. Vitamin D also plays a role in reducing the risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases.
It’s necessary for your body to absorb calcium, and people with low vitamin D levels are at risk of their bones becoming soft and weak. Have you ever felt blue in the winter when there’s less sunshine? This also has to do with vitamin D. Vitamin D has a direct influence on mood and, as a result, positivity and productivity.
How do we get Vitamin D?
Our bodies create vitamin D when the sun’s UV rays hit our skin when we’re outside. So, for people living in northern countries like Norway, Finland and northwest territories of Canada, the sun is only strong enough to stimulate vitamin D from late March to the end of September.
Your blood levels will be able to make the correct amount of vitamin D if you are outside for at least 15 minutes a day, without sunscreen, and with exposed arms and legs. It should be noted it is impossible to get your daily dose of vitamin D if you are sitting indoors by a sunny window. This is because ultraviolet B (UVB) rays are the ones your body needs to produce vitamin D, and through glass.
Looking after your skin in the sun is extremely important, therefore only 15 minutes of exposure to the sun without sun cream is recommend. Afterwards, it’s important to lather up in a broad-spectrum SPF thereafter.
Other ways to get Vitamin D
The NHS recommends that babies from birth to four years of age, and people who are not often exposed to the sun (for example people who are housebound, or people who wear clothes that cover most of their skin outdoors), to take a vitamin D supplement during 12 months of the year. The recommended dosage is to take 10 micrograms (μg) of vitamin D daily. If you believe you need more vitamin D, talk to your GP to figure out the best supplement for you.
Through certain foods:
While supplements can fill in the gaps, it’s always best to meet your needs nutritionally. There are several foods that can help you get more vitamin D into your diet. These include: fatty fish (tuna, mackerel, salmon), orange juice, soy milk, cereals, beef liver, cheese, egg yolks and mushrooms. Adding these into your diet can ensure you are reaching your optimum vitamin D intake.
So, do we get enough vitamin D during the summer? The short answer is no. However, by eating foods that are in high in vitamin D and spending short periods of time in the direct sunlight, you are more likely to get the correct amount of vitamin D that your body needs. Speak with your GP and find out what your current vitamin D levels are through a blood test and determine whether you need to amp up an essential vitamin.
Looking after your health is an important part of daily life. Being a member of a health plan is an effective way of protecting your health for the unexpected future. Find out about Plutus Health’s services here: https://www.plutushealth.co.uk/personal-health-plans/
Martin Ricketts is CEO of Plutus Health