With winter swiftly approaching, our skin’s access to sunlight diminishes, and we may start to feel below our best. Understanding what may be causing this is key to boosting your health and well-being throughout the cold, dark winter months.
Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D is created when sunlight comes into direct contact with our skin and is key in regulating the amount of calcium and phosphate we have. These are important to keep bones, teeth, and muscles happy and healthy.
Unfortunately, it is estimated that almost one billion people worldwide have low levels of vitamin D. In the UK, it is approximately 20% of the population that have a vitamin D deficiency with 60% considered to have insufficient levels of vitamin D putting not just the UK, but the world, into a vitamin D pandemic.1
Sources of the Sunshine Vitamin
In the UK from late March to the end of September, most people should be able to make all the vitamin D they need from sunlight, but between October and early March this is not the case as our exposure to sunlight is lower.
We therefore rely on certain foods for part of our vitamin D during the colder months. Whilst vitamin d is relatively low in food sources, some key food items include2:
- Oily fish – such as salmon, sardines, herring, and trout
- Red meat
- Egg yolks
- Fortified foods – such as some fat spreads and breakfast cereals
Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
From the onset of Autumn, through to early Spring, you may not be getting enough vitamin D. During this period, or any other time of year, stay on the lookout for the symptoms listed below:
- Feeling fatigued3
- Falling sick often4
- Gastrointestinal Issues5
- Back Pain6
- Chronic Muscle Pain7
- Low Mood8
Low levels of vitamin D can have any of the above symptoms, but not always. Symptoms can often be subtle and difficult to interpret. If you don’t think you are getting enough vitamin d, the only thing you can do to know for sure is test.
Diagnosing Vitamin D Deficiency
Historically, in the UK the only way to diagnose vitamin D deficiency is via a blood-test administered by your General Practitioner (GP) or nurses at a clinic. With appointments becoming increasingly difficult to make as GP wait times increase significantly10, we now have the option of cost effective at home self-tests for rapid diagnosis of certain health concerns.
Modern day at-home tests, allow for accurate screening of many health concerns, vitamin d included, giving you results within minutes. Covid-19 has given us all confidence in the accuracy of these tests and how to use them…
…But Know What You Are Buying
Not all self-tests detect the same levels (or are certified for home use – keep an eye for another of our blogs on this!). According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines 11, an increased risk of vitamin D deficiency occurs at serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25[OH]D) levels less than 25 nmol/L. The Abingdon Simply Test Vitamin D test for home use can be used to indicate your vitamin D levels with the line intensity indicating whether your levels of fine, are insufficient or are deficient. The test is easy-to-use, is approved for home-use and works in 10 minutes.
How to Get More of the Sunshine Vitamin Without Sunshine?
If you’ve taken a test and are shown to be deficient or insufficient and are concerned, please consult with your GP. In the meantime, look to introduce more foods high in vitamin d (like the ones outlined earlier!), get outside and enjoy some time in the sun (when available), investigate vitamin d supplements, and consider regular screening during those cooler, less sunny months.
- Holick, M, F and Chen, T, C. (2008). Vitamin D Deficiency: A Worldwide Problem with Health Consequences. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: 87(4), pp 1080S-1086S.
- GP appointment waiting times quicker than before pandemic, finds survey – Management In Practice