During the winter months we need to take time to think about our vitamin D intake. Vitamin D is an essential micronutrient - one of its most important functions is to help grow and maintain strong bones and teeth. Some research has shown that vitamin D can also help our immunity and reduce depression.
What affects vitamin D levels?
Some foods contain vitamin D, particularly oily fish and dairy products, but we're generally unable to meet our recommended intake through diet alone.
We produce vitamin D in our skin when we're exposed to sunlight and can usually get enough from a small amount - however this is dependent on a number of factors.
Sunlight - lower levels of vitamin D are more common in winter and places with little sunlight; if you are indoors all day, or cover your body up when outdoors.
Skin colour - darker skin has higher levels of melanin, which absorbs less vitamin D.
Disease - conditions that affect our gut and digestion, like celiac disease and chronic pancreatitis, can reduce absorption.
Age - your skin's ability to product vitamin D drops as you age.
Despite our sunny climate, vitamin D deficiency affects around 30% of Australians to some degree.
Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency causes thinning of the bone structure - increasing the risk of falls and fractures in adults. People with vitamin D deficiency often suffer from bone, joint and muscle pain or weakness. Other symptoms can include: fatigue, depression, thinning hair, lowered immunity to colds and flu.
Can we have too much vitamin D?
It's nearly impossible to have too much naturally-occurring vitamin D; however, it is possible if you take vitamin D supplements in excess. Very high vitamin D levels can cause kidney damage and dangerous heart issues. Only take the recommended dose for your needs.
Also, remember to take a balanced approach to sun exposure - take care to avoid the risk of any sun damage to your skin.