Vitamin D deficiency: Not getting enough sun? The four alternatives to boost vitamin level

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Vitamin D deficiency can be serious, if left untreated. Insufficient intake can cause diseases such as rickets in children, and bone pain caused by a condition called osteomalacia in adults. It is therefore imperative to get enough of the vitamin. Between late March/early April to the end of September, most people can get all the vitamin D they need through sunlight on their skin, but in the winter months, it is easy to fall short of the required amount. 

According to Dr Oz, there are four ways to add it into your diet.

Milk and Yoghurt

Milk and yogurt are important natural sources of vitamin D. Make sure to buy milk that has been fortified with added vitamin D. It is important to note that vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, and studies have shown better absorption of the vitamin when consumed with healthy fats.

Tuna, Salmon, and Mackral

Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel are the best natural sources of vitamin D. Three ounces of cooked salmon provides over 100 percent of your daily requirement of vitamin D in one go. Smoked salmon on Irish soda bread with fortified margarine is a great way to start the day, says Dr Oz.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, just like humans do. Portobello mushrooms are a rich source of vitamin D, with 400 IU per three ounce serving.

According to Dr Oz, “Mushrooms will continue to produce vitamin D even after they’re harvested, so expose your mushrooms to some sunlight after you buy them for some at-home vitamin D fortification.”

Eggs

One free-range egg is another way to top up vitamin D. The vitamin D is concentrated in the yolk however, so make sure to eat the whole egg and not just the egg whites.

For those concerned about high cholesterol, this is a widely-held misconception, as Dr Oz explained: “Eggs (and their yolks!) can be part of a healthy eating plan every day, especially when replacing higher cholesterol foods like meat.”

Vitamin D can also be taken as a supplement. According to Holland Barrett: “When you take a Vitamin D supplement, the vitamin passes from your bloodstream into your liver. From here, it goes to the kidneys where it turns into calcitriol.

“It is then released back into your bloodstream and can now enter your body’s cells where it attaches to Vitamin D receptors. At this point, it can get to work regulating the minerals calcium and phosphorous.”

The health company recommends cod liver oil as a good source of vitamin D supplementation. “A quality Vitamin D3 or wide-spectrum Vitamin D supplement is a sensible way to keep your daily levels topped up,” it said.

One tablet or capsule per day should supply the body with all the vitamin D it needs.

Who is at risk of a vitamin D deficiency?

The Department of Health recommends that you take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D throughout the year if you:

  • Aren’t often outdoors – for example, if you’re frail or housebound
  • Are in an institution like a care home
  • Usually wear clothes that cover up most of your skin when outdoors
  • People with dark skin from African, African-Caribbean and south Asian backgrounds may also not get enough vitamin D from sunlight.

They consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D throughout the year.

According to the NHS, taking too many vitamin D supplements over a long period of time can cause too much calcium to build up in the body (hypercalcaemia). This can weaken the bones and damage the kidneys and the heart.

10 micrograms a day will be enough for most people, it said.

Exceeding 100 micrograms of vitamin D a day could be harmful. This applies to adults, including pregnant and breastfeeding women and the elderly, and children aged eleven to seventeen years.

Children aged one to ten years shouldn’t have more than 50 micrograms a day. Infants under twelve months shouldn’t have more than 25 micrograms a day.

Some people have medical conditions that mean they may not be able to safely take as much. If in doubt, you should consult your doctor.

If your doctor has recommended you take a different amount of vitamin D, you should follow their advice, said the health body.

“Your body doesn’t make too much vitamin D from sun exposure, but always remember to cover up or protect your skin if you’re out in the sun for long periods to reduce the risk of skin damage and skin cancer,” it adds.

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