You may know that we get most of our vitamin D from sunlight, but did you know that in the UK we do not get enough of it from sunlight alone in the winter? That’s why it’s really important to make sure you’re aware of how to boost your vitamin D levels over the winter!
Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium in your body, and a deficiency can lead to problems with bones – including the illnesses rickets (in children) and osteomalacia (in adults).
During the dark UK winter, we do not get enough sunlight and as a result we do not get enough vitamin D. As it is only found in a small number of foods (namely oily fish, red meat, eggs and liver), it can be very difficult to get the recommended amount. As a result, the only effective way of keeping levels higher in winter is by taking supplements or vitamin drops – which you can buy from supermarkets or chemists.
Because of this, it is recommended that everyone (including pregnant and breastfeeding women) should take 10mg of vitamin D through autumn and winter. This is now especially important during this COVID-19 era, as we have all been outside less and therefore are getting even less than we usually would.
For children in particular, the NHS recommends that year-round:
- Breastfed babies from birth to 1 year of age should be given a daily supplement containing 8.5 to 10 micrograms of vitamin D to make sure they get enough.
- Formula-fed babies should not be given a supplement until they’re having less than 500ml (about a pint) of infant formula a day, as infant formula is fortified with vitamin D.
- Children aged 1 to 4 years old should be given a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D
The NHS also states that the following people are at even higher risk of a vitamin D deficiency, and should also take year-round supplements (10mg a day):
- Those who are not often outdoors.
- Those who are in an institution like a care home.
- Those who usually wear clothes that cover up most of your skin when outdoors.
It’s good to be aware that it’s possible to take too much vitamin D supplements and drops. Taking too many supplements can lead to a build-up of too much calcium in the body, which can cause problems with your bones, heart and kidneys. So, make sure to only take or give your children as much as recommended by the NHS. For most people, 10mg is enough but be sure to check this for yourself or speak to your doctor.
If a doctor has told you to take more or less, then always follow their advice and, of course, if you are in doubt about anything at all, then you should talk to your doctor or heath visitor.