Vitamin D is dubbed the “sunshine vitamin” because the body mainly obtains the nutrient from exposure to the sun throughout the summer months.
The mineral helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, nutrients that are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy.
If you become deficient in the vitamin, you are therefore at a heightened risk of developing bone deformities, such as rickets in children, and bone pain caused by a condition called osteomalacia in adults.
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The bone problems associated with a vitamin D deficiency are well-documented, but the symptoms associated with a lack of vitamin D extend beyond bone issues.
In fact, a lesser-known sign you lack the sunshine vitamin is slow healing wounds.
Results from a test-tube study suggest that the vitamin increases the production of compounds that are crucial for forming new skin as part of the wound-healing process,
Additionally, one study on people who had dental surgery found that certain aspects of healing were compromised by vitamin D deficiency.
It’s also been suggested that vitamin D’s role in controlling inflammation and fighting infection is important for proper healing.
One analysis looked at patients with diabetic foot infections and found that those with severe vitamin D deficiency were more likely to have higher levels of inflammatory markers that can jeopardise healing.
While research into the effects of vitamin D supplementation on wound healing is currently thin on the ground, one study found that when vitamin D deficient patients with leg ulcers were treated with the vitamin, ulcer size reduced by 28 percent, on average.
When should I take a vitamin D supplement?
Dietary supplements are generally recommend during autumn and winter because you need to get vitamin D from your diet because the sun isn’t strong enough for the body to make vitamin D.
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As the NHS explains, it is difficult to get enough vitamin D from food alone, so you should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D during the autumn and winter.
There are other at-risk groups that also won’t get enough vitamin D from sunlight because they have very little or no sunshine exposure.
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
The health body also advises taking vitamin D supplements if you have dark skin – for example you have an African, African-Caribbean or south Asian background.
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Can I take too many vitamin D supplements?
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 so if you do choose to take vitamin D supplements, do not exceed the daily dose of 10 micrograms a day, advises the health body.
Taking more than 100 micrograms of vitamin D a day could be particularly harmful.
“This applies to adults, including pregnant and breastfeeding women and the elderly, and children aged 11 to 17 years,” says the NHS.
Some people may have medical conditions that mean they may not be able to safely take as much so it best to consult your doctor if you have a pre-existing condition, notes the health site.
“If your doctor has recommended you take a different amount of vitamin D, you should follow their advice,” urges the health body.
While absorbing vitamin D from sun exposure eliminates the potential risks posed by vitamin D supplementation, it can still be dangerous.
As the NHS points out, prolonged sun exposure can cause skin damage and skin cancer so always remember to cover up or protect your skin if you’re out in the sun for long periods.
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