With a yet another national lockdown in full force, the coronavirus pandemic is far from over. And with all that’s going on, many of us may be feeling like we're missing out on certain healthy habits and necessities we are so used to. Staying inside more than we might have previously can take its toll on our health in many ways. One of which is reducing the amount of Vitamin D we're getting. But fear not; here's how to get vitamin D during lockdown, when you aren't spending time in the sunshine.
A 2020 study in Spain showed that those with vitamin D deficiencies are potentially more likely to suffer from Covid-19 symptoms. Of the 216 tested, researchers discovered that 82% of coronavirus hospital patients had a vitamin D deficiency. Researcher Dr Jose Hernandez, who is based at the University of Cantabria in Spain, said of the findings: "One approach is to identify and treat vitamin D deficiency, especially in high-risk individuals such as the elderly, patients with comorbidities, and nursing home residents, who are the main target population for the COVID-19."
While a recent review of research by NICE (National Institute For Health And Care Excellence) suggests there is no evidence that supports the view that taking vitamin D supplements can prevent or treat coronavirus, it is still important to ensure your vitamin D levels are stable, especially now. With that said, here’s everything you need to know about vitamin D.
Why Is Vitamin D Important?
Vitamin D is a mineral, which helps to regulate the levels of calcium and phosphate in your body.
It is crucial as it helps keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy, and has a far-reaching role within the human body. "What makes vitamin D different from other vitamins is the fact it works within the body like a hormone," explains Jenny Carson, MRes, BSc (Hons), Nutritional Practitioner at Viridian Nutrition. "Subsequently it is intricately involved in immunity, in fact vitamin D is necessary in every immune cell."
Those who do not get enough vitamin D may experience bone deformities and bone pain, caused by a condition called osteomalacia.
The vitamin can also help to keep us feeling upbeat, says Carson. "Research shows that supplemental Vitamin D can improve mood in those who suffer with seasonal affective disorder, colloquially referred to as the 'winter blues'."
Why Might It Be Harder To Get Enough Of It During Lockdown?
Vitamin D is "supplied either through the diet or summer sun exposure," says Carson, so you can begin to understand why during the coronavirus pandemic, we may not be getting enough of the stuff.
The mineral is created by the body when sunlight reaches the skin, so during local lockdowns, current restrictions, plus the fact that it's now getting dark much earlier, we will not be producing as much of it due to the fact we are largely staying inside.
What Can We Do To Get Enough Vitamin D Right Now?
While the sun is one of the direct sources of vitamin D, there are other ways to try and make up for the lack of it in our bodies right now:
Public Health England (PHE) has now advised people to take 10 micrograms of vitamin D supplements a day, to ensure bones and muscles are kept healthy. “This is because you may not be getting enough vitamin D from sunlight if you’re indoors most of the day,” Public Health England confirmed.
Carson explains there may be some cases which require a larger dose, however: "If you are managing a chronic health conditions, or suffer with unexplained pain, low mood that is more pronounced in the winter months or have frequent infections you may wish to consider a larger dose."
You can buy Vitamin D supplements on your weekly shop at the supermarket, or order them online from pharmacies or health stores.
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Alter Your Diet
As mentioned, the other main way we access vitamin D is through our diet, so it's worth incorporating certain foods into your meals right now. Vitamin D is only sourced in a small amount of foods, which include oily fish, red meat, liver, egg yolks, and fortified foods such as fat spreads.
Try To Still Get Some Sunlight
It is possible to get some sun where you can while still adhering to current regulations. Even during a national lockdown, we are still able to have one form of exercise outside, be it a walk, run, or cycle. Try and take this during daylight hours, particularly when the sun's out.
Alternatively, if you have a private garden where you live, you can wrap up warm with a hot drink and sit outside to your heart's content. Carson advises getting direct sunlight, "20 minutes for those with [light] skin to 40 minutes daily for those with dark skin," to boost vitamin D levels.
Consider Other Lifestyle Changes
Carson advises taking a look at your wider lifestyle when considering vitamin D levels. "Remove where possible factors that reduce your body’s vitamin D stores, such as smoking and excessive alcohol intakes," she says.
"Furthermore, isolation may be a good opportunity to implement stress management techniques, such as meditation, mindfulness or time in your garden. Stress activates the immune system and causes inflammation which in turn uses up vitamin D stores."
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