Vitamin D The Sunshine Vitamin

4 min read
Vitamin D The Sunshine Vitamin

We are constantly being bombarded with sun safe messages from all forms of media, and with good reason. Skin cancer is one of the most prevalent cancers in Australia today. We may become paranoid to a certain extent and certainly very protective of our children when in the sun ensuring that they are covered up, hats, long sleeved clothing and sunscreen, but one of the by-products of this reticence to expose our skin to the sun could be a problem in the long term, leaving us susceptible to Vitamin D deficiency.

What is it?

Vitamin D is a hormone with a very important bodily function. It controls the level of calcium in the blood and is essential for bone and muscle development, overall health, as well as preventing associated medical conditions such as osteoporosis.

Why do we need it?

A lack of Vitamin D may not present obvious symptoms at first but unless treated can have significant effects on a person’s health and increase risk of musculoskeletal conditions including bone and muscle pain, Rickets (soft, weakened bones) in children and Osteopenia (weak, fragile bones) in older adults.

Low Vitamin D has also been linked to Multiple, Sclerosis, Diabetes 1 & 2, other cancers (besides skin), heart disease, mental health conditions and autoimmune diseases. Research is yet to evaluate whether increasing Vitamin D could help to prevent these conditions.

People with some medical conditions may also have difficulty in metabolising Vitamin D – obesity, kidney disease, cystic fibrosis, coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel disease and the taking of some prescribed drugs.

Breastfed babies may be at risk of low Vitamin D if their mother has low Vitamin D herself. Newborns get their initial store from their mother, there is very little in breast milk itself.

How do we get it?

There are small amounts in some foods we eat every day like fish, eggs, UV irradiated mushrooms, fortified grains and dairy products. It is difficult, however, to obtain enough from diet alone. Most people will only get 5-10% of their Vitamin D from food.

The best source of Vitamin D is ultraviolet radiation from the sun. A balanced approach is needed to avoid both the risks of skin cancer and Vitamin D deficiency.

A few minutes close to peak time of day with face, hands and arms bare, on most days is manageable for majority of people through regular activity and incidental exposure. The requirements will vary according to the time of year and the level of the UV index on the day. Generally with the UV index below 3, no sunscreen is required. Winter in southern parts of Australia for example, may mean that 2-3 hours of exposure spread over a week are required to gain enough Vitamin D, although sunscreen may be required for those in areas there they are subject to reflective UV from snow or water. In the north of Australia where it can be perpetual summer, regular day to day activities should suffice, remembering to apply sunscreen if outdoors for prolonged periods of time. Vitamin D can still be absorbed even with sunscreen applied.

Daily exercise can also assist with body’s production of Vitamin D. It is also important to remember that prolonged sun exposure will not boost Vitamin D levels over what the body naturally requires, it will only increase the risk of skin cancer.

If you think you may be at risk or suffering from low Vitamin D a quick visit to your GP and a simple blood test will quickly allay any fears or encourage a simple regime of treatment appropriate to your needs.

If you become concerned about your or anyone else’s health please seek immediate medical attention or go to our health hotlines and website post for further resources 

SAHM takes no responsibility for any illness, injury or death caused by misuse of this information.  All information provided is correct at time of publication.



Jody Allen
About Author

Jody Allen

Jody Allen is the founder of Stay at Home Mum. Jody is a five-time published author with Penguin Random House and is the current Suzuki Queensland Amb...Read Moreassador. Read Less

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