Have you had your vitamin D levels checked by your doctor? Vitamin D is produced in the skin via sun exposure; so it may be surprising to learn that vitamin D deficiency appears to be rising in Australia. This is because the body cannot synthesise vitamin D with inhibitors such as sunglasses, clothing and sunscreen – all of which we use to protect us from the harmful effects of UV rays.
Vitamin D is needed for calcium absorption, to support the immune system and prevent diseases such as cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, depression and heart disease all of which have been linked to vitamin D deficiency.
You can get your dose of vitamin D by spending 20 minutes (Spring & Autumn); 10 minutes (Summer); 30 minutes (Winter) in the sun; 4 times a week, without sunglasses, sunscreen or a hat; wearing a short sleeve top so that your bare skin is exposed to the sun. If you have olive to dark skin, you will need to increase your time in the sun, as dark skin has a stronger protective barrier than its fair counterpart.
To avoid the harmful effects of UV rays, sun exposure is safest before 10am or after 3pm. (These times may need to be adjusted according to the UV index. A UV index of 3 or over is unsafe for sun exposure. The UV index for the day can be checked in the weather forecast section of newspapers).
If you already have a Vitamin D deficiency your doctor may prescribe supplements along with your daily dose in the sun. For people that have adverse reactions to supplements in tablet form, vitamin D is available in drops that can be taken orally. Vitamin D rich foods such as Salmon and Mackerel are also beneficial although diet alone cannot provide enough vitamin D for the body.