In short, regardless of your age, yes you should!
Vitamin D is an interesting vitamin, because it is the only one that can be made in the body on its own – this happens with direct sun exposure and from eating some foods.
It is said that between the months of May to October, most people should be able to get adequate amounts of Vitamin D from sun exposure. However, this is rarely the case and in fact, many people are either at a sub-optimal level or actually deficient in Vitamin D. This is partly due to lack of time outside, use of sunscreen and other factors like skin colour – the pigments that give a darker skin acts as a natural sun protection (this does not mean that those with darker skin do not need to wear sunscreen however!).
There are a few signs that may indicate that you are deficient in vitamin D – if you think you may be, it is worth contacting your GP to ask for your levels to be checked.
1. Weak bones or muscles. It is well known that vitamin D deficiencies result in a higher chance of bone fractures in adults.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder characterised by depression that usually occurs during winter. It’s related to the decrease in sunlight your body gets. Lack of sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin, our body’s chemical contributor to well-being and happiness. However, the drop in mood doesn’t only relate to the drop in serotonin; it can also be due to the vitamin D your body is missing during winter months.
3. Poor skin health
Vitamin D plays an important role in protecting skin cell health, reducing wrinkles, improving skin softness, and maintaining a smooth, glowing complexion. At the same time, UV rays from extensive sun exposure can harm the health of your skin cells. In fact, they can be dangerous to your health.
4. Weakened immunity
A vitamin-D deficiency can play a role in autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS), type-1 diabetes, or IBS. Researchers have found MS rates to be higher far north or far south of the equator, where exposure to sunlight is more limited. Vitamin D can also play a role in your body’s response to infectious diseases like the flu, common cold, or more recently, COVID. Researchers found that adults with low D levels were more likely to report having a recent cold, cough, or upper-respiratory tract infection.
So how do I increase my Vitamin D levels?
It is important to have a small amount of time in the sun without sunscreen on – preferably exposed skin on the forearms rather than the face. Around 15 mins several times a week in the summer for someone with fair skin would be sufficient and up to 90 mins for those with dark skin. It is the UVB rays that help us make Vitamin D, and these penetrate the outermost layer of our skin. They are also cancer-causing (as are the UVA rays from sunlight too), so it is important to limit unprotected sun exposure – striking a balance as always in this life! Just a note on glass whilst we’re here – it blocks UVB rays but not UVA rays so you can still get skin damage sitting next to a sunny window.
Increasing your intake of foods rich in Vitamin D – such as oily fish, eggs, red meat and mushrooms that have not been grown in the dark!
Taking a supplement is a great option and will be suitable for the majority of people. The recommended dose is 400-800 iu (International units) per day, but this is in fact not enough, so really 1000-2000 iu is best.
For children it is recommended to take a vitamin D supplement also – refer to the NHS website for dosage recommendations.
I hope that has been helpful. Just to be transparent – none of this information is mine or Jimmy’s opinion and is based upon evidence and official recommendations. If you would like specific advice for you, please consult your GP.
Hope you have a lovely week!
Lyndsey and Jimmy