Vitamin D deficiency in the winter

Vitamin D deficiency in the winter

The winter blues... You feel tired and listless. Your muscles and joints are aching. The ‘winter blues’? Maybe but a vitamin D deficiency also fits the bill. Find out all about vitamin D deficiency in our blog.

What is vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. We need vitamin D to stay healthy. The sun is the main trigger for the production of vitamin D. Your body makes it itself when you come into contact with the sun. Approximately two-thirds of vitamin D is produced in the skin under the influence of UVB rays from the sun. A limited amount of vitamin D is also ingested through certain foods.
The term vitamin D is a collective term. The two most important forms are vitamin D2 and vitamin D3.

ERGOCALCIFEROL

Vitamin D2 or ergocalciferol is the vegetable form that is found in low concentrations in certain types of mushrooms. However, vegetable D2 is less efficient than vitamin D3.

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CHOLECALCIFEROL

Vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol is the animal form. Vitamin D3 is found in such foods as fatty fish. However, the largest quantities of vitamin D3 are produced by our bodies by exposure to UV radiation.

Influence of vitamin D on your skin

Vitamin D plays a central role in certain biological processes such as bone metabolism, muscle function and the immune system. Recent research has also shown that vitamin D deficiency plays a significant role in certain skin disordersVitamin D3 is essential in the wound healing process. It is responsible for the production of antimicrobial peptides that ward off infectious microorganisms. For instance, the anti-inflammatory properties of vitamin D3 protect skin damaged by acne.

How much sun do you need to get sufficient vitamin D?

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UVB radiation has an immediate effect on the production of vitamin D in the body. To obtain your daily dose of vitamin D it is enough (depending on your skin type) to expose your hands and face to the sun without protection for 15-30 minutes per day. Be sure to apply sunscreen again afterwards because we all know that prolonged exposure to the sun causes sunburn which, in extreme cases, may lead to skin cancer.

Apply sunscreen or not? Seek out or avoid the sun? It’s all so contradictory, I know. There’s even a certain level of discord within the medical world. Many dermatologists will warn you - and rightly so - against the harmful effects of the sun and advise you to stay out of the sun. However, other doctors advise patients to spend short periods (even unprotected) in the sun to ensure adequate vitamin D production. The ‘Slip Slop Slap Seek Slide’ campaign was one of the catalysts for this advice. This was a successful awareness campaign in Australia to encourage people to protect themselves against the sun in order to reduce the risk of skin cancer. However, this study also showed that vitamin D deficiency had negative consequences such as light forms of depression, osteoporosis and other ailments.

 

Insufficient Vitamin D from food

Getting sufficient vitamin D from food alone is very difficult. Very few foods are a good source of vitamin D. In addition to our own production, vitamin D3 only occurs in animal products. The best sources of vitamin D3 are oily fish such as mackerel, herring and salmon. But these quantities are very low: it takes 100 gr of wild salmon to ingest just 20 micrograms of vitamin D3. Vitamin D2 is vegetable vitamin D that occurs in small concentrations in certain types of mushrooms.

 
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The "Vitamin D" winter?

It's hard to determine exactly how much vitamin D we need and it differs from one person to the next. Amongst others it depends on your diet, the amount of sunlight your skin absorbs, your age and the tone of your skin itself. A lack of exposure to UV radiation increases the risk of vitamin D deficiency in winter. The vitamin D reserves stored in your fat cells or adipocytes during sunny days is not always enough to get you through the darker months, even if you eat a healthy diet. That is why it can be a good idea to take a vitamin D supplement in winter.

VITAMIN D SUPPLEMENT

The guidelines of the Belgian High Health Council (HGR) recommend a supplement of 10 micrograms per day for adults during the winter months. The dosage of vitamin D is usually expressed through the international units ‘I.E.’ or ‘I.U.’ 1 microgram of vitamin D equals 40 international units.

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TOO MUCH?

Be careful though! A prolonged and excessive intake of vitamin D supplements can cause damage. Conversely, the body is incapable of producing toxic amounts of vitamin D. A vitamin D overdose due to sun exposure is impossible. When the skin is saturated in terms of vitamin D this means a balance is reached between the production and breakdown of vitamin D. 

TIPS WHEN CHOOSING A VITAMIN D SUPPLEMENT

  • Vitamin D treatment with daily intake
  • Choose vitamin D3 because this is the most potent form of vitamin D.
  • Go for capsules or droplets that offer vitamin D3 in an oily base (i.o. tablets). Research has shown that the body absorbs vitamin D3 much better this way.

A trip to the sun?

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Feeling a bit listless? Down with the winter blues but don’t feel like taking nutritional supplements?

Then there’s only one thing left to do: travel to warmer climes!
Just a few days of sunshine on your skin is enough to kick-start the production of vitamin D, hopefully enough to get through the long winter months. A perfect excuse, isn’t it? ;)

Want to know more about vitamins?

Vitamins are important for the human body and certainly for the skin. Therefore they are often used as ingredients in cosmetics. 

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