Our second month of coronavirus lockdown is well under way, 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.
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 a quarantine, 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.
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 lockdown rules. Most of us are allowed one form of outside exercise a day, 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 sit outside to your heart’s content.
Carson advises getting direct sunlight, “20 minutes for those with fair skin to 40 minutes daily for those with darker skin,” to boost vitamin D levels. Just don’t forget the SPF!
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.”