Sunshine on a Rainy Day
"The bright sun, that brings back, not light alone, but new life, and hope."
13 billion years ago, there or there abouts, there was a big bang and that’s when it all began. A few billion years later our sun was formed from the remnants of other dying stars. This swirling ball of gas is the life force of our planet. Without it there would be no light, no warmth and no life.
As the nights shorten, the end of winter comes ever closer. The life that has been gathering in the soli begins to stir. Bulbs poke their heads above the ground in response to the strengthening sun. We can feel the warmth and with it, a lifting of our spirits. There is nothing nicer than late winter sunshine on our skin. It can make us feel more hopeful and is a sign of the new life of the spring.
In truth it more than makes us feel better; when the sun touches our skin magic happens. The UVB light is converted into vitamin D3 within our skin. This is one of the essential vitamins and minerals.
There are dietary sources of vitamin D (oily fish, liver, egg yolks and fortified foods), however the main source for most is the sun. In the winter months when the days are much shorter and the sun is so much weaker, it is virtually impossible for us to produce enough vitamin D. People who rarely spend time outside are at increased risk of vitamin D deficiency, as are children and the elderly.
Approximately 50% of the world have a vitamin D deficiency. Recent data suggests that 40% of Europeans are deficient. As one of the more Northern European countries, the UK Department of Health suggests that between October and April everyone over the age of 4 should take 10micrograms of vitamin D per day. Babies who are breast fed or take less than 500ml of formula (which is fortified with vitamin D), and children aged 1-4 should take 10micrograms per day all year round.
Vitamin D is vital in the absorption of calcium which we need for healthy bones, teeth and muscles.
Vitamin D deficiency results in a decrease in the calcium and phosphorous we absorb from food. In turn this increases the production of parathyroid hormone which speeds up bone loss. The resulting decreased bone mineral density causes osteopenia and eventually osteoporosis. In this state we are at much higher risk of breaking bones. In children, bone deformities can be seen – the bending of the lower legs that you may know as rickets. The effect on bones and musculature can increase the risk of falls and certainly fractures.
Vitamin D3 deficiency has been linked with obesity, diabetes, hypertension, depression, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, osteoporosis and neuro-degenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease. It has been purported to contribute to the development of certain cancers, namely breast, prostate, and colon cancer; and heart disease, stroke, autoimmune diseases, birth defects, and periodontal disease. There is good evidence that correcting a vitamin D deficiency reduces the risk of upper respiratory tract infections and COPD exacerbations and is inversely corelated with depression.
Consider an over the counter vitamin D supplement between October and April and if you have problems with pain or weakness in the muscles think about asking for a vitamin D check.
To make sure you are giving your body the best opportunity to make enough vitamin D get outdoors in nature.
Make this a ritual – something you do every day.
Give thanks for the sunshine
Breathe in the fresh air
Use your muscles
swing your arms
If you feel like it, shout out loud
Share this time with people you love
Or use it to be truly present
Remember as the sun strengthens you need to protect your skin against sunburn and the more serious potential long term consequences of over exposure.
Everything in life is a balance.
Sizar O, Khare S, Goyal A, et al. Vitamin D Deficiency. [Updated 2021 Jul 21]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532266/ Naeem Z. Vitamin d deficiency- an ignored epidemic. Int J Health Sci (Qassim). 2010;4(1):V-VI. Martineau A R, Jolliffe D A, Hooper R L, Greenberg L, Aloia J F, Bergman P et al. Vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory tract infections: systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data BMJ 2017; 356 :i6583  Jolliffe DA, Greenberg L, Hooper RL, et al Vitamin D to prevent exacerbations of COPD: systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data from randomised controlled trials Thorax 2019;74:337-345.