According to Met Éireann, Ireland averages 3 ¼ -3 ¾ hours of sunshine per day. The average sunshine peaks in May at around 5 ½ to 6 hours and is dullest in December with 1-2 hours of sunshine on average. While some years may seem better than others, most of us would agree that an increase of sunshine would be tolerated. But what role does the sunshine have on our health? More than you would think.
Research has been mounting around the massive physical and mental health benefits of Vitamin D, with well over 35,ooo medical papers written on the subject. Vitamin D is produced when bare skin is exposed to sunlight. It is the sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays that are needed for Vitamin D synthesis to take place.
Here are just a few areas in which this fat-soluble vitamin can support our health:
- Mental Health
- Autoimmune conditions
- General Immune function
- Hormone balance
- Cardiovascular health
- Neuromuscular function
- Bone density
- And more.
Unfortunately for Irish residents, the farther you are from the equator the less UVB rays available especially in winter. When we do get the sunny days, many of us are covered up with UVA/UVB sunscreen blocking our absorption. The upside to those living here with pale, white skin is that you need less time (approximately 15-20 minutes of unobstructed bare skin sun exposure) for synthesis to take place. For others with darker skin tone, it could take up to 2 hours for Vitamin D Synthesis.
Vitamin D deficiency is being seen more and more not just in Ireland, but all over the world. Modern society does not lend itself well to an outdoor lifestyle. Many people’s schedules find them working inside all day unable to take advantage of sunshine even if it is available.
Vitamin D is found naturally in foods, although the levels available are not classically significant.
Some common Vitamin D deficiency symptoms are:
- Poor Immune function, chronic colds or flu
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Bone pain
- Back pain
- Muscle pain
- Poor wound healing
- Hair loss
The most effective way to increase your level is through a change in lifestyle, getting outdoors more often and exposing your skin to the sun as well as through Vitamin D3 supplementation.
Most people can supplement with Vitamin D without problem, but it is a fat soluble vitamin meaning that it is easy to build up in the system making toxicity a potential. Getting you vitamin D tested is advisable so you know your levels and can supplement the appropriate amount for your body. The test is very non-invasive. It is a blood spot tests, thus only requiring a small finger prick.
A testing service is available in Here’s Health on Patrick Street, Cork one Thursday per month. It is advisable to ring ahead for an appointment. The test is only €70 and takes just 5 minutes to administer. The results are returned within 2 weeks.
Here’s Health Patrick Street: 021 427 8101
Tara Zuluaga Dorgan Dip NT: 086 212 3895
Root Health Nutrition