The clocks have gone back, spring has finally arrived and there should be at least another hours daylight for us to enjoy and longer summer evenings to come and this weekend promises to be an atypical sunny bank holiday. We all love a bit of sunshine and it generally lifts the mood of the country a bit, but there's a bit more to sunshine than a suntan and an excuse to have ice-cream. Read on to find out.
Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones as it helps your body absorb calcium (more about that later). Often called the sunshine vitamin, 80-90% of the vitamin D we produce is in response to our exposure to sunlight. Some foods are rich in Vitamin D such as Sardines, egg yolks, fortified dairy and grain products, but no matter how much we eat of those things we really need sunshine to get enough Vitamin D. Severe Vitamin D deficiency causes Rickets, but even lower than normal levels can cause joint aches and pains, muscle weakness and soreness.
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. In fact it's the most abundant metal in the body (Yes, It's a soft metal). It's primary function is to act with phosphorus to build and maintain healthy bones and teeth. A deficiency in calcium not only can cause increased blood pressure, heart palpitations and osteoporosis but also cramps, joint ache, numbness or pins and needles. Absorption of Calcium depends upon the presence of adequate Vitamin D which works with the parathyroid hormone to regulate the amount of calcium in the blood
Sunlight is therefore very important to help us produce Vitamin D and process calcium for healthy bones, joints and muscles. Although some UVB light (the part of sunlight responsible for manufacturing Vitamin D) can travel through glass it's likely you're not getting enough if you don't get outside in the sunshine for about 20 minutes a day. Have a think about your day. Car to work, office all day, drive home, watch the telly and then go shopping inside all weekend. Are you really getting out in the fresh air enough to let the sun do it's magic and stock up on that Vitamin D?
So, now you know that you need to get a bit of sun on your bones. Believe it or not it will probably help you sleep better too. There's no evidence that exercise improves sleep (That's not to say that it doesn't, it's just the evidence isn't there to prove it yet) but there is evidence that our exposure to daylight helps regulate our diurnal or circadian rhythm. That's essentially our bodies ability to tell the difference between night and day. If we get some sunlight in the day then our body is better able to switch off at night and improve sleep quality.
How do you know if you are Vitamin D deficient? Some of the signs and symptoms can be generalised aches and pains that just don't go away. There are of course many more reasons why that might be the case, not necessarily due to Vitamin D deficiency. Saying that we are seeing much more of this in clinic than before. The only way to know if you are deficient is a blood test that would have to be carried out by your GP. This test is not cheap so your GP will have to have sound clinical reasoning to justify the test. If you are deficient they will suggest a Vitamin D supplement. This may even be an over the counter supplement. Ideally you would take that for 8 weeks. Then stop taking it for 4 weeks and have your blood test repeated. If you are still deficient it means your body wasn't absorbing and storing the supplement so you will need a much stronger prescribed dose.
What does the latest research say about Vitamin D - The good, the bad & the ugly? Vitamin D levels in the blood maybe linked to higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness. In a study of 1,995 adults, participants with higher levels of Vitamin D had significantly higher VO2 Max scores. After adjusting for potentially influencing factors such as age, sex, disease co-morbidity and high blood pressure those with the highest levels of Vitamin D still had a nearly three fold higher cardiorespiratory fitness. Vitamin D supplementation appears to have no significant benefits to those with Osteoarthritis of the knee as there is no evidence of change in cartilage density, pain scores or function. Vitamin D plus calcium supplementation does reduce the risk of hip fractures in adults. However too high a does of Vitamin D appears to increase the risk of falls and fracture in elderly women.
Vitamin D and Calcium deficiency only accounts for a small number of patients with joint or muscle pain. It's much more likely to be caused by bad posture, stiff or injured joints or muscle strain. If you are worried about those aches and pains, why not give us a call on 01223 350622 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange an appointment.
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