There are two types of vitamin D, vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is the type our bodies make by absorbing sunlight through our skin.
Vitamin D deficiency means you have a low level of vitamin D in your body. If your doctor suspects you are deficient
in vitamin D, they may do a blood test as part of the diagnosis. The results of this test will show if you have vitamin D deficiency.
If your doctor thinks that you are at risk of vitamin D deficiency, they may decide to treat you to prevent this from happening.
Vitamin D deficiency is not unusual – research shows that just over 1 in 10 people in Europe have vitamin D levels that are considered to be too low for good bone health. These figures are much higher in winter time.1 As Ireland lies quite far north, there are about 5 months of the year (October to February) when little or no vitamin D is made naturally in the skin.2
When you develop vitamin D deficiency, it means your body is only absorbing small amounts of calcium and phosphate. You need these minerals to keep your bones healthy.
Therefore, a deficiency in vitamin D puts you at risk of developing certain conditions – such as rickets (in children) and osteomalacia (in adults). These conditions cause pain and discomfort in the muscles and bones, which become weak and soft. In some cases, the bones may become deformed
Our main source of vitamin D is from sunlight on our skin. Because of this, the most common cause of vitamin D deficiency is a lack of sunlight. Vitamin D deficiency is most common in people who don’t spend much time outdoors, such as older people and people who live in nursing homes.
A shortage of vitamin D in the diet is another major reason for vitamin D deficiency. It can be difficult to get vitamin D in your diet, as it is naturally present in only a few foods
Some people are more at risk of vitamin D deficiency than others.
Those most at risk are:
Other at risk groups include people who are obese, children and pregnant or breastfeeding women.
There are 3 key ways to boost your vitamin D levels.
1) Through increased exposure to sunlight
2) From the diet
3) Through a vitamin D supplement or prescribed vitamin D medicine.
1. Obtaining Vitamin D through sunlight
Most people get the amount of vitamin D they need from sunlight (ultraviolet B exposure [UVB]) on the skin. We don't need much, just 20–30 minutes of sunlight on the face and forearms around the middle of the day 2–3 times a week, in the summer months, is usually enough for people with fair skin, however those with darker skin, or the elderly, may need longer.
A dim outlook for much of Ireland
Unfortunately as Ireland lies quite far north there are about 5 months of the year (October to February) when little or no vitamin D is made naturally in the skin.2
2. Obtaining Vitamin D through diet
Some foods that are easy to include in our everyday diet can help boost our vitamin D levels.
• Oily fish, such as salmon, sardines and mackerel (canned or fresh)
• Egg yolks
• Fortified fat spreads
• Fortified cereals and milk
• Powdered milk
People who follow a strict vegetarian or vegan diet, or a non-fish-eating diet may be at a greater risk of vitamin D deficiency.
What other treatments are available for vitamin D deficiency?
These can be purchased over the counter at most pharmacies and supermarkets and they come in a range of sizes and formats.
Vitamin D medicines are usually prescribed by your doctor. You may require these for several weeks or your prescription may be ongoing. It is important that you take your medicines as prescribed in order to get the full benefit and to reduce the risk of any side effects.
Vitamin D supplements that you can buy at your pharmacy are manufactured to different standards than prescription-only medicines such as Altavita D3.
You can be sure with a prescription-only medicine, such as Altavita D3 , that your medicine will provide you with a consistent amount of vitamin D at the quantity specified on the pack.