The sun, vitamin D and calcium

The sun

At last, summer appears to have arrived in full force for those of us in the UK, and not a moment too early I have to say!

I’ve always been a bit of a worshiper of the sun, I’m at my happiest when basking in it’s glorious rays. But this year more than ever before, I am making a conscious effort to get out into the sun as much as possible. I’ve been aware that vitamin D, which the sun provides, is good for us for quite some time, but had never really thought about it very much. I know I feel good when I’m outside, but that’s about as far as it got really. Until, that is, this winter, when I started commuting to work every day. My journey to work was now 1.5 hours in a car, where before I had always walked. I also got into the  all too common habit of eating my lunch at my desk. So really, I was getting zero natural light every day.

I suffered from cold after cold, constantly sneezing and bunged up. Then, in March, I was struck down by full blown flu, a flu even worse than when I was a kid. I was knocked out for over a week.

I began to have the sneaking suspicion that I needed to get outside more, my body was lacking something and I didn’t know what.

I was fortunate enough to take a trip to Europe for the weekend. Just 3 days sat at cafe’s in the sun, and I could feel the aches and pains easing out of me. So, all was well and good, I took it as corroboration of my long held belief that the sun was healing, and left it at that.

That is until I started to have some strange symptoms when sleeping at night. I’d wake up with my knuckle joints aching, pins and needles in my hands and feet, and occasionally my fingers would actually be locked in a claw like manner which would leave them aching all day. As the symptoms persisted, I decided to have a chat to my doctor, who took a blood test. When the results came in it turned out I had a mild calcium deficiency. Nothing serious, but strange none the less, as I do eat cheese and milk. I started to research further on the internet, and what did I discover? Low levels of calcium in the blood can actually be caused by a lack of vitamin D. Well I never!

So why is vitamin D so important?

According to the NHS website  (long may it continue), vitamin D is necessary to enable us to absorb calcium and phosophorus from our diet. These minerals are, in turn, important for healthy bones. In adults, low levels of vitamin D can lead to osteomalacia which causes bone pain and tenderness. Bingo!

According to the NHS, people at most risk from a vitamin D deficiency (and so in turn a lack of calcium), fall into the following groups:

  • all pregnant and breastfeeding women
  • all babies and young children from six months to five years old
  • older people aged 65 years and over
  • people who are not exposed to much sun, for example those who cover their skin, or who are housebound or confined indoors for long periods
  • people who have darker skin, for example those of African Caribbean and South Asian origin

I definitely fell into the ‘confined indoors’ category.

So what did I do?

In this country, it sometimes feels like sunlight is getting rarer and rarer. Still, I am making it my mission to get out into the sun as much as possible (with sun lotion on, natch).

To give me that extra boost, I also popped down to Holland and Barrett to get some vitamin D and calcium pills, which they handily sell combined:

Calcium

I’ve been taking two a day for a month now, and I’m happy to report that the symptoms have almost disappeared.

But I don’t want to be taking vitamin supplements forever, what else could I do?

Aside from getting out and about as much as possible, I have started to do a bit of research into foods which are high in calcium. Here is my list so far:

Food which is high in calcium

Greens – like Kale and broccoli Kale
Yoghurt
Cheese
Milk
Pak choi
Soy products like Tofu
Almonds
Sardines and other fish

Now to think of a tasty recipe combining them all! Watch this space for my super food calcium enriched supper….

Cherry 3

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2 Responses to The sun, vitamin D and calcium

  1. Tahini (sesame seed) paste is a great source of calcium, so eat more houmous!
    Check out this poster for some great plant food sources of calcium too http://pinterest.com/pin/573505333768463527/

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