Vitamin D has several important functions. For example, it helps to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body.
These nutrients are needed to keep bones and teeth healthy.
A lack of vitamin D can lead to bone deformities such as rickets in children, and bone pain and tenderness as a result of a condition called osteomalacia in adults.
We get most of our vitamin D from sunlight on our skin. The vitamin is made by our body under the skin, in reaction to summer sunlight. However, if you are out in the sun, take care to cover up or protect your skin with sunscreen before you turn red or get burnt.
Read more about how to get vitamin D from sunlight.
Vitamin D is also found in a small number of foods. Good food sources are:
In the UK, cows’ milk is generally not a good source of vitamin D because it isn't fortified, as it is in other countries.
Most people should be able to get all the vitamin D they need by eating a healthy balanced diet and by getting some summer sun.
Groups of the population at risk of not getting enough vitamin D are:
The Department of Health recommends that:
People should also take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms (0.01mg) of vitamin D if they:
You can buy single vitamin D supplements or vitamin drops containing vitamin D (for use by under-fives) at most pharmacies and supermarkets. Women and children who qualify for the Healthy Start scheme can get free supplements containing the recommended amounts of vitamin D.
See the Healthy Start website for more information on the scheme.
If you take vitamin D supplements, do not take more than 25 micrograms (0.025mg) a day, as it could be harmful. However, taking less than this is unlikely to cause any harm.
Your body doesn't make too much vitamin D from sun exposure, but always remember to cover up or protect your skin if you are out in the sun for long periods.
Taking too many vitamin D supplements over a long period of time can cause more calcium to be absorbed than can be excreted.
The excess calcium can be deposited in and damage the kidneys. Excessive intake of vitamin D can also encourage calcium to be removed from bones, which can soften and weaken them.
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