Vitamin D has long been associated with sunshine. You are always told to 'go outside and get some Vitamin D' like it is something tangible you could touch. Although we know this is not the case, it is true that our bodies need sunlight exposure to produce and benefit from Vitamin D. Vitamin D is produced within our skin as a result of the UVB radiation in sunlight. It can also be found in some foods, such as oily fish and egg yolks. However, the Vitamin D content in these foods is low hence why getting out in the sun is so important.
But why is Vitamin D so important to us?
Vitamin D has long been associated with bone and teeth health (it is linked to the production of calcium) with deficiencies linked to conditions such as rickets in growing children and a loss of bone density across all ages. It also has a strong association with helping to keep our immune systems healthy.
Vitamin D3's role in immunity
Parts of our immune system react positively to Vitamin D as Vitamin D receptors are present on the cells. Links have been shown in athletes between Vitamin D deficiencies and an increased occurrence rate in upper respiratory tract infections. Likewise, athletes with adequate levels of Vitamin D have shown to have less serve episodes of illnesses compared to those with lower levels of Vitamin D within their body.
How do you know you're getting enough?
In the UK between the months of April to September the sun exposure we have should be adequate to stimulate enough Vitamin D production within our bodies. However, due to the climate of the UK, between October - March it is unlikely we will have enough sunlight exposure to produce adequate amounts of Vitamin D. Therefore, you could consider taking a Vitamin D supplement to help hit your daily recommended intake. If you are considering starting to take a Vitamin D supplement talk to your Doctor before you begin. They will be able to advise you if they think is necessary and what type is best for you to take.
Lifestyle will also play a role in our Vitamin D levels. Office based jobs inside will hinder our exposure to the sun and thus Vitamin D production. Most windows also block UVB radiation from penetrating it, therefore sitting inside in the sun will not allow your body to produce Vitamin D.
As horse riders, by the very nature of our sport, we do spent prolonged periods of time outside in all elements whilst riding and caring for our horses. It is likely that our bodies produce enough Vitamin D. You also must remember that it is not recommended to be exposed to excessive sunlight without wearing some form of sunscreen protection.