Vitamin D is essential for good health as it helps regulate the amount of calcium ad phosphate in the body – nutrients needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. If a person doesn’t get enough vitamin D it can lead to bone deformities, such as rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.
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The body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin when being outdoors, so from late March/early April to the end of September, most people should be able to get all the vitamin D they need.
But between October and early March, with shorter daylight hours and colder weather, it can be difficult to get enough vitamin D from sunlight, so some people may consider taking vitamin D supplements.
But taking too many vitamin D supplements can come with its own complications – one of which is diarrhoea.
In one case study, an 18-month-old child who was given 50,000 IU of vitamin D3 for three months experienced diarrhoea, stomach pain and other symptoms.
These symptoms resolved after the child stopped taking the supplements.
But diarrhoea can be caused by other things, such as a stomach bug, norovirus or food poisoning.
If diarrhoea persists you should see your GP.
Taking too many vitamin D supplements over a long period of time can cause too much calcium to build up in the body, a condition known as hypercalcaemia.
The NHS explains: “This can weaken the bones and damage the kidneys and the heart.”
How much vitamin D should you take?
The Department of Health advises everyone to consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D during the autumn and winter.
The NHS warns: “Don’t take more than 100 micrograms of vitamin D a day as it could be harmful.
“This applies to adults, including pregnant and breastfeeding women and the elderly, and children aged 11 to 17 years.
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“Children aged 1 to 10 years shouldn’t have more than 50 micrograms a day. Infants under 12 months shouldn’t have more than 25 micrograms a day.
“Some people have medical conditions that mean they may not be able to safely take as much. If in doubt, you should consult your doctor.”
If your doctor has recommended you take a different amount of vitamin D, you should follow their advice.
The health body adds:“You cannot overdose on vitamin D through exposure to sunlight. But always remember to cover up or protect your skin if you’re out in the sun for long periods to reduce the risk of skin damage and skin cancer.”
Some people may require to take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D throughout the year.
This is because they won’t get enough vitamin D from sunlight because they ave very little or no sunshine exposure.
The Department of Health recommends you take supplements throughout the year if you:
- Aren’t often outdoors – for example, if you’re frail or housebound
- Are in an institution like a care home
- Usually wear clothes that cover up most of your skin when outdoors
If you have dark skin you may also not get enough vitamin D from sunlight, so should consider taking a daily supplement throughout the year.
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