Winter, with its dark days, cold weather and general need to be wrapped up inside can be a tough season to get through. There are bugs floating around, nothing feels as fresh and healthy as it did a few short months ago. One special vitamin that helps to look after us can be in pretty short supply. Vitamin D, which contributes to the normal function of the immune system and to the maintenance of normal bones and muscle function, is known as the ‘Sunshine Vitamin’. Vitamin D is made by the skin when it reacts with sunlight. Vitamin D contributes to the normal absorption and utilisation of calcium and phosphorus and maintenance of normal calcium concentrations in the blood. Because UV exposure is also linked to skin cancer, getting a balance between safe sun exposure and vitamin D production is important. You don’t need to spend hours in the sun to produce enough vitamin D. Extra time sunbathing doesn’t equal more vitamin D, but it does increase skin cancer risk.

However, vitamin D breaks down quite quickly, which means that stores can run quite low. This is doubly so for people living in northern countries with less sunlight of lower strength, and especially in winter months. It’s easy to see why, living in Ireland, the usual source of vitamin D might be tricky to come by during the darker days at this time of year.

The World Health Organisation’s advice is to get 5-15 minutes of casual sun exposure to hands, face and arms two to three times a week during the summer months. In this way, sun exposure as you go about your daily life really makes a difference.

Walking outdoors for a few minutes to get your lunch, to pick up the children or hang out the clothes all count. One way to top up levels during these darker days is to take a supplement like D3-Max by One Nutrition. It comes in an orange-flavoured spray formula, which makes it easy for both adults and children to take. For enhanced absorption spray under the tongue and hold for 30 seconds before swallowing.

If you’re vegan, you’ll be glad to know that the D3-Max formula is based on a unique lichen extract, making it one of the few vegan choices of this essential daily vitamin.

BUT REMEMBER:

> Never let your skin redden or burn to get vitamin D.

> Take extra care if you have fair skin because you are more at risk of sunburn.

> Never use a sunbed to increase your vitamin D levels.

> It is important to protect your skin with the Sun-Smart code to reduce skin cancer risk.

> Use a ‘broad-spectrum’ sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB; - SPF minimum 30.