How changing your shoes could help beat vitamin deficiency

Who knew that wearing a different kind of footwear could help your body balance its need for vitamins? Ollie Banks didn’t realise that he did, until a trip to the supermarket with his family. Here’s how it happened.

“According to my friend, her GP says just about everyone in Britain, and probably a huge chunk of the northern hemisphere, is deficient in Vitamin D,” said Lizzie, pausing at the supplements aisle in the supermarket. Husband Ollie and their daughter Alice had just returned with a bottle of shampoo. Alice lowered it as gently as she could into the trolley, where her brother Jack gnawed at the plastic wrapping on a piece of cheese.

“Why would that be,” Ollie wanted to know. “We get outside into the fresh air all the time, and Vitamin D is made by contact with sunlight,” isn’t it?”

“Sunlight on the skin, exactly; not just being in the fresh air. Not the same thing. There’s not so much sunlight at 2am on a frosty February morning, but there’s plenty of fresh air – and apparently that’s the point,” Lizzie countered. “For a start it’s not light all the time – you always complain that it’s nightfall by 3pm in the winter, so there’s not a lot of sunlight to be had. When it’s cold we wear pullovers and coats, and then when it is sunny, we’re paranoid about sunburn, so we insist on high-factor suncream and hats. We spend our whole lives trying to stop sunlight getting onto our skin!”

Healthy bones, teeth, and muscles
Lizzie read to him from the label on a bottle of Vitamin D capsules. “Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. These nutrients are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. A lack of vitamin D can lead to bone deformities such as rickets in children, and bone pain caused by osteomalacia in adults. See?”

“Flip-flops,” said Ollie.

Lizzie looked at him with her special look, which he always found mildly intimidating, but he said it again. “Flip-flops. And shorts. If Vitamin D is made by sunlight on the skin, rather than by eating horrible green vegetables, then I’m all for offering the sun more skin to work on. Hence flip-flops and shorts.”

There was that look again.  “Green vegetables are not horrible at all, Ollie,” said Lizzie, nodding towards Alice, who was holding her nose and peering suspiciously at a cabbage through the trolley’s bars. “Green vegetables are lovely, as Alice will see when she watches you enjoy that cabbage with dinner at the weekend. Won’t she?” Ollie felt the last part was less a question and more a threat, though of what he wasn’t sure. He responded accordingly. “Of course she will. But I’m still right about the flip-flops though. We need to find more opportunities to get the sun on our skin. Outdoor activities in the early morning and evening, when most of the harmful heat has gone from the sun, but the light’s still bright. We could go camping.  Imagine the health benefits of the sun streaming through the tent fabric onto our sleeping faces at four in the morning; lovely.”

Lizzie counters the camping question
“I don’t think so, Banks; I don’t think so one tiny bit. Life in a full-sized house with all mod cons is hard enough with these two; living with them in a big fabric bag in a field doesn’t bear thinking about.”

“You’re being a bit harsh about tent technology. It’s come a long way since you were in the Brownies, and I think…”

“No tents, Banks, No tents.” The tone of his wife’s voice told Ollie the topic was closed. “But I do like the notion of being outside early in the mornings; that would be good for us, and would probably help us all sleep better at night. Let’s buy a patio table and some chairs, and then we can eat breakfast and dinner outside when it’s not raining.”

“Oh goodie; more shopping,” he sighed. “Couldn’t we achieve the same effect by moving the dining table closer to the window? It’d be much cheaper…” but the battle was lost. Lizzie had swept into the next aisle, taking the trolley and her children, leaving Ollie alone and forlorn, talking to himself and wondering what he’d started by saying ‘flip-flops’, which he still thought were a very good idea.

Picture: George Tsartsianidis | Dreamstime