The Acupuncturist's Guide: The Sunshine Vitamin

Overview of Vitamin D

(the sunshine vitamin) 

Despite it's sunny deposition! Vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin) is actually an steroid hormone with big health benefits. Our bodies make vitamin D, through the sun's UVB rays.

In Ireland and the UK, it is possible to absorb enough vitamin D from the sun between March and September, by simply getting outside. This is especially true for more Southern regions. Brighton, England is 5,635 km from the equator, where as Belfast, Northern Ireland is 6,052 km.

During Autumn and Winter it is recommended, to get our Vitamin D from food or supplementation. However what does this mean in terms of vitamin D, our location and susceptibility to certain diseases? Let's find out by firstly determining your risk of having a vitamin D deficiency. 

Are you at risk of Vitamin D deficiency?

If you can answer yes, to any of the following risk factors. It is advisable to have your Vitamin D levels checked by your GP, especially if you experience any of the additional signs & symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency discussed further into this post. 

Risk factors for Vitamin D deficiency

  • Being elderly

  • Living far from the equator

  • Eating little dairy or fish

  • Staying indoors

  • Being overweight

  • Always applying sunscreen before leaving home

Why does our location have a role in in Vitamin D deficiency?

It has been proven, that when we live far from the equator we are more vulnerable to certain diseases. Type 1 diabetes is one of the diseases that varies by location. A Finnish child is 400 times more likely to develop Type 1 diabetes than a Venezuelan child. This evidence is based on a 30 year study that followed from birth, 10,000 Finnish children. The children who did receive Vitamin D supplementation during infancy had a 90 per cent lower risk of not developing Type 1 diabetes during childhood/adolescence. 

Researchers noticed an interesting relationship between geographic location and colon cancer deaths. Individuals who live at higher latitudes (where the sun's UVB rays are weaker), had a higher incidence of death from colon cancer than individuals who live closer to the equator. Please note: this research is still on-going. Findings do not necessarily mean taking Vitamin D supplements will lower colon cancer risk. 

Researchers also suspect that chronic vitamin D deficiencies may be one reason why, Multiple sclerosis (MS) rates are much higher far north (or far south) of the equator than in sunnier climates. Not only has Vitamin D deficiency been linked to increased risk of getting MS, but also more frequent relapses and further disability in people who have MS. We do know that you are higher risk of getting MS if you live in Scotland compared to if you lived in England. Possibly as Scotland is further from the equator than England. Our birth month can sometimes determine our risk of being diagnosed with MS. In the UK, more people with MS will have been born in April or May than October or November. If you were born after winter your mother may have had lower vitamin D levels, than someone born in the Autumn. Which does raise this question. Pregnant women are strongly encouraged to take Folic Acid before and during pregnancy to prevent birth defects. Shouldn't it be just as important to inform and advise pregnant women, about the risks of Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy on their child's health later in life such as with Type 1 diabetes and MS?! 

How can we tell ourselves that we may have a Vitamin D deficiency?

Keep an eye for the following troubling sign & symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency:

  • Becoming sick or catching bacterial/viral infections often

  • Chronic fatigue or tiredness

  • Depression or anxiety

  • Slow wound healing after injury or surgery

  • Bone loss (low bone density)

  • Back pain or joint pain

  • Hair loss

  • Muscle weakness & cramps

  • Gait (walking) disturbances

  • Blood sugar issues

  • Low levels of calcium in the blood

UK Guidelines of Recommended Vitamin D dosage

As the significance of Vitamin D is becoming more important to public health, the UK Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition set recommended guidelines for the first time. This means every person in the UK should be taking the recommended amounts of Vitamin D either through sun exposure, some foods and/or supplementation. However it important to note, that many experts agree that the human body needs more Vitamin D than the dosages below but this is the recommended guidelines for the UK. 

  • Infants from birth to 1 year - 8.5 to 10 micrograms of Vitamin D a day.

  • Children from 1 year to 4 years - 10 micrograms of Vitamin D a day.

  • Anyone age 4 years and older - 10 micrograms of Vitamin D a day.

  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women - 10 micrograms of Vitamin D a day.

  • 10 micrograms is equivalent to 400IU

  • If you have a certain condition that requires you to take more than the recommended amount of Vitamin D, your health professional should inform you. If in doubt ask.

Sunscreen is highly recommended to prevent skin burning, however it does block vitamin D absorption. It is advised that a person gets between 5-30 minutes of natural sunlight exposure twice a week. For young children and people with very fair skin (arms, legs or face), 5 minutes should be enough without the risk of sunburn.

People with darker skin may not get enough Vitamin D from sunlight due to the skin pigment (melanin) and it's inability to absorb as much UV radiation as fairer skin.   

Vitamin D Foods

Vitamin D rich foods include oily fish, red meat, liver, cheese, and egg yolks. Also some foods and beverages have been fortified with Vitamin D: breakfast cereals, cow's milk, orange juice, soy milk, almond milk and yogurt (some brands may not add Vitamin D, please check the labels).  

Vitamin D also has an important role in regulating levels of calcium, phosphorus and in bone mineralization.

Our body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. Vitamin D helps our intestines absorb calcium from the food that we eat, therefore keeping our calcium levels at optimal levels.

Vitamin D deficiency is a global concern, even for industrialized countries. Within in the UK, GPs are seeing a worrying resurgence of Rickets among children. Rickets is a crippling condition thought to be long eradicated due to an increase of 'Vitamin D fortified foods' over the years. Vitamin D deficiency is also linked to osteoporosis in adults.

Immune Function & Vitamin D

Vitamin D can help protect against chronic illnesses/conditions. Most of Vitamin D's health benefits are primarily due to it's ability to influence genetic expression, making it essential for the proper functioning of our immune systems. Vitamin D research shows it may help protect against disease progression or associated 'flare ups' of many autoimmune disorders, including but not limited to Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), Type 1 Diabetes, lupus, Alopecia Areata (AA). Vitamin D supports are immune system in it's fight against infectious diseases such as tuberclosis, Flu and the common cold. 

We love the sunshine vitamin!

Have you been diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency? Please share your story in the comment section.

Your Acupuncturist's Guide: Acupuncture for Fibromyalgia

Just realised the links are not working for finding an acupuncturist in the infograph. Please find appropriate links below

British Acupuncture Council

Acupuncture Council of Ireland

Your Acupuncturist’s Guide: Acupuncture for IVF

How can acupuncture help you through your IVF/ICSI treatment?

Most patients consider undergoing IVF/ICSI treatment to be a major life event. A deeply personal experience that can be filled with a lot of stress, worry and uncertainty.

With this in mind; I has compiled a step by step guide explaining how acupuncture can support you through the IVF/ICSI process and flexible evening and weekend appointments to accommodate you through an already demanding time.

The Acupuncture Loft's protocol for using acupuncture during IVF/ICSI involves using published research on clinical trials such as the well known  'Paulus et al'  randomised control trial with an achieved pregnancy rate of 42.5% with the use of acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer in comparison to a pregnancy rate of 26.3% of women who did not use acupuncture. The Paulus protocol is a popular choice for acupuncture clinics, even with the Zita West clinic. 

It has been my greatest pleasure to have witnessed many a  positive outcome for for a lot of fertility clients with the use of acupuncture and this protocol.

You are encouraged to attend regular acupuncture treatments for at least two months prior to your IVF/ICSI treatment for optimal results. However, if you are just about to start IVF/ICSI there still so many positive benefits when using acupuncture alongside your IVF/ICSI treatments. Acupuncture supports getting pregnant, staying pregnant and IVF, IUI, and ICSI treatments.

Step one


At the beginning of your IVF treatment you will be given a medication to suppress your monthly cycle. For approximately two weeks you will administer a daily injection or a nasal spray of the drug provided. Acupuncture can help relieve drug side affects such as hot flushes, excessive thirst, sweating, anxiety, irritability and disturbed sleep.

Step two


With your natural cycle suppressed, your next stage of treatment will be to administer daily FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) injections for roughly 10-12 days. FSH stimulates the ovaries to produce as many eggs as possible for collection and fertilisation. Acupuncture can help increase blood flow to the ovaries and endometrium & increase the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the follicles while also improving the egg's capacity to make energy to pass onto the embryo after fertilization. Eggs that consume more oxygen (ATP) before fertilization - form better quality embryos.

Step three


During this stage, you will have a scan to check in on how your ovaries are doing and possible blood tests. You will also receive a final hormone injection to help your eggs mature.


What an egg needs while maturing -


1. The right nutrients - please ask me for your individual nutrition plan according to the principle of Traditional Chinese Medicine during your first appointment.

2. Good blood & oxygen supplyAcupuncture can help increase both oxygen & blood flow.

3. The right hormone signals

4. Needs the capacity to supply enough energy to the embryo - this has a big significance when your AMH (egg count) may be considered a bit low - Successful implantation depends more on the egg having more energy.  Acupuncture has been shown to help improve the egg's ability to make energy.

Step four


Acupuncture at the time of egg collection is recommended to reduce anxiety & stress sometimes caused by this waiting period before your transfer. While also helping your body heal faster after your procedure. We also recommend that if you have a partner, he also receives acupuncture treatments prior to egg collect to improve sperm quality and quantity.

Step Five


Based on protocol two acupuncture treatments are needed on the day of your transfer: one prior and one just after. Flexible early morning, evening and weekend appointments are available during the day of your transfer.

Step six


A gentle relaxing treatment is recommended during the next two weeks of waiting for your results.

Your Acupuncturist's Guide: Part 1 - The ADHD brain

The ADHD Brain

It has definitely been a challenge, summarizing the vast amount of studies covering the pathophysiology of the ADHD brain. Yet, the answer may lay within these 8 neuroimaging pictures by Faraone, S.V. et al. (2015) in his study 'Brain mechanisms in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder'. Images below.

Firstly why is neuroimaging so important when determining the pathophysiology of ADHD?

Neuroimaging provides a clear picture of functional change (pathophysiology) within ADHD brains. Through these studies/images we have learned, that even though environmental factors and genetics also play role in ADHD. The ADHD brain is significantly different to neuro-typical (non-ADHD) brains, in terms of brain structure and functional connectivity (wiring).

This information has a huge implication for the millions of struggling families and adults living with ADHD. The implication being that ADHD is not due to bad parenting or adults simply having no life organisational skills. Certainly ADHD symptoms can be exacerbated by our external environment, but these images below demonstrate that there is a neurological basis behind ADHD.

ADHD is considered a neurological disorder, manifesting as (but not restricted to) symptoms such as hyperactivity, distractibility, and poor impulse control.

ADHD also falls under the umbrella term of Neurodiversity, which basically means neurologically different. Neurodiversity encompasses a wide range of neurological conditions, namely Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dyspraxia, Tourette's, OCD plus others.

Neurodiversity is considered the conclusion of a natural and normal variation in the human genome. One who thinks and acts differently to the norm, and who should be respected as any other human being who is different. Symptoms can be addressed if it causes a issue in the person's daily functionality. 

Journalist Harvey Blume first wrote about neurodiversity in a 1998 article published in the Atlantic. Blume said, "Neurodiversity may be every bit as crucial for the human race as biodiversity is for life in general. Who can say what form of wiring will prove best at any given moment?" And who can say?! We will cover more on the exciting possibilities of Neurodiversity in part 2 of this series.


Brain mechanisms in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder

Figure (a) & (b) - present the main regions implicated by functional and structural neuroimaging studies.

Figure (c) - shows these regions being connected by neural networks rich in two neurotransmitters - Dopamine & Noradrenalin. ADHD medication treats ADHD by regulating the activity of these neurotransmitters.

Figure (d) - represents two functional networks.

  • The Corticocerebellar Network - Regulator of complex motor skills & plays a possible role in the regulation of cognitive functions.
  • The Executive Control Network - Regulates behavior by connecting the dorsal striatum and the dorsolateral prefontal cortex. This pairing is necessary for inhibitory control, self-regulation, working memory and attention. 

Figure (e) - illustrates the Reward Network that connect the ventral striatum with prefrontal cortex. This Reward Network regulates how we perceive and value rewards and punishments. This network is thought to play a significant role on substance abuse addictions. Which is why, the ADHD community are at a particularly high risk for addictions. 

Figures (f), (g) & (h) - highlights less understood additional regions in the pathophysiology of ADHD. A primary role for these regions is the regulation of the Default Mode Network (DMN). This network is active, when a person isn't focused on a task. While in this mode the brain will zone out, day dream, mind wander to past memories and actually future plan. A disruption in the DMN is implicated not only in ADHD but other disorders such as ASD and Alzheimer's. This may explain why Alzheimer's patients respond so well to an external environment, which reflects the patient's internal memories. This externalization can be expressed through the music of their youth and objects/photographs from their past. It would also explain the rich imagination and creativity found in people with ADHD and ASD. 

Typically we see a continuous dynamic interaction between the DMN (thinking about a great idea) and the Executive Network (making that idea a reality). However when both networks are dis-regulated, the natural communication style of expressing ideas/concepts becomes complicated, this is especially true for autistic individuals. It may also indicate why people with ADHD can often feel misunderstood and easily frustrated, when required to explain their vision or give an opinion.

A classic example of this would be Steve Jobs (founder of Apple), who was a rumored ADHDer. It has been well documented how Jobs would unleash a reign of terror on his poor employees, who questioned his 'vision'. Personally I don't believe that this was an issue of Jobs being a proud or arrogant individual but of an inability to express his vivid and surreal internal world in any other way, than how he saw it. ADHDers find it very difficult to find other ways, to make their ideas more easily understandable. The frustration felt by many people with ADHD, comes down to a communication issue which has both internal and external implications. An ADHD child will thrive with an educator who doesn't presume the ideas/actions of an ADHD child is wrong, just because they don't fit inside a box, a curriculum or a text book.  A teacher who has mastered the art of listening, paraphrasing and summarising with enthusiasm is exactly the validation and encouragement an ADHD child needs to express themselves more clearly and to get that child's plan into action. 


Faraone, S. V. et al. (2015) Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder Nat. Rev. Dis. Primers doi:10.1038/nrdp.2015.20 ;

Armstrong, Thomas.  The Power of Neurodiversity:  Unleashing the Advantages of Your Differently Wired Brain. Cambridge, MA:  DaCapo Lifelong/Perseus Books, 2011.

Qiu MG, Ye Z, Li QY, et al. Changes of brain structure and function in ADHD children. Brain Topogr 2011;24:243-52.

The Loft's Feature in the Mums at Work Blog reaches nearly 170 shares

Finally got to meet the wonderful Sinead Norton, founder of Mums at work this week. Sinead wrote a feature piece on The Acupuncture Loft and me. We chatted about Acupuncture, The Loft, ADHD and much more. We both couldn't believe how much this particular blog post was shared. Possibly as the blog post's message (below) spoke to many, who may face different challenges in life but who still strive for more.

If you would like to know more about adult ADHD or the importance of neuro-diversity, please get in touch. 


Trish O’Hara


The Acupuncture Loft

Mums At Work Facebook Group

Trish O’Hara, is mummy of a beautiful 5 year old girl and comes from Derry.

I asked her how she got into business and she said,

After finishing my degree in traditional acupuncture & Western Bio Medicine. I co-founded the Portobello Acupuncture Project with a good friend in Notting Hill, London. We had literally no money, only 100% determination and some really great friends who supported us. We were based in a National Lottery funded community centre called the Tabernacle, which runs amazing events such as the Notting Hill Carnival, musical and drama theatre and the arts. After graduation, I was really taken by this new concept of community acupuncture. Basically this involves one large space, with several treatment beds or chairs and two or more acupuncturists. The idea is to reduce overhead costs and pass those saving onto to your clients by offering low cost treatments. Treating people at the same time in the same place, is traditionally how acupuncture is offered in China/Asia. In the beginning it was such a fight to convince the management team at the Tabernacle. I’m sure they give in because they couldn’t take anymore from this Northern Irish woman, who wouldn’t take no for an answer. We were told that Notting Hill was too affluent and wealthy to entertain a little project such as ours. Three months later: we had a six week waiting list, making more money in just one day that we could ever of done working independently, our project became a teaching clinic for acupuncture students and I was offered a position with Westminster City Council as part of their Occupational Health Team because of the success of the project.”

I asked Trish what was her biggest struggle in her business and she said “Admitting that I need help and being able to ask for help. A few years ago, I was diagnosed with ADHD and Dyscalculia (difficulty in recognizing number sequences – dates, clock time), which is quite amusing in itself since I chose a numerical points based medicine as my profession. I thank acupuncture, for keeping me grounded and focused during my degree but some aspects of studying plus the administration side of business was very difficult. Mainly because I created some elaborate and amazing coping skills, so I wouldn’t need to ask for help. These coping skills allowed me to hide my conditions but it was detrimental to my confidence and well being. When I finally asked for help, a whole world opened up to me and I learned new ways to actively assist myself with book keeping and administration tasks (the world will not end if you need to delegate tasks). I was finally able to drop the shame about my conditions, embrace a new and easier way to do business and meet some other really successful people who just happen to have either ADHD, Autism, Dyscalculia and/or Dyslexia.”

Trish says that for her clients, illness can be isolating and frightening. Her clients met each other as strangers at the community acupuncture clinic in London and a lot of her regular client became friends with each other. She loves to see people establish relationships independent of the clinic, through a shared story of overcoming illness. She says, “I am most proud that I helped facilitate those relationships.”

To relax, Trish loves to have an acupuncture session, snuggle with her little one and catching up with friends. Trish now works and lives in Belfast. Please check out the Belfast Acupuncture Loft



Tel: 07525 419320