How do we increase vitamin D in the winter?
In the winter months, we find ourselves indoors a little (or a lot) more. Because of this, our bodies absorb much less sunlight, which leads to a deficit of vitamin D for many of us.
As vitamin D is produced by our skin, in response to exposure to ultraviolet radiation, it makes sense that vitamin D deficiencies would be more common in the winter months. This vitamin is such an important factor in our overall health, so we want our blood serum levels of it to be optimal.
In this post we are going to look at the benefits of vitamin D, the health consequences that can arise from a deficiency in it, and how to get enough of it in the winter.
Why Do We Need Vitamin D?
It’s not just a song lyric that sunshine on our shoulders makes us happy. Sunshine ACTUALLY makes us happier– because it fills our bodies with Vitamin D. Sunlight exposure is the only reliable way to generate this vitamin in your body. In fact, even low SPF sunscreens can block your body’s ability to generate vitamin D. Safely absorbing some sunlight is the very best way to maintain and optimize vitamin D levels.
A few cool facts when it comes to vitamin D: 1) Our bodies can never generate too much vitamin D from sun exposure, because by design our body self regulates and generates only what it needs in this particular regard. And 2)You can not get enough sun exposure by standing in a sunny doorway, as the rays of sun that generate vitamin D in your skin can not penetrate glass. Absorption through your skin outdoors is the only way.
Health Benefits of Increased Vitamin D
Vitamin D is one of the most important preventative health factors. Ninety percent of our vitamin D is made via sun exposure. But what happens when we can’t soak up the sun–especially once the weather turns cold, gray, and icy? When winter hits, most states see at least a 20% reduction in sunshine. Food sources and supplements are options to increase/maintain your vitamin D levels, but always be sure to have your blood serum levels checked before beginning a vitamin D supplement regimen.
Vitamin D is useful and incredible in a variety of areas of health. Not only does this vitamin reduce incidences of depression and anxiety, it also:
- Is an immune system booster
- contributes to stronger bones
- aids in improved muscle function
- can offer protection from cardiovascular disease
- may decrease risk of type 2 diabetes
- is associated with a reduced risk of cancer–including colon, breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers
What if I Don’t Increase Vitamin D?
What happens in our bodies if our vitamin D levels are too low? Here are a few symptoms that can indicate possible low vitamin D levels in the body (interestingly, compare them to the list above):
- frequent illnesses
- fatigue or tiredness
- bone/back pain
- slow healing of wounds
- bone loss
- hair loss
- muscle pain
What if we get plenty of sunshine in the summer months? Can our bodies create enough of a reserve to last us through the winter season? Studies say no. In the winter, it’s common for people to fall ill more frequently than other times of the year. This is especially true of colds and flus. There is plenty of research supporting vitamin D deficiency as a major cause of influenza and respiratory illnesses. Maintaining healthy levels of this vitamin throughout the winter “indoor” months might just make a big difference in your health through the “sick season.”
Tips to Increase Vitamin D in Winter
It only takes about 15 minutes a day in the sun to maintain healthy vitamin D levels in most people. If every day seems too much, remember this: our bodies can store vitamin D for a bit, so 20-30 minutes of sun exposure about three times a week would also be sufficient! Because there will be periods of winter where getting outside just isn’t possible, we are also going to give you a couple of other suggestions.
Have a Serving (or Two) of Fatty Fish
A small 4 ounce serving of salmon contains more of this vitamin D than the daily recommended allowance. Just two and a half servings of salmon a week would get you all the vitamin D you need. Tuna and mackerel are other good fish options. Mushrooms, eggs, and fortified milk products are other ideas if fish aren’t your thing.
Opt for a Supplement
This isn’t always necessary, therefore we encourage you to discuss with your healthcare provider before deciding to take a vitamin D (or any) supplement. It IS nearly impossible to get too much vitamin D from the sun and food sources, it CAN happen from a supplement. To avoid this, just ask your doctor to check your blood serum levels of vitamin D. This is a simple blood test. Optimal levels are 50-70 ng/ml, and for some levels as high as 70-100 ng/ml are considered optimal. Most lab parameters will list a lower level as “good,” but these are not necessarily accurate from a functional standpoint.
If you aren’t sure where to find a quality vitamin D supplement, visit our (free) online dispensary where you’ll find plenty of options you can trust.
*an older version of this article is published at our original website.