Amidst the season’s infinity scarves and furry boots, there is a serious downside to the otherwise festive and crisp winter months that affects so many of us every year: the winter ‘blahs’. Feelings of laziness, nostalgia and the seemingly unavoidable coughs and runny noses loom free. One source to blame: Vitamin D. Well, the lack thereof D to be more precise.
Vitamin D, aptly named the ‘sunshine’ vitamin since sunlight is the major and most natural source of it, is produced in the body when the sun’s ultraviolet rays reach our skin and trigger production. However, a growing number of researchers and health experts are finding that we are simply not getting enough Vitamin D – especially during the winter months when our time in the sun is severely limited due to dull weather and shortened days. The effects, though, are far more significant than our pasty skin. Rather, a lack of Vitamin D can lead to mood lowering conditions and immune system weaknesses.
Amongst the multitude of health benefits and preventative effects of optimal Vitamin D levels – including protecting against certain forms of cancer, promoting absorption of calcium and bone health, and reducing inflammation – upping your Vitamin D intake has also been proven to enhance mood by boosting seratonin levels (the ‘feel good’ brain chemical), improve immune function (good-bye pesky coughs and colds!), and benefit nearly every tissue in the body! So how do we up our D levels during the winter? Other than our first choice of hopping on a plane to a tropical resort destination to waste away the winter months, the more practical (and affordable) solutions include proper nutrition and adequate supplementation.
Many cereals and dairy products are fortified with Vitamin D, but only fatty fish, liver and egg yolks are naturally rich in this essential vitamin. And while a diet packed with these foods will certainly help raise your Vitamin D levels, it’s difficult to get sufficient levels from diet alone since the units of Vitamin D available in these foods are simply not sufficient to fully meet our daily requirements (which researchers now say is between 1000 IU and 5000IU per day). The only way to make up the difference? A supplement.
Our advice: ask your primary care doctor for a blood test to determine how much Vitamin D you personally need to supplement. Since Vitamin D is stored in the body, too much of a good thing can, well, sometimes be toxic.