Get your winter sunshine -- Vitamin D, that is!

healthy eating healthy living real food resilience stress-free Oct 31, 2021

Vitamin D is often called the Sunshine Vitamin

It plays many important roles in our bodies, and yet many of us have a chronic deficiency so that our health may be suffering.

Vitamin D is a group of fat-soluble steroids, stored in the liver and fatty tissues.  In humans, the most important compounds in this group are Vitamin D3 (also known as cholecalciferol) and Vitamin D2.  It’s also unique in that it actually acts as a steroid hormone rather than just a vitamin in the body and is involved in everything from weight management to bone health. 

In addition, Vitamin D:

  • Contributes to bone health by aiding in calcium absorption into the bones, as well as other vitamins and minerals that contribute to both health, including magnesium, vitamin K and phosphorus.
  • Supports the immune system and may help prevent prolonged or excessive inflammatory responses and may decrease a viruses’ ability to reproduce and prevent tissue damage.
  • Helps support healthy cell replication and may play a role in protecting against the development of autoimmune conditions.
  • Promotes cardiovascular health and helps regulate blood pressure, cholesterol levels and inflammation.
  • Helps manage blood sugar levels and works with calcium to regulate insulin secretion.
  • May help prevent depression and mood disorders by keeping your mood positive, energy levels up and can help treat seasonal affective disorder (a.k.a. “winter depression”).

Whew!  Sounds pretty essential to me!

The major natural source of the vitamin is synthesis of cholecalciferol (D3) in the lower layers of skin through a chemical reaction that is dependent on sun exposure.  During the summer, as little as 10 minutes of daily exposure between 10 am and 2 pm, without sunscreen, can be enough to absorb about 10,000 units of natural vitamin D.  However concerns about too much sun exposure means even this limited time in the sun is avoided by many people.

And now that winter is looming, those of us in northern regions will simply not get nearly enough exposure as the sun is lower in the sky and the required ultraviolet rays are not as strong -- not to mention that we expose as little skin surface as we can on those sub-zero days!

And because of this many of us will be deficient in Vitamin D unless we take action to maintain healthy levels.

What happens when we don’t get enough Vitamin D? 

The list of potential symptoms is a long one and includes:

  • bone diseases, such as rickets in children and osteomalacia, osteopenia or osteoporosis in adults
  • fractures
  • muscle weakness
  • muscle cramping
  • chronic pain
  • asthma
  • allergies
  • fatigue
  • depression and anxiety

Vitamin D deficiency can elevate your risk for certain diseases such as osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease, as well as common respiratory infections such as colds and flus.

The good news is that there is a simple test that can determine your Vitamin D level.  

Next time your physician orders a blood test, ask them to include Vitamin D -- you may need to pay for it yourself if it’s not covered by your healthcare plan, but the cost is reasonable.

How can you raise your Vitamin D level, especially in winter?

Vitamin D can be ingested from the diet and from supplements, although only a few foods, such as the flesh of fatty fish like salmon or tuna, beef liver, eggs (especially yolks), mushrooms, and cod liver oil (did you take that as a kid?), naturally contain significant amounts.

Did you know? Mushrooms are one of the only plant sources of vitamin D and actually act similarly to human skin, absorbing more vitamin D when exposed to the sun.

Many processed and packaged foods are supplemented with Vitamin D such as milk and milk products, as well as breakfast cereals and bread, although these are usually synthetic forms which are believed to be much less effective than naturally occurring vitamin D.  And besides, you may not be eating these as part of your healthy food choices.

Thus supplementation with high-quality Vitamin D is recommended, obtained through a knowledgeable health food store or healthcare practitioner.  To get the best vitamin D3 supplement, look for a fermented, food-based source of D3 (preferably fermented with a healthy bacteria such as L. bulgaricus) paired with fermented botanicals and supplementary probiotics for maximum absorption and effectiveness.  Follow the dosage guidelines on the product or from your healthcare professional.  And because it is fat-soluble, take your supplement with a meal containing healthy fats such as ghee, coconut oil, nuts, seeds or fish.

So take action today!  

Get outdoors whenever you can (this in itself is good for your mood!), and allow yourself some sun exposure for at least a few minutes.  Eat healthy Real Food including fatty fish, eggs, beef liver and mushrooms.  Get your Vitamin D levels tested.  And ask your trusted healthcare professional about Supplementation -- either that or reacquaint yourself with that old standard, a tablespoon of cod liver oil every morning!

 

Resources

Prevalence of Vitamin D Deficiency and Associated Risk Factors in the US Population, Monitoring Editor: Alexander Muacevic and John R Adler, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6075634/

Is vitamin D deficiency a major global public health problem?  by Cristina Palacios and Lilliana Gonzalez; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4018438/

Vitamin D: important for prevention of osteoporosis, cardiovascular heart disease, type 1 diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and some cancers, by Michael F Holick; https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16295817/

Clinical implications of vitamin D deficiency, by Beata Matyjaszek-Matuszek,  by Monika Lenart-Lipińska, and Ewa Woźniakowska; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4498026/

Vitamin D deficiency and depression in adults: systematic review and meta-analysis, by Rebecca E S Anglin, Zainab Samaan, Stephen D Walter, Sarah D McDonald; https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23377209/

Vitamin D2 is much less effective than vitamin D3 in humans, by Laura A G Armas, Bruce W Hollis, Robert P Heaney; https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15531486/

 

For more info on this and other natural health topics:

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