Supplementing with Vitamin D3 is important for our health. We have all either heard or experienced how winter dampens our mood. Many people assume that the cold weather is to blame, however the more likely culprit is a lack of sunlight leading to a deficiency in vitamin D.
What is Vitamin D and Why Are So Many of Us Deficient?
With the name vitamin D, you probably assume that it is a vitamin, however vitamin D is actually a hormone.
Vitamins are defined as essential nutrients that our bodies are incapable of producing on their own, but vitamin D is a hormone, which is a chemical that regulates body physiology.
When our skin is exposed to sufficient quantities of sunlight, our bodies are capable of making all of the vitamin D that our bodies need to thrive.
A study published in the National Library of Medicine found that over 41% of American adults are deficient in vitamin D, and this number fluctuates over the year, with more Americans deficient during the winter months and fewer during the summer months.
All year round many of us spend the vast majority of our time indoors, limiting the time we give our bodies to produce this hormone crucial to optimal health.
What’s more, when we go outside, we slather ourselves in sunscreen in the hopes of avoiding sunburns. Sunscreen blocks the sun’s rays, including those that our bodies use to make vitamin D!
When winter rolls around, all of these factors are compounded with even less sunshine due to inclement weather. More clouds and colder weather leave us with even less sunlight exposure.
In fact, those of us who live at latitudes about 37 degrees north, a line of latitude that crosses below Colorado, do not have sufficient sunlight access with the exception of during the summer months to produce the vitamin D that we need.
What Does Vitamin D Do?
Scientist continue to discover more and more of the important roles that Vitamin D plays in the body.
Currently, we know that vitamin D receptors exist throughout our body’s tissues, including the muscles, endocrine glands, prostate, heart, and many more.
Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium in our bodies, linking vitamin D to bone health.
It has been found in studies to reduce belly fat, improve mental alertness and memory, boost the immune system, decrease the risk of some cancers, improve cardiovascular health, and vitamin D is absolutely critical to maintaining a balanced mood.
So if you find yourself feeling sluggish, struggling to lose weight, or are concerned about the amount of time you spend indoors, it is time to consider adding a daily vitamin D3 supplement into your daily routine.
How to Get Enough Vitamin D
Sunlight and supplements are two of the best ways to obtain all of the vitamin D3 that you need, however there are a couple of other tips to be aware of.
Food, including egg yolks, fatty fish, and large number of fortified foods can help to increase the amount of vitamin D that you obtain each day.
Mushrooms are also a great natural source of vitamin D, and you can increase their vitamin D content by exposing them to sunlight before cooking with them. Simply place your mushrooms on your window sill or in your backyard prior to eating them.
If you do decide to add a supplement, be sure to consider all of your sources of vitamin D. The total recommended dietary intake of vitamin D for those at risk of deficiency is 1,500 to 2,000 IU/day for adults. I personally prescribe 5,000 IU/day, especially since there is little risk in over supplementation of Vitamin D. This quantity can vary based on a wide variety of factors, including skin pigmentation, age, and health status.
Keep in mind, the most accurate way to determine the proper dosage is through a blood test. Consult with a healthcare provider about the right dose for you.
When purchasing a vitamin D supplement, look for a vitamin D3 form as this is the form naturally produced by our bodies. For further questions please feel free to call or visit Hummingbird Community Acupuncture.
Related articles: Tips for Staying Healthy This Winter
1.Vitamin D and your health: Breaking old rules, raising new hopes
2. Shipowick, C. D., Moore, C. B., Corbett, C., & Bindler, R. (n.d.). Vitamin D and depressive symptoms in women during the winter: A pilot study. Retrieved from www.appliednursingresearch.org/article/S0897-1897%2807%2900106-1/abstract
3. Vitamin D and other vitamins and minerals
4. Vitamin D: The “sunshine” vitamin
5. The truth about vitamin D: What kind of vitamin D is best?
Joaquina Cante, L.Ac., Shaman, is a nationally board certified acupuncturist and holistic healthcare practitioner in Boulder, Colorado. Owner of Hummingbird Community Acupuncture, she is a believer in the innate power of each individual to heal and become a better human being.