“Am I getting enough vitamin D?” is not a question that is commonly asked. As the days get shorter and the temperatures drop during winter, many of us are at risk of vitamin D deficiency, even if we are unaware of it.
Understanding what causes vitamin D deficiency and its associated health risks can help us take proactive steps to ensure we maintain adequate levels of this essential vitamin all year round.
Here is everything you need to know about vitamin D deficiency, along with proactive steps to keep yourself healthy during the chilly winter months. Let’s get started!
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that plays a critical role in the health of individuals. This vitamin, which is fat-soluble, has been recognized for its ability to aid the body in absorbing and retaining calcium and phosphorus, two crucial elements for constructing bones.
Calcium is necessary for proper bone formation, as it provides strength and rigidity to our skeletal structure. The body’s primary source of energy, adenosine triphosphate (ATP), is made up of phosphorus. This regulates nerves, muscles, and the heart and is also a building block for our genes.
Without sufficient amounts of vitamin D, it is hard to absorb the necessary nutrients from food or supplements, resulting in a weakened body and an increased risk of breaking bones. Those with insufficient levels of this vitamin may also suffer from fatigue, as well as aches and pains in their muscles and joints.
When winter rolls around, many people find themselves experiencing a decrease in their vitamin D intake. So, what causes this seasonal drop in vitamin D efficiency? The main cause of low vitamin D levels during the winter months is simply a lack of sunlight.
Summer days are ideal for staying active outside, as our bodies produce more vitamin D when exposed to direct ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation from the sun. However, UVB radiation does not reach the skin as much during the winter months.
This means that even if you live in an area where the sun is out during winter, you may still not be receiving enough UVB radiation to produce adequate vitamin D levels.
Additionally, some seasonal dietary habits may also contribute to lower vitamin D levels; as people tend to eat more comfort foods during winter, they may be unknowingly reducing their intake of vitamin D-rich foods.
On warmer days, it’s fairly easy to meet your daily vitamin D needs with just 10 to 30 minutes of midday sunlight. However, in Canada and other northern latitudes, the angle of the sun is lower during the winter months, which leads to shorter daylight hours and makes it difficult to obtain sufficient vitamin D from sunlight alone. In such cases, it’s recommended to take additional measures to maintain adequate levels of vitamin D.
Take Vitamin D Supplements
Taking vitamin D supplements is another great way to ensure you’re getting enough of this essential nutrient. Is now recommended that adults and the elderly have a daily vitamin D requirement of around 1000-2000 IU. However, it’s important to consult with your doctor and get tested to determine the appropriate dosage for your individual needs.
Fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel, are among the best sources of vitamin D. If you are not a big fish fan, you can still supplement your body’s vitamin D supply by consuming foods such as eggs, mushrooms, cheese, beef liver, and fortified milk. Adding these to your diet can help prevent vitamin D deficiency.
Indoor lights that generate UV-B light may also increase the amount of vitamin D produced in the skin. UV lamps mimic UV-B radiation from the sun and can be especially helpful if you don’t get enough sun exposure due to where you live or the amount of time you spend indoors.
Daily exposure to artificial UV light for 10-15 minutes has been shown in some studies to be effective at preventing vitamin D deficiency during the winter.
The risk of vitamin D deficiency during winter is higher than you may think, but smart lifestyle choices can prevent it. With proper awareness and effort, we can all stay healthy through the colder months and beyond.
In terms of health and wellness, Calgary Integrative Medicine is an excellent place to start. We’re proud to be Calgary’s premier naturopathic clinic, with treatments that can help you live a happier life.
Whether you need help getting started or advice on improving your health, contact us today to discover lasting and sustainable health solutions!