Winter Woes: Why You Need Vitamin D
Snowshoeing, skating, snowboarding, and brisk walks; even if you are a winter warrior and spend hours outside in the frosty, sunny air, there is a good chance you're still deficient in...duh, duh, DUH, Vitamin D!
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that contributes to a long, healthy and happy life. It’s absorbable (active form) is D3 (cholecalciferol/calcetriol) which is what you typically see on supplement bottles. This magic hormone (surprise! It’s also a hormone) helps to regulate calcium and phosphorus in the body. However, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. With long-term high dose use of this vitamin, it can lead to high calcium levels in the blood, resulting in calcification of the kidney and heart.
How Can I Get It?
Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun: The Sun is a well-known source of Vitamin D, but how much is enough? An SPF of 8 will inhibit UVB rays needed to synthesize it (not that we should go without that protection!) Darker skin tones, increased age, and increased subcutaneous fat, are all factors that decrease our ability to synthesize vitamin D. There is no magic number for sunshine time as it depends on these factors along with cloud cover, season, and longitude.
Supplementing: In the northern hemisphere, this is often necessary to maintain adequate levels. There are chewable tablets and oil drops; since vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, it tends to be better absorbed with oil drops, unless the tablets are accompanied by a fat such as nuts, avocados or healthy oils. Health Canada recommends vitamin D fortified foods daily to Canadians (however, supplementing instead lends more to those with food restrictions such as dairy or animal products).
Food! Fatty fish (the fresher, the more D you get), egg yolks and meats contain D3 while some plant based foods contain it as well, however it is in the form of D2 (less potent) and in lower amounts.
When it comes to getting enough vitamin D, the most potent sources are the Sun and supplements.
Signs and Symptoms that You May be Vitamin D Deficient
Low Mood: You may have heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder (aka SAD) or even experienced this yourself; this is low mood as a result of less sunlight in the winter months and therefore less vitamin D synthesis. This particularly affects those in the northern hemispheres (hey, Canada). In an 8 week trial, it was shown that Vitamin D and Fluoxtine (anti-depressive) were significantly superior in controlling depressive symptoms than Fluoxetine alone.
Weakened Bones: A substantial deficiency can cause rickets in children, but a more common consequence of low vitamin D (among other nutrients) is osteomalacia (softening of bones) and osteoporosis (weak, brittle bones). Along with calcium and magnesium, vitamin D can help to reduce risk of fractures or falls which are correlated with higher mortality rates.
Frequent Colds/Flus: We know about vitamin C, echinacea and even zinc for strengthening our immune systems, but D is also essential to a healthy functioning defense system!
This list is not all encompassing as there are other subtle signs/symptoms that your Vit D levels are low. Dosing information is not included as each person should be individually evaluated to determine the appropriate amount required for them! See an intern to find out more information and what’s right for you!
3. Anglin, Rebecca ES, et al. "Vitamin D deficiency and depression in adults: systematic review and meta-analysis." The British journal of psychiatry202.2 (2013): 100-107. 4. Khoraminya, Nayereh, et al. "Therapeutic effects of vitamin D as adjunctive therapy to fluoxetine in patients with major depressive disorder." Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 47.3 (2013): 271-275.
5. Lucas, Robyn M., et al. "Vitamin D and immunity." F1000Prime Rep 6 (2014): 118.