Winter had finally sunk its icy claws into the Northeast and has left many people feeling tired, depressed, and just feeling “icky.” Blaming your symptoms on the evils of winter is partly correct, though. Many of us stay inside during these cold and snowy months and we don’t get the sunlight we need. And by sunlight, we’re not talking about working on your tan; we’re talking about Vitamin D. During the summer months, we are outside, taking in the natural sunlight, which gives our bodies much needed Vitamin D. The problem with that is that when we are exposed to sunlight, we are putting ourselves at risk for skin cancer.
Research has shown that Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to diseases like cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, diabetes, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and more. Our body needs Vitamin D to absorb calcium and promote bone growth. A study released in 2008 by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that more than 50% of children and adults in the U.S. are deficient in Vitamin D.
The only real way to find out whether or not you are deficient in Vitamin D is to have a Vitamin D test done on your blood, but if you aren’t getting outside much, don’t drink a lot of milk, and eat a mostly vegetarian diet, then you are more than likely deficient. There aren’t many foods that contain Vitamin D and the ones that do, you would have to consume massive amounts in order to get the Vitamin D your body needs. Vitamin D is found in foods like fish and egg yolks.
So how much Vitamin D do we need? In 2010, the Institute of Medicine recommended that for people ages 9 – 70, the adequate is 600IU/day with a maximum safe upper level of intake of 4,000IU/day. This not without controversy, however, as some experts say this is not enough. According to WebMD, Boston University Vitamin D expert Michael Holick, MD, PhD, professor of medicine, physiology, and biophysics, adults need 1,000IU/day unless they get plenty of safe sun exposure.
Most people don’t get enough Vitamin D in their diets and with the recommendations to avoid prolonged sun exposure, many of us would benefit from a Vitamin D supplement. According to the Vitamin D Council, a non-profit organization that aims to educate people about Vitamin D deficiency, recommends supplementing your diet with Vitamin D3 in either fat soluble (liquid drops or gel caps) or water form (capsules or tablets). They also recommend that you consult with your physician before taking supplement because although there have been no cases of adverse interaction of Vitamin D with medications, there are some medications that can interfere with the body’s proper utilization of Vitamin D. Once you have determined you need a Vitamin D Supplement, you can go to places like Down to Earth Whole Foods in Endicott and Health Beat Natural Foods in Johnson City.