The time has come again for inevitable shift to come up upon us. As summer draws to a close, so does the time you spend in the sun. This is particularly true for women in northern locations where the days are quite short and the sun doesn’t shine much in the winter. A lack of sun isn’t about just not being able to eat lunch or walk around outside, it can also significantly affect your health. That’s because moderate, careful sun exposure is the best way to naturally get a very important nutrient, vitamin D.
All About Vitamin D
Your body synthesizes vitamin D from sunlight. The sun is your most significant natural source of this fat-soluble nutrient, although it is present in small amounts in certain foods. The highest vegetable source of vitamin D available is shiitake mushrooms.
Vitamin D plays many critical roles in your body
- Promotes calcium absorption and maintains serum calcium levels.
- Prevents osteomalacia in adults and rickets in children.
- Modulates cell growth.
- Strengthens immune function.
Risks Associated with Low Vitamin D
Having consistently low levels of vitamin D can lead to a number of health problems.
- A recent study showed that people with low levels of vitamin D had a 30 percent greater risk of death than those with normal levels.
- The same study showed frail people had more than double the risk of death when they had low vitamin D levels.
- Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to cognitive impairment.
- Children with vitamin D deficiency have a higher risk of asthma.
- More than 75 percent of cancer patients have a vitamin D deficiency.
- People with low vitamin D may experience weakened immunity.
Could You Be Deficient?
You may be deficient in vitamin D and not realize it. People at risk for vitamin D deficiency include:
- People in northern locations
- People with dark skin
- Obese people
- People with digestive tract disorders such as celiac and Crohn’s disease
- People with limited exposure to sunlight
- People who always wear sunscreen
While you may experience symptoms such as muscle, joint, or bone aches or decreased immunity, you could be deficient in vitamin D and not even realize it. If you suspect you may deficient or are a member of one of the above higher risk populations, ask your health care provider for a vitamin D blood serum test to determine your vitamin D status.
How to Get More Vitamin D
So what if it’s winter, you live in a northern climate, you work indoors, and you can’t stomach the idea of eating loads of shiitake mushrooms? Try the following:
- Spending time with skin exposed even on cloudy days can up your vitamin D levels, as well. Try to spend 20 minutes on cloudy or winter days, and 10 minutes on sunny days soaking up the sun.
- Consider supplementing vitamin D3. Try the Garden of Life multivitamin formulas, mens and women’s, which include vitamin D3 from a vegan source.
You can work with your health care provider to determine dosage recommendations for vitamin D3. According to the Mayo Clinic, if you are deficient in vitamin D it is safe to take up to 1,000 IU of vitamin D daily with a safe upper limit as high as 10,000 IU (250 mcg). If you’re not deficient, you need 600 IU of D3 each day until the age of 70, and then you need 800 IU if you are pregnant, lactating, or over the age of 70.
Vitamin D is an extremely important nutrient along with all the essential vitamins, which is why it pays to be vigilant. Even if you don’t believe you are deficient in vitamin D, try to spend time even a few moments outdoors in the winter and consider supplementing to maintain good health. The sun, highly demonized in our society, is the source of life on our planet. A few minutes can have various health benefits, and non-chemical sunscreens are available to you as well.