Vitamins

How to Avoid Vitamin D Deficiency During Winter

How to Avoid Vitamin D Deficiency During Winter

How to Avoid Vitamin D Deficiency During Winter

When winter rolls around, it can be a very difficult time for some as feelings of withdrawal, depression, and fatigue start to creep in. Like Bears in hibernation, we would rather be indoors and are not as inclined to socialize. 

So why does this happen? 

Why is it that when the season changes, our moods change along with it? 

How does the lack of sunshine affect our health during winter? 

During the winter months, we have less sunshine. The days are shorter and the skies are usually overcast. The lack of sunlight causes our vitamin D levels to drop which in turn affects our mood. When the skin is exposed to ultraviolet radiation from the sun, vitamin D is formed from a cholesterol derivative and absorbed into the circulatory system

It helps balance our mood by activating genes that release dopamine and serotonin in the brain. These hormones have been coined the “happy hormones”, as serotonin acts much like an anti-depressant by boosting your mood, while dopamine gives you a “good feeling”.

Deficiency in this fat-soluble vitamin has been linked to S.A.D (seasonal affective disorder), which usually brings on feelings of sadness and depression during shifts in the weather where there’s less sunshine. 

5 Ways to combat vitamin D deficiency

1. Include more Vitamin D rich foods in your diet

 If you are not getting enough vitamin D naturally from the Sun, it only makes sense to increase your intake of food that is high in it. Foods rich in vitamin D include butter, eggs, and organ meats. Vitamin D is also abundant in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, trout, and albacore tuna. Fortified foods include dairy, cereals, soy beverages, nut milk, and orange juice.

2. Take Vitamin D supplements

One should begin taking a vitamin D supplement for winter or as soon as you notice an obvious shift in your mood. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means that our body stores it in the liver, rather than excreting its excess like a water-soluble vitamin. 

Vitamin D toxicity is not very common but it is important to note that it is possible to overconsume which can result in nausea, weakness and frequent urination. During the winter months, I recommend 2000IU – 4000IU a day but is recommended that you consult with your health care provider for a proper tailored dosage.

3. Eat Magnesium-rich foods, as a precursor to vitamin D absorption

Magnesium is a mineral that is a part of many biochemical reactions in the body. It plays a key role in muscle function and keeps the immune system strong. Magnesium is also necessary to help the body absorb vitamin D, acting as a precursor of sorts. 

Magnesium is high in food like nuts, whole grains, beans, dark green vegetables, fish, meat, kiwi, dairy products and molasses.

4. Full-spectrum lights

Full-spectrum lights have become very popular and are used in the comfort of your own home as a treatment alternative to S.A.D related depression. They are UV lightboxes that mimic outdoor lighting and can be used in your dining room, living room and work area. It is a rule of thumb that the lightbox should expose no less than 10,000 lux of light and emit the least amount of UV rays as possible. 

Lightboxes, although not approved by the FDA, are designed to be safe and highly effective. The US National Library of Medicine conducted a study and found that these full-spectrum UV lights did in fact improve Vitamin D absorption.

5. Spend more time outdoors on Sunny days.

Although the winter months can seem bleaker, there are still the odd days we have the pleasure of waking up to a sunny day. On days like these, it’s important to take full advantage and get outdoors, or at the very least, expose your eyes to the sunlight through a window. 

Taking a vigorous walk for 10 minutes on a sunny and nippy day will awaken your senses, stimulate vitamin D absorption and increase your serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter that boosts mood.

Final thoughts

All in all, we can say that supplementing with Vitamin D, especially in the winter months, can make a huge impact on one’s well-being and feelings of happiness. When there is a lack of light entering our eyes, it lessens the functions of our endocrine glands, which in turn, shifts hormone production. 

This has a direct effect on our mood and emotional state which can cause S.A.D, a type of depression linked to a change in seasons. Ensuring that we increase our intake of vitamin D rich foods, supplement accordingly and implement alternative lifestyle choices, we can avoid the vitamin D deficiency in the winter months. Let’s take preventative measures now.

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