The Importance of Vitamin D, Especially in the Winter Months
Sunshine on a cold winter day not only does a body good, but it feels fantastic. As a wellness practitioner who looks at the whole body, during the winter months it’s important to focus on many nutrients, but especially on Vitamin D. Most people know how vital vitamin D is and how we can get it from sunlight. However, in the colder months most of us spend so much time indoors and we don’t get the sunlight as often. I decided February would be a great time to discuss the importance of Vitamin D. So let us look at Vitamin D, what it is, how it affects our body, how our body absorbs it and how we can make sure we are getting enough.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that absorbs through the food you eat or your skin and then through your liver and kidneys for cell growth, immune function, bone repair, and helps reduce inflammation. It has also been shown to aid in the prevention of osteoporosis, prevention and treatment of diabetes, hypertension, MS and other medical conditions. An area that is currently heavily researched is vitamin D’s role with mental illness. Researchers had recently found vitamin D receptors on cells located in regions in the brain, the same regions that link with depression. There is still not a clear picture however studies suggest it has to do with the link between Vitamin D and serotonin. It is crucial to recognize although vitamin D supplementation may improve mood, vitamin D is only a small, but critical, part of treatment for depression. Studies show that a deficiency can prolong and impair recovery. To read more about mental health and vitamin D, this is an excellent article with many reviews.
So how do we get this remarkable nutrient in our body? Through our diet and sunshine, some people can store vitamin D and never become deficient. However, many people are still low at these levels. At this time of year I recommend all my clients get tested to see their levels (it costs $30 from your doctor), those levels are significant to look at and to know and understand.
As a wellness practitioner, it’s important to look at the whole person. In the winter it’s important to go outside 2-4 times a week between 10-3pm for 10 minutes (without sunscreen) to get vitamin D. From there we also look at the whole body and its ability to assimilate the nutrients we take in and address this. Due to its fat-soluble nature it gets stored in our liver however if our liver, kidneys, or digestive system aren’t functioning at an optimal level, we might not even absorb all the vitamin D we do receive from the sunlight or the food we eat. There are also specific populations that are at risk for deficiencies. Vitamin D requirements are not provided enough by human milk alone, so breastfeeding children also need to supplement with Vitamin D. Older adults are at increased risk of developing a vitamin D insufficiency in part because, as they age, skin cannot synthesize vitamin D as efficiently. As well vitamin D absorption depends on the gut’s ability to absorb dietary fat, which people with certain health conditions may struggle with (examples liver disease, cystic fibrosis, celiac disease, and Crohn’s disease, as well as ulcerative colitis).
We have looked at digestion and access to sunlight, but we can also impact our levels by the food we eat. However, few foods naturally contain vitamin D, fatty fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel, also beef liver, egg yolks, and cheese do. Most people may read this and feel conflicted about egg yolks. Many people believe egg yolks are bad because they have cholesterol, but they also contain many other nutrients that are so good for our body. Instead of cutting out a full egg from your diet, maybe look at the other areas in your diet and lifestyle that can raise your cholesterol. It is also essential if you eat fish to include it in your meal plan at least once a week.
Vitamin D is a critical nutrient for physical and emotional well-being. We need to make sure we spend a little time outside in the sunshine, that our digestion of fats is good, and we are eating optimally. It also doesn’t hurt to take a supplement (of course speak with your doctor as we are all unique). I love the liquid drops for my whole family. Reach out if you have any questions about Vitamin D!