We’re talking about Vitamin D!
Depending on where you live, you may be like us and have to wait half the year for summer, as well as the opportunity to soak up some Vitamin D straight from the source. When your skin is directly exposed to the sun, it can produce Vitamin D, which actually makes it a prohormone (precursor to a hormone) and therefore technically not a vitamin – but still very cool.
That being said, you can still get Vitamin D from food sources and supplements are available, so we aren’t completely reliant on the sun!
Bone health – Vitamin D is integral to the regulation of calcium, the mineral which helps our bones and teeth grow and stay strong. We need Vitamin D in our intestine in order to ensure the absorption of calcium. Not only does it help our maintain bone and tooth health but it also helps prevent bone deterioration/osteoporosis as we grow older.
Immune health – Vitamin D is known to help boost immune cells but one study suggested that it may go even further than that and actually play a role in helping stabilize autoimmune reactions – particularly in those with M.S. (multiple sclerosis).
In our bodies, we have both red and white blood cells, the white blood cells are largely responsible for our immune responses. T-cells are activated to help fight infection – however in people with autoimmune diseases, these cells can actually be activated against one’s own tissue. The study suggests that Vitamin D could help reduce or even hinder the activation of T-cells – which would be a huge benefit for those with autoimmine diseases.
S.A.D. – Seasonal Affective Disorder. As the name suggests, S.A.D. is a mood disorder that is related to the change in seasons. Many people who live in regions with drastic seasonal changes, particularly with periods of low sun exposure, experience depression and anxiety in the winter months (raise your hand if this sounds familiar!).
Symptoms can also include fatigue, difficulty sleeping, loss of interest in normal activities, change in appetite, nervousness or agitation and feelings of worthlessness. One way to get ahead of S.A.D. is to ensure adequate and safe sun exposure in the summer months and to begin supplementing Vitamin D if necessary before symptoms occur.
There are also a variety of affordable “S.A.D. Lamps” available on the market and many are small enough that they can be kept at your desk at work for maximum usage. As with any health issue, if symptoms persist you should always make an appointment with your health professional.
Risks Factors for Deficiencies
Lack of direct sun exposure – While this may seem counterintuitive, wearing sunscreen can actually increase your risk for Vitamin D deficiency. Depending on your individual risk factors, consider exposing your skin to direct sunlight for 15 minutes prior to applying sunscreen. People who live in regions that experience periods of minimal sun exposure, as well as those work night shifts are also at risk of developing a deficiency.
- The sun!
- Spinach, kale, collards, mushrooms
- Tuna, salmon, sardines, mackerel, egg yolks