Seattle is known for being a rainy location. Even though we have more sun and nicer weather than the average tourist would suspect, we are subject to dreary winters. These cold winter months may cause a variety of health issues. Researchers are indicating that vitamin D deficiency is becoming an epidemic, especially in northern states where people do not receive enough sunshine from October to March to maintain their daily needs. “In the winter, you could stand outside naked for five hours and nothing is going to happen,” says researcher Bruce Hollis studying vitamin D at the Medical University of South Carolina. “You’re more likely to live longer and you’re less likely to die of serious chronic disease if you have adequate vitamin D,” says Dr. Michael Holick of Boston University School of Medicine says. “It may well be the most important nutrient of the decade.”
Why Is the Sun Important for Health?
Sunshine increases natural antidepressants in the brain, and new studies show that the brain produces higher levels of serotonin on sunny days than on cloudy days. Lack of sunlight is also linked with increased blood pressure and other disorders. Seasonal asthma and allergies may also be affected.The essential nutrient vitamin D is not actually sent from the sun, carried 93 million miles, and transported into our bodies through our skin. Rather, it is produced by our bodies in response to our skin being exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D builds strong bones by helping the body use calcium provided by diet. A deficiency in vitamin D is linked with rickets, where bone tissue does not grow properly and becomes soft.The advent of sunscreen has caused some people to unintentionally promote seasonal health problems to chronic ailments. A study in Britain found 87 percent of adults had low vitamin D levels during the winter, while 60 percent were low in the summer. Doctors in many parts of the world, including California, have noted an increase in childhood rickets and other bone deficiencies due to lack of vitamin D. Over-the-counter supplements provide a cheap solution, but this intake is too low to support the body’s need.
How Can I Get Vitamin D without Sun?
High levels of vitamin D will produce strong bones, healthy muscles and joints, and lower risks of colon and breast cancer. Pittsburgh research has shown that pregnant women with inefficient vitamin D intake have a greater risk of preeclampsia due to high blood pressure. So what can we do to ensure we get sufficient vitamin D when the sun is not shining? Certain foods fight the effects of low sunlight.• Fortified dairy• Yogurt• Cereal• Mushrooms• Eggs• Cheese• Fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel & cod liver oil• Beans• Nuts• Beef liver• Lean meats• PoultryNot all brands of yogurt, cereal, or other foods contain significant amounts of vitamin D. Check the nutrition facts, as these labels are written in reference to Daily Values (DV). The FDA currently sets the DV for vitamin D at 400 IU, which is less than the Food and Nutrition Board’s recommended 600 IU.Most people living in the pacific northwest who are not supplementing with vitamin D are deficient. It’s important to have your vitamin D levels checked by a physician to determine the adequate dose of supplementation. Clinically, I have seen that daily doses between 2,000 and 5,000 IU are necessary for correcting a deficiency and maintaining healthy levels.