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Why You Need Vitamin D In Winter

supplement capsulesWe want to take every possible step to fortify ourselves against bacteria and infections during winter. To do this, we have to be more conscious of what we eat and drink.

However, sometimes, we simply don’t get enough nutrients from our diets, especially in the western world, where 95% of American adults are deficient in vitamin D.  

Why Is Vitamin D Important?

Vitamin D plays an essential role in many aspects of your body’s overall health. From fighting off inflammation to creating a diverse gut biome, vitamin D can help protect the body against irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, and gut and lung infections. It also:

  • Promotes healthy bones and teeth
  • Supports the immune, brain, and nervous system health
  • Influences gene expression involved in cancer development
  • Supports diabetes management
  • Supports lung function and cardiovascular health
  • Regulates insulin levels

Where Does Vitamin D Come From?

Humans and animals are able to build up the vitamin in their bodies by either consuming food with vitamin D in it or by absorbing it through sunlight (UV light). Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin for a reason. However, reduced daylight and various risk factors make it challenging to obtain enough vitamin D just from sunlight, especially during winter.

Foods with vitamin D include fatty fish, like salmon, sardines, herring, canned tuna, halibut, and mackerel. If you’re lucky enough to eat wild-caught salmon, you could be consuming as much as 988 IU (international units), or 124% of your daily value, of vitamin D per 3.5 ounces (100 g). You may also receive vitamin D from cod liver oil. This is an excellent alternative if you don’t like fish. In fact, for many years, doctors have used cod liver oil to help treat vitamin D deficient children. However, cod liver oil does contain a lot of vitamin A, which can be toxic in large doses. So, watch how much you consume.

Egg yolks also contain vitamin D, and these days some farmers give their chickens vitamin D-enriched chicken feed, which can boost vitamin D levels from 37 IU to about 6,000 IU. Mushrooms are also a good source of vitamin D2. While animals produce vitamin D3, and studies suggest that vitamin D3 is more effective in raising your vitamin D levels, vitamin D2 is still a valuable nutrient that shouldn’t be overlooked, especially if you’re are a vegetarian or vegan. Mushrooms can synthesize vitamin D from the sun just like humans do. Some wild varieties of mushrooms pack up to 2,300 IU per 3.5 ounces. However, commercially grown mushrooms are often cultivated in the dark and contain little vitamin D2. Certain brands will treat their mushrooms with UV light, producing 130-450 IU per 3.5 ounces.

Other foods are fortified with vitamin D, such as milk, orange juice, cereal, and oatmeal. However, these fortified foods typically only offer about 13-22% of your daily value of vitamin D, so you can’t rely on them alone to reach your entire daily value.

Who’s At Risk of Vitamin D Deficiency

There are many groups of people at risk of developing vitamin D deficiency. Sometimes it is due to biological factors, while others may be more related to social or economic factors. For instance, you may work a night shift, so you don’t step foot out in the sun that often. Other common risk factors of vitamin D deficiency are:

  • Old age
  • People with conditions that limit fat absorption (e.g., celiac disease, liver disease, cystic fibrosis, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease)
  • Obese individuals/those who have had gastric bypass surgery
  • People with dark skin pigmentation
  • Those who live in northern regions of the United States or at high altitudes
  • Those who are lactose intolerant or have a milk allergy
  • Those who follow a strict vegetarian or vegan diet

The most crucial information you take away from this is that certain risk factors make it more difficult to absorb vitamin D even on a sunny day. Some people must avoid sun exposure to protect themselves against skin cancers, and for others, their skin naturally or over time has difficulty absorbing UV light in general. It also doesn’t help that vitamin D breaks down rather quickly within the body, making it hard for your body to maintain adequate stores of it.

Vitamin D Deficiency Symptoms

Many people would benefit from taking vitamin D supplements this winter. Trust us; you don’t want to deal with vitamin D deficiency. Symptoms include:

  • Sickness
  • Fatigue
  • Low mood
  • Hair loss
  • Bone and back pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Impaired wound healing

Prolonged vitamin D deficiency may result in complications, such as cardiovascular conditions, autoimmune issues, infections, neurological disease, certain cancers, and pregnancy complications. The solution to avoiding all of these is straightforward. Just consume more vitamin D. However, we’ve already covered that most western diets lack in that department. That’s why, when winter rolls around, it’s more important than ever to use vitamin D supplements to avoid and combat as many risk factors as possible.

Vitamin D Supplements—What You Need to Know

The exact amount of vitamin D the average adult should ingest a day is debatable. With recommendations for daily allowances ranging from 200 to 2,000 IU per day, most professionals recommend that an adult supplement at least 600 IU per day during winter. In comparison, the elderly should aim to take about 800 IU per day. If you believe you are deficient or at risk of being deficient, talk to your doctor about taking a blood test to determine your vitamin D serum levels. After doing this, your doctor will be able to prescribe a daily intake that’s better suited to your needs.

You should also be aware that too much vitamin D can cause vitamin D toxicity. Common symptoms include headache and nausea, but toxicity can also cause loss of appetite, dry mouth, a metallic taste, vomiting, constipation, and diarrhea. For these reasons, experts have set a national intake for the United States and recommend that adults take no more than 4,000 IU per day. However, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) say that toxicity is unlikely to occur at intakes under 10,000 IU per day. Just keep an eye on how much you’re consuming a day, and you’ll be fine.

Visit The Wellness Connection Today

Are you looking for reliable and high-quality nutritional counseling? The Wellness Connection has you covered. Our clinical nutritionists know precisely what you need to live a better, healthier life. We also offer a variety of services including physical therapy, chiropractic care, pregnancy care, pediatric care, and more. Contact us to schedule an appointment! If you’re looking for a reliable vitamin D supplement, check out our vitamin D3 product here!

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