Vitamin D for Shorter Days
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is actually considered a pro-hormone and not truly a vitamin. While vitamins are nutrients that cannot be produced by the body and must be obtained through diet or supplements, the body is capable of producing its own vitamin D through the action of sunlight on the skin.
How do you get Vitamin D?
The short answer is from food, the sun, or supplements.
There are two main kinds of vitamin D—vitamin D2 and D3—which you can get from (and occur naturally in) certain foods like salmon, tuna, mackerel, beef liver, and egg yolks. But because we don’t consume large enough quantities of these foods, they can’t be our only source of this vitamin. That’s why foods like milk, cereal, and some orange juices are fortified with it.
Vitamin D is also known as the sunshine vitamin. Regular sun exposure can stimulate human skin to produce adequate quantities. Sunlight is the largest single source of vitamin D for most people, but another way to get adequate amounts is by taking supplements that come in both pill and liquid form.
Is that enough?
A daily dose of 1000 IU is recommended to ward off chronic disease. It is estimated that sensible sun exposure on bare skin for 5-10 minutes 2-3 times per week allows the body the ability to produce enough. However, it can stay stored in the body’s fats for up to one month, meaning that stores can run low, especially in winter. Things like pollution, use of sunscreen, spending more time indoors, working long hours in offices and away from windows, or living in big cities with buildings blocking sunlight can greatly impede your body’s ability to produce the sunshine vitamin.
A study conducted by the University of Maine has shown that people living above the 44th parallel (North of Philadelphia) are more likely to be deficient in vitamin D by the end of the winter, even with a good diet.
What does it do?
Vitamin D promotes healthy bones by helping the absorption of calcium into the bones, and therefore deficiencies in older adults can lead to osteoporosis. It also supports the health of the immune system, brain, and nervous system. Children given 1,200 IU of vitamin D per day for 4 months during the winter reduced their risk of influenza A infection by over 40% (source). It is also shown to reduce your risk of multiple sclerosis, according to a 2006 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Furthermore, it is shown to decrease your chance of developing heart disease, according to 2008 findings published in Circulation.
Should you supplement?
If you are living in Canada, chances are you’re not getting enough during the winter months. As the days get shorter, it becomes harder and harder to get the minimum requirements naturally. This alters our ability to keep a strong immune system and more people tend to get sick. Talk to your chiropractor, naturopath, or family doctor about what kind of supplements would be best for you and what quantities you should be taking.