Fight the Winter Blues with Vitamin D
Winter weather can take a toll on our mental and physical wellbeing. Limited sunlight, freezing temps, and short days can make January feel unbearable.
For many, January feels like the hardest month of the year. The third Monday of January is even called “Blue Monday” and is said to be the saddest day of year.
True, there is a lot happening in the outside world that is beyond our control. But winter doesn’t have to stay sad.
Among controllable factors that may be contributing to your winter funk, is lack of sunlight and natural Vitamin D production.
What is Vitamin D?
As explained by the Mayo Clinic, Vitamin D is a nutrient that our bodies need for building healthy bones, improving mental health, and maintaining other cellular functions. Since the vitamin comes from the sun, most people have some level of deficiency—especially during the dark days of Winter.
The amount of Vitamin D our skin produces depends on many factors, including the time of day, season, latitude, and skin pigmentation. Depending on where you live geographically, Vitamin D production drastically decreases or can be completely absent during the winter months. Using sunscreen, while helpful in preventing skin cancer, also impacts Vitamin D production.
Here in Chicago, all our residents can testify that sunny, Vitamin D-filled-days are few and far between during the chilly season. This makes it all the more important for Chicagoans, and those living in other states who experiences extended months of darkness, to be extra conscious of their winter Vitamin D level.
Why is Vitamin D so Important?
Vitamin D is tied to mental health and when present in proper levels can help us fight depression. The nutrient plays an essential role in regulating brain health, which means it directly impacts our mood.
Having the correct levels of Vitamin D can help boost our mood leading up to the most depressing day of the year. While more research is needed, some preliminary studies even show that Vitamin D can help prevent cognitive decline.
Vitamin D also aids in reducing inflammation throughout the body and contributes to building healthy bone structure. People who may be training for an athletic event or simply experience painful body aches can utilize Vitamin D to ease muscle tension.
We also know that Vitamin D is linked to improved immune health.
How to Increase Levels of Vitamin D
Our bodies make Vitamin D when direct sunlight converts a chemical in our skin into the vitamin’s active form, known as calciferol. As previously mentioned, most of us do not get enough sunlight to naturally produce the proper levels of Vitamin D.
Vitamin D is found in some foods but can be hard to get through diet alone.
We can increase our levels of calciferol through the consumption of fatty foods. Fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines are delicious ways to give your body the extra Vitamin D it may be craving. Whole eggs and cod liver oil are other easy ways to add the nutrient into your diet.
Vitamin D can also be taken in supplement form, even as a part of a multivitamin.
As a benchmark, the National Institutes of Health, a part of the U.S Department of Health & Human Services, recommends that adults aged 19 to 70 take 15 mcg of Vitamin D per day.
However, what your body needs will be unique to you. It is best to work with a healthcare provider so that you can determine the correct dosage for your body. Vitamin D toxicity (having too much Vitamin D) lies on the opposite side of deficiency.
Functional Medicine providers, like our own Dr. Lexi Mikrut, DC, MS, remind us to test for Vitamin D levels first.
Looking for a Vitamin D Supplement?
These supplements, along with other great immune-boosting options, can be purchased through our online store.
Before taking any vitamin or supplement, we recommend talking to one of our licensed Functional Medicine or Nutrition practitioners to make sure you take the right amount for your body.
Don’t let the Winter Blues get you down this season. With proper nutrition and diet adjustments, you can easily give your body the Vitamin D that it needs to stay positive and start the new year off right.
Interested in more Nutritional Tips
If you are interested in learning more about your body’s level of Vitamin D, or just want to know how to take control of your body’s health, Aligned Modern Health Functional Medicine and Clinical Nutrition providers are ready to help. Fill out the form below to get in touch with our patient coordinator team to schedule an appointment.