Are You “D-ficient”?
It’s winter. Days are shorter in the northern hemisphere, so we get less sunlight. This puts us at risk for lower-than-normal levels of vitamin D. If you are already suffering from a vitamin D deficiency (which is more common than you may think), your risks for certain diseases actually increase in the winter months.
The good news, is that vitamin D is pretty easy to come by. A few foods are good natural sources of vitamin D – like salmon, shrimp, sardines and egg yolk. But the vitamin D found in supplements is easily absorbed by the body, too. Most recommendations for vitamin D supplementation call for between 600 and 2000 IU (international units) depending on your age and who you ask. You can take too much, however, and should never take more than 2000 IU daily.
But, the best way to get enough vitamin D is through sun exposure – which is why vitamin D deficiency rises in the winter. Just 10 to 15 minutes of full sun on your arms, legs, and face (without sunscreen) three days a week can produce more than enough vitamin D.
The fairer your skin, the less time you need. A good rule of thumb is to apply sunscreen or go indoors once your skin develops a slight pink color. Darker skin contains more of a pigment called melanin – a natural form of sun protection. So, if you have a darker skin tone, you will likely need a little more sun bathing to achieve optimal vitamin D levels.
A little sun goes a long way! In fact – just those 10 to 15 minutes of sun for a fair-skinned adult can produce as much as 10,000 to 25,000 IU equivalents of vitamin D. (But don’t worry – you can’t overdose on the vitamin D your body makes naturally!)
Why should you worry about your vitamin D levels? Well… vitamin D deficiency has been linked to an increased risk for multiple sclerosis, colon cancer, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, depression and diabetes!
If you are experiencing more muscle aches or weakness this winter, have noticed increased pains in your bones, or simply have a habit of spending most of your time indoors year-round, you are at higher risk for vitamin D deficiency.
So, enjoy the sun when the weather warms again! Until then, try a daily vitamin D supplement and enjoy some salmon or vitamin D fortified OJ on a regular basis!