by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner
It’s a dark, gloomy and rainy November day here in Victoria and winter’s a’comin’. From now on, let’s call November 18th, “Vitamin D Day.”
Vitamin D is naturally produced by the body when our skin is exposed to sunlight and that’s why it has been nicknamed, “the Sunshine Vitamin.” Unfortunately, if you live in the Northern Hemisphere in the winter months, you’re probably not getting the rays you need to keep your vitamin D levels high enough.
Benefits of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that controls the absorption of calcium which, in turn, affects bone development. It’s essential for healthy bones and teeth. Our skeleton gives our body structure and we need strong bones to get around.
Having unhappy and unhealthy bones is not fun and can lead to Osteoporosis in elderly people or Rickets in children.
Research is also showing vitamin D’s ability to fight colds and flu by boosting immunity and we all know autumn is the beginning of the flu season. Vitamin D also prevents depression and Type 1 diabetes. It also reduces the risk of breast cancer, colon cancer and leukemia and slows the onset of autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease and rheumatoid arthritis. That’s a lot of star power!
Wait, there’s more. Vitamin D plus daylight, or “Vitamin Daylight,” as I like to call it, can also help you sleep better. Getting at least 30 minutes a day of sunshine is one of the best ways to balance your circadian rhythm, re-sync your internal clock and help you sleep.
Sources of Vitamin D in Food
- cod liver oil
- eel (who eats eel on a regular basis?)
- beef liver
- cheddar cheese
- Swiss cheese
- fortified milk
- mushrooms (only vegan source)
Supplements: How much Vitamin D is enough?
If you’re not getting enough vitamin D from your diet or the sun, it is wise to consider taking vitamin D supplements. People at risk of being deficient in vitamin D are: vegetarians, vegans, night shift workers, those who wear high factor sunscreens, those who are homebound, and those who cover their skin from the sun as part of religious practice.
So how much vitamin D do you need on a daily basis? I wish I could answer that question with a definitive answer but my research isn’t consistent. I’ve seen recommendations from as low as 100 IU’s (International Units) a day to over 1000 IU’s a day and even as high as 2000 IU’s a day. That’s quite a spread. If anyone out there has any recommendations to share in this discussion, please post a comment.
And talk to your doctor. Many people around the world aren’t getting enough vitamin D on a regular basis. And millions of people suffer from insomnia which can be caused by all sorts of things including stress and anxiety — but lack of vitamin D can also play a roll. Just get a blood test done and you’ll know your vitamin D levels for sure and then you’ll know how many IU’s you’ll need specifically.
Vitamin D on the Web
It’s good to do your research when you’re thinking about changing something in your diet and I’ve found some information on vitamin D that might be helpful.
According to Osteoporosis Canada: “If you are under 50, do not have osteoporosis, and do not have a condition that interferes with vitamin D absorption, Osteoporosis Canada recommends daily supplements of 400 – 1000 IU daily. If you are over 50, supplements of between 800 and 2000 IU are recommended.” Also, “Canadians can safely take daily vitamin D supplements up to the tolerable upper intake level of 2000 IU; doses above that require medical supervision.”
On the other hand, Wikipedia says: “Adequate intake levels of vitamin D have been established by the Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine of The National Academies. These intake levels are based only on age (i.e., they are the same regardless of weight, gender, pregnancy, or lactation): Birth to 50 years — 200 IU; 51–70 years — 400 IU; 71+ years — 600 IU. These intake levels are based on the assumption that the vitamin is not synthesized by exposure to sunlight.”
I also took a look at my own bottle of Vitamin D (400 IU/10 mcg) from Jamieson Laboratories. They say to take 1 or 2 tablets a day which is between 400 and 800 IU’s. To me, these tablets sound like the best option because they give you a minimal base to work with and still allow you to get vitamin D from foods in your diet and get doses of sunshine on the fly without the worry about overdosing.
If you O.D. on Vitamin D
Before you go out and buy your supplements and pop them into your body, I’m just going to remind you of one more thing. There’s also a down side to vitamin D. I don’t know if you know this, but vitamin D is the most toxic vitamin which means you have to be really careful about how much you’re taking in on a daily basis.
Side effects of taking too much vitamin D include: vomiting, headaches, diarrhea and depression.
The Homespunspa Way
This winter, I’m going to do my best to go outside at lunch time on a daily basis and take a light walk around the block. Not only will I breathe in some fresh air, I’ll get some daylight on my face. I think the exercise will brighten my mood and will chase the winter blues away. And I’ll probably sleep more soundly. Who wants to join me?