The winter can be a harsh time. Food is not as readily available to animals, many of which bunker down and hibernate and protective cover becomes sparser, leaving many prey species out in the open. It’s not just limited to wildlife – humans can be heavily impacted by the winter season as well!
When the nights are longer and the sun is tilted away from us, preventing UVB rays from hitting our skin, we may start to notice our bodies changing, and not in a good way! When these UVB rays hit our skin, the body makes Vitamin D (causing it to actually be a hormone since the body has the ability to make it on its own and most of our cells have special receptors for it). A Vitamin D Deficiency (which roughly 64% of Americans have!) can cause numerous physical and even mental changes.
Researchers have discovered that Vitamin D deficiencies can negatively impact heart tissue (cardiovascular diseases), fat tissue (obesity and diabetes), immune development (progression of Auto Immune diseases), bone growth (bone density issues), cell growth and development (various kinds of cancer), brain tissue (neurodegenerative diseases), and even mental health (Seasonal Affective Disorder – mainly a winter depression). Studies are still being done to determine whether a Vitamin D deficiency is a direct cause of many of these issues, however research shows that many patients suffering from these conditions have a low level of Vitamin D and that an increase in that hormone may often slow disease progression and may even prevent them from occurring.
Fortunately, there are remedies and ways to prevent a Vitamin D deficiency. You can request that a doctor check your Vitamin D levels to see if you need supplements. Another great way is to make sure that your diet is well balanced and includes foods that are higher in Vitamin D. Do you love salmon or having your eggs every morning? Great! Those are two foods that have naturally occurring Vitamin D. Making sure to supplement your diet with oily fish, certain cheeses, eggs, and yogurts in the winter is a great way to get a daily boost. Click here to see “High in Vitamin D Food Chart.”
One of the best ways to get an immediate and long-lasting dose is to get back outside! We know that it’s cold, and that the sun isn’t at its brightest here in the Northern Hemisphere, but when the UVB rays do get through the atmosphere, the skin soaks it up quickly and converts the light to Vitamin D. During the summer months, the body needs only 15 minutes of exposure to the sun to fulfill the Vitamin D requirement, however, in the winter, the body needs more time, especially since most of the skin would be covered by hats, gloves, scarves and coats! Allowing the face (and hands if it’s warm enough) to soak up the sunlight is great. Click here to see a chart showing skin type and sun exposure time.
So don’t let the winter get you too bummed out! The season is giving you a perfect excuse to get outside and back in to nature! Take all of your friends and family with you and let them soak up what sunlight they can.
Get even more sunshine-hungry with these links!