It’s the middle of a typical South Aussie winter… temperatures are low, the wind is chilly and for majority of the day, the sunshine is hiding behind rain clouds. As winter progresses, the feeling of frozen hands and feet are presenting to me in clinic, together low moods of the winter blues.
Whats the driving force behind seasonal changes in moods? I’ll give you a hint… it’s free, warming and has the incredible power to brighten your day. Sunshine it is! Or in the case of winter, the lack there of.
Many of you are aware of being sun smart, with the intention of preventing skin cancer. However you don’t realise that being too protective from the sun, or the chronic lack of exposure throughout the winter, can lead to a deficiency in a crucial nutrient called Vitamin D.
HOW THE SUN PROVIDES VITAMIN D
Vitamin D3, also known as Colecalciferol, is produced naturally when the suns UVB rays touch your skin. Vitamin D cannot however be produced from sun exposure through glass and when wearing sunscreen, as this filters out the UVB rays that are required to be exposed to the skin.
D3 is not the active form of vitamin D used by the body. It is required to be further undergo a process first in the liver, to form 25-hydroxyvitaminD. This form of Vitamin D circulates in the blood and is processed in the kidneys, to produce the active form of vitamin D, Calcitriol.
A note on sunscreens- they will block UVB rays, but won’t effectively block the damaging UVA rays from the sun. UVA rays won’t give a sunburn signal, therefore the damage is silent and you are blissfully unaware of the oxidative damage happening to your skin. Apart form this, sunscreens contain a myriad of harmful chemicals.
Liz Wolfe bluntly explains in her book, Eat The Yolks, “When we block UVB rays while keeping the door open to UVA rays, thinking we’re protected because we aren’t getting burned, we allow the most damaging rays to penetrate our skin and do the insidious work, even as we block our burn signal and stop the production of melanin and cancer- preventing, immune boosting vitamin D. This may leave us more vulnerable to cancer than ever before.”
If it’s warm and sunny where you are, get your daily dose of the sunshine vitamin, and if you’re outside for long periods of time, cover up with clothing, increase your antioxidant rich foods and use Zinc Oxide, if further protection is needed.
WHY IS VITAMIN D SO IMPORTANT?
Vitamin D receptors are found in every cell in our body, therefore getting adequate levels of the sunshine vitamin is crucial for many systems of the body. Vitamin D plays a major role in:
- Immune regulation. Vitamin D help to fight against bacteria and viruses, but regulates the production of inflammatory cytokines. Vitamin D also has important cancer protective properties.
- Protecting cardiovascular health.
- Building bones. Vitamin D helps your utilise Calcium in the bones.
- Promoting healthy hormones and brain neurotransmitters.
- Enhancing skin health.
CONSEQUENCES OF VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY.
Conditions caused by Vitamin D deficiency:
- Heart disease
- High Blood Pressure
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Skeletal abnormalities
- Other autoimmune diseases
Some Vitamin D deficiency symptoms include:
- Burning in the mouth and throat
- Hormonal imbalance
- Low birth weight
- Retarded growth
- Softening of bones and teeth
CONTRIBUTING FACTORS TO VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY.
We are designed to be outside, soaking up the sunshine. If you do not seek adequate sun-to-skin exposure, if you wear sunscreen regularly, have poor liver or kidney health, or have carry certain Vitamin D gene mutations, you could easily be Vitamin D deficient.
WHAT IF I DON’T GET ENOUGH VITAMIN D FROM THE SUN?
The most effective time to increase your vitamin D levels is midday, when the suns UVB rays are strongest. The time needed for sun to skin direct contact (without sunscreen) is dependant on your skin tone. This can range from 10 – 40 mins. You do not however want to over expose yourself to the sun to the point of causing sun burn.
If you are struggling to even see the sun during the winter months, I would highly recommend investing in a Vitamin D lamp. Be sure it produces UVB rays, so you will get the tanned signal of adequate exposure. I’ve tried this one and give it the big thumbs up!
Through your diet, increase your consumption of Vitamin D rich egg yolks, lard, cod liver oil and raw milk.
WHAT LEVEL SHOULD I BE AIMING FOR?
Although rarely seen, Vitamin D can also be dangerous in high levels, therefore it is important to get your levels checked 6 monthly. Next time you visit your GP, ask for a 25-hydroxy Vitamin D blood test.
Optimally I like to see Vitamin D at 100-160 nmol/L. If your levels are less than 100 nmol/L, I would encourage you to visit a naturopath to optimise your levels through safe and effective Vitamin D3 supplementation, important Vitamin D3 cofactors, along with liver and kidney supportive nutrients.
Boosting your Vitamin D levels will not only help with your winter blues, but also to protect your bones, immune system, cardiovascular, hormone and skin health.
Get out and receive your daily dose of sunshine, use a Vitamin D lamp when needed, hop into Vitamin D rich foods and have your levels tested 6 monthly, to check in with your levels.
Do you notice a change in moods during the Winter months?
Image sourced by Rosemary Photography.