I live in Vermont, the second cloudiest state in the country. On average, we see 58 full days of sunshine a year. There are 365 days in a year, people, and we get 58 sunny days. It gets dark early up here too this time of year. And it’s cold, so who the fuck wants to go out? And when we do, we are bundled up from head to toe.
Because I am pale AF, on those rare days when it is sunny, I slather on the sunscreen lest I burst into flames. My lack of UV exposure means I am likely vitamin D deficient—something over 40% of adults have in common.
Our bodies produce vitamin D from cholesterol when our skin is exposed to the sun. Limited access to the sunshine vitamin can lead to a host of mental and physical health problems, but the good news is that increasing your vitamin D levels is not hard.
Because of I am aware of the onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder during the winter months and the connection between darkness and depression, I knew vitamin D played a role in my mood. While it’s not a substitute for therapy or medication, vitamin D can help combat depression when we are getting the recommended daily amount. The US Institute of Medicine suggests taking 400–800 IU, or 10–20 micrograms, is sufficient for most (97.5%) individuals.
Some studies show that supplements of 4,000 IU (the upper level of recommended intake) will lower your risk for respiratory tract infections. If you’re constantly getting colds or bronchitis, consider increasing your vitamin D levels. The same goes for chronic fatigue, muscle aches, and lower back pain. Check in with your primary care physician to get your levels tested, and see what’s best for you.
I’m not a doctor or herbalist, folks, or maybe this is just common knowledge, but I didn’t realize that vitamin D does so many other good things for our body, including aiding the absorption of calcium. As we get older, we start losing bone density. And if we are people who go through menopause, our chance for bone fractures increases as our bone mineral density decreases. Aging is a blast, huh? But if we keep our blood levels within the proper range for vitamin D intake, we have a better chance of preserving bone mass.
Vitamin D helps us keep our hair too. Hair loss in women can be associated with stress, but it can also signify a nutrient deficiency. According to Health Line, “Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease characterized by severe hair loss from the head and other parts of the body. It’s associated with rickets, which is a disease that causes soft bones in children due to vitamin D deficiency.”
And I knew vitamin E was good for wound healing, but if your cuts or other wounds are slow to heal, this may be a sign of insufficient vitamin D levels. It helps to control inflammation and fights infection.
All of these ailments are pretty common and vary in severity, but affect our quality of life in big ways, especially when we are feeling the negative impact of them. Tiredness, aches and pains, and the winter blues can drag us down, and we might not think about adding vitamin D as part of our arsenal, but there is a chance that running low on vitamin D could be the problem. By taking supplements or eating foods like fatty fish, fortified dairy products, or eggs to our diet, we can increase our daily intake.
If we are lucky enough to have access to sunlight, or a sunlamp with UV rays, 5-10 minutes a day can do the trick too. While we can’t overdose on vitamin D via sunlight, we do need to be aware of the damage the sun can do to our skin. I really don’t stand much risk of over exposure to sunlight this time of year—you may not either if you live here—so I fully intend to pick up some vitamin D supplements the next time I’m at the drug store. Paying a few extra bucks now is an easy investment for significant health benefits both now and later.