This is a wonderful time of year. The harvest is bountiful and the joy of autumn is all around us. This is also the time of year when the hours of sunlight grow shorter and many of us spend less time outdoors. One of the unfortunate side effects of less direct sunlight is Vitamin D depletion. Vitamin D3 (the precursor to usable Vitamin D) is actually manufactured in your skin by the UVB rays of the sun. Fair-skinned people absorb UVB much easier than dark-skinned people. From the skin, Vitamin D3 travels to the liver and then to the kidneys where it is transformed into usable Vitamin D.
Why is Vitamin D so important?
Vitamin D is crucial in the absorption of calcium, regulating cell growth, promoting bone and joint health, decreasing inflammation, strengthening the immune system, and preventing cardiovascular issues. Symptoms of deficiency include: bone and joint pain, tiredness, depressed mood, and frequent infections. These symptoms are rather vague but if you notice them more in the winter, Vitamin D may be lacking in your system.
How can I get what I need?
In order to get enough Vitamin D from the sun, your bare skin must be exposed to direct, overhead sunlight everyday for about half the time it takes to burn. In Cheyenne, we do not get overhead sunlight in the winter therefore we are unable to synthesize Vitamin D. A University of Wyoming study found that 88% of people studied had sufficient levels in the fall but only 36% had sufficient amounts in the winter. Some foods contain minimal amounts of Vitamin D but these are rarely sufficient for our bodies to synthesize enough usable Vitamin D. The best way to make sure that you get the Vitamin D that you need is through supplementation. Vitamin D3 is available over-the-counter in many different forms. Most people need 1,000 to 2,000 IU’s of supplementation daily.
How do I know if I am deficient?
You can have your Vitamin D checked through a simple blood test at your primary care physician or at the Wyoming Health Fairs. Remember that your Vitamin D level will be higher right now than it will be in the middle of winter. You should talk to your doctor before you use any supplements. This is especially important for people taking Digoxin or high-dose calcium supplements. If you have further questions or would like additional resources, please feel free to contact me.
Shelly Montgomery and the FCN Team