With winter slowly approaching, the risk for Vitamin D deficiency increases. Vitamin D, otherwise known as the sunshine vitamin, is made in our skin when we get sunlight exposure. The UVB rays that are responsible for sunburns are the same rays that make vitamin D. It can also be found in oily fish like tuna and sardines. Other products like fortified dairy and non-dairy milk also contain the essential vitamin. Humans require this specific vitamin to remain healthy and to fight infections. It helps your immune system reduce inflammation as well. However, winter is the one season that people need vitamin D the most, but most of us don’t get enough during these cold months. There is not enough direct sunlight, which begs many questions. Should we be taking supplements? How much should we be taking? How can we get more? Who needs vitamin D the most? That is what this article aims to discover.
There are many things that can decrease our exposure to this essential vitamin, like sunscreen, darker skin pigmentation, and of course the winter month’s reduced sunlight. Who suffers from vitamin D deficiency? That would be those with fair skin who are living in the northern U.S. regions where daylight in the wintertime is minimal. But those that suffer the most are people of color. Their darker skin blocks UVB rays from creating vitamin D. Their vitamin D levels are the lowest in the cold, darker winter months. People can incorporate more vitamin D fortified food, but they should be consuming additional supplements. It is important to reach at least 600-800 IU a day. Due to higher infection rates in the winter and less time spent outside, it is crucial to make sure you’re hitting your quota each day.
Originally, doctors believed vitamin D was only needed for bone health. But in 1980, scientists found that immune cells actually had receptors for vitamin D. When you have higher levels, the gastrointestinal tract is also kept healthy by increasing the amount of microbes in the gut, which help to fight off any inflammation in our bodies. Interestingly enough, a lack of vitamin D could mean inflammatory bowel disease. However, too much of anything can be a bad thing, and doctors recommend not to take supplements in excess. With too much, calcium levels in your blood can increase which can result in kidney disease. Experts recommend taking no more than 4,000 IU per day in order to avoid any toxic side effects. With the right amount, your gut microbiome will remain balanced and your ability to fight off infections will be stronger.