Vitamin D is needed by human to be healthy and fight off infection. ((Office of Dietary Supplements – Vitamin D. (n.d.). Ods.od.nih.gov. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/#h7))

It is known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’. ((Vitamin D – Health Encyclopedia – University of Rochester Medical Center. (n.d.). Www.urmc.rochester.edu. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=19&contentid=vitamind)) This means that the action of the sunlight on the skin can trigger the body to produce its own Vitamin D (see figure 1).

How to Prevent Vitamin D Deficiency in Winter?

Figure 1:  Synthesis of Vitamin D Sunlight is one source of vitamin D

However, there are certain seasons where sunlight is not strong. This can affect the production of Vitamin D in our bodies – leading to vitamin D deficiency.

Winter is among the seasons you need to watch out for your vitamin D levels. Moreover, a study has shown that vitamin D consistently drops during winter. ((Kroll, M. H., Bi, C., Garber, C. C., Kaufman, H. W., Liu, D., Caston-Balderrama, A., Zhang, K., Clarke, N., Xie, M., Reitz, R. E., Suffin, S. C., & Holick, M. F. (2015). Temporal relationship between vitamin D status and parathyroid hormone in the United States. PloS one, 10(3), e0118108. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0118108))

During wintertime, studies show a constant increase in hospitalizations and mortality. Exposure to colds and respiratory infections is high during this period. ((Mourtzoukou, E. G., & Falagas, M. E. (2007). Exposure to cold and respiratory tract infections. The international journal of tuberculosis and lung disease: the official journal of the International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, 11(9), 938–943.))

Therefore, it is essential to maintain an optimal level of vitamin D during winter.

So, let’s find out how to prevent vitamin D deficiency during wintertime.

But first, let’s discover the importance of Vitamin D.

Why You Need Vitamin D?

This sunshine vitamin plays an important role in our body. Here are the reasons why we need Vitamin D.

Regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body

Vitamin D is essential to maintain healthy bones, teeth, and muscles. ((NHS. (2020, August 3). Vitamin D – Vitamins and Minerals. NHS. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-d/))

Insufficient Vitamin D can lead to bone deformities such as rickets in children. It can also cause osteomalacia in adults causing bone pain.

Fights Diseases

Vitamin D can help to prevent seasonal influenza. (( Urashima, M., Segawa, T., Okazaki, M., Kurihara, M., Wada, Y., & Ida, H. (2010). Randomized trial of vitamin D supplementation to prevent seasonal influenza A in schoolchildren. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 91(5), 1255–1260. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.2009.29094)) A 2008 study showed that Vitamin D prevents the risk of cardiovascular diseases. ((Wang, T. J., Pencina, M. J., Booth, S. L., Jacques, P. F., Ingelsson, E., Lanier, K., Benjamin, E. J., D’Agostino, R. B., Wolf, M., & Vasan, R. S. (2008). Vitamin D deficiency and risk of cardiovascular disease. Circulation, 117(4), 503–511. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.107.706127))

Moreover, it can also reduce the risk of getting multiple Sclerosis. ((Munger, K. L., Levin, L. I., Hollis, B. W., Howard, N. S., & Ascherio, A. (2006). Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Levels and Risk of Multiple Sclerosis. JAMA, 296(23), 2832. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.296.23.2832))

Help you lose weight

In a 2009 study, findings have shown that vitamin D supplements are essential to boost weight loss. Moreover, those subjects who took vitamin D supplements have improved their cardiovascular disease risk markers. ((Zittermann, A., Frisch, S., Berthold, H. K., Götting, C., Kuhn, J., Kleesiek, K., Stehle, P., Koertke, H., & Koerfer, R. (2009). Vitamin D supplementation enhances the beneficial effects of weight loss on cardiovascular disease risk markers. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 89(5), 1321–1327. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.2008.27004))

In addition, a study found that those who took calcium with vitamin D were able to lose more weight than those under placebo supplements.

What are the Signs & Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency?

For children, a severe Vitamin D deficiency can cause rickets, a very rare condition that can lead to incorrect growth patterns, muscle weakness, pain in bones, and joint deformities.

However, those children with Vitamin deficiency can experience muscle weakness or soreness and painful muscles.

For adults, vitamin D deficiency may have no symptoms or take several years to appear. The signs and symptoms may include having the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Bone pain
  • Muscle cramps, weakness, and aches
  • Mood changes

Moreover, a low level of vitamin D can cause the following conditions:

  • Osteoporosis – A bone disease causes the bones to become weak or brittle – a fall or mild stresses such as bending can lead to painful fractures
  • Osteomalacia – Another bone disease where the bones become soft and weak. This can make the bones bend and break easily.

How to Check Vitamin D Deficiency?

Vitamin D deficiency can be diagnosed through a blood test. Your doctor can order a blood test to check your Vitamin D levels. And, among the most common test done is 25-hydroxyvitamin D, known as 25(OH)D.

This test is not routinely checked. Your doctor may order the test if you are under the risk factors or have certain medical conditions such as the following:

  • Cystic fibrosis, Crohn’s disease, and celiac disease
  • Obesity
  • Kidney and liver diseases
  • Weight loss surgeries
  • Gastric Bypass Surgery

Moreover, other common risk factors of getting Vitamin D deficiency are the following:

  • Being older adult
  • Having darker complexion
  • Insufficient fish or dairy on diet
  • Living in areas where there is little sunlight year-round
  • Mostly staying indoors
  • Always using sunscreen (However, please note that sunscreen can protect skin from harmful effects of the sun to skin)
  • Taking medications such as statins and steroids

How to Keep Your Vitamin D Levels Up this Winter?

During winter, it is important to get enough (but not too much) Vitamin D. It is essential since you are at greater risks of getting sick and tend to stay indoors since it’s too cold outside.

Here are some ways on how to get enough Vitamin D during wintertime.

  • Add vitamin D to your diet. 

Load up your diet with foods rich in Vitamin D. Cow’s milk and margarine in Canada must be fortified with Vitamin D. Moreover, goat’s milk, fortified plant-based beverages (e.g., fortified soy beverages), and some calcium-fortified orange juice are also allowed to be fortified with Vitamin D.

You may also cheese and yogurt in your diet, since they are made with vitamin-D fortified milk.

If you want a quick increase in your Vitamin D levels, you may eat about two eggs. Eating two eggs contains 8.2mcg of vitamin D.

The egg has among the highest natural source of Vitamin D. ((Eggs, a great natural source of vitamin D. (2020, December 18). International Egg Commission. https://www.internationalegg.com/resource/eggs-a-great-natural-source-of-vitamin-d/))

Another natural sources of Vitamin D in the Canadian food supply are fatty fish.

Below is the recommended Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for Vitamin D:

How to Prevent Vitamin D Deficiency in Winter?

Table 1: The DRIs for vitamin D – Source

  • Catch some rays.

Although it may be cold outside, health experts shared that the best way to get Vitamin D is through Sunlight exposure. You may take a walk outside for about 20 to 30 minutes without sunscreen – three times a week for those with fair skin. Those with darker complexion may catch some rays a little longer

  • Get some supplements.

Vitamin D supplements can be taken orally, such as in gel capsules or through injections.

Vitamin D is delivered straight to the bloodstream for rapid and potent absorption with injections.

At Evergreen Rehab & Wellness Clinic, we have a licensed Naturopathic Doctor in Coquitlam that can safely administer Vitamin D injections.

A test and assessment performed by a health expert are necessary before taking any Vitamin D supplements. This is because the doses may vary, and it will depends on the test results. Taking too much vitamin D can also be toxic.

Bottom Line

Vitamin D is an essential vitamin that can get low during wintertime and may lead to deficiency. However, there are many ways that you can do to keep your vitamin D levels up during winter.

If you believe you have low levels of Vitamin D, please make sure to consult a health expert first before getting some supplements.

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