With winter quickly approaching, as Canadians we know that the days spent in the sun will be disappearing in exchange for months of cold weather and increasingly dark days. With the end of daylight savings this coming weekend the little bit of sunlight we have will shift making it dark by the end of the workday. This lack of sunlight can often leave us feeling tired, having difficulty concentrating, and feeling a bit down. These feeling are not just the emotional reaction to getting less sunshine, they can also be caused by a lack of vitamin D. Vitamin D is synthesized when ultraviolet rays, aka sunlight, is absorbed by the skin. Thus in the long dark months of winter many Canadians find themselves being deficient in vitamin D.
Why is vitamin D important? Vitamin D increases the absorption of calcium from the foods we eat, making it an important aspect of bone health. It is involved in the growth, remodeling, and mineralization of bones so when vitamin D is deficient it can result in thin, brittle bones. Together calcium and vitamin D are protective against osteoporosis in older adults. Vitamin D is also essential in the prevention of rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults – two diseases that cause bones to be soft and weak.
Who’s at risk for vitamin D deficiency? Being aware of vitamin D intake it important for everyone, however there are some groups of people that are at greater risk of being deficient.
- Breastfeeding infants are at a high risk of being deficient, because breast milk is a poor source of vitamin D. Therefore breastfeeding children should be given vitamin D supplements daily.
- Older adults are at higher risk of being vitamin D deficient because their bodies absorb and process vitamin D from the sun less efficiently than their younger counterparts.
- Individuals with darker skin produce less vitamin D from sun exposure.
- Those suffering from Crohn’s disease and celiac disease are at risk due to their poor ability to absorb fats from their diet, which is necessary for vitamin D absorption.
- Those with osteoporosis.
- Those who are obese or have undergone gastric bypass surgery are at increased risk as more vitamin D gets stored in their fat cells and is not circulating in the blood.
- Those with chronic kidney or liver disease as these organs are required for the processing of vitamin D.
Can we get vitamin D without the sun? Vitamin D can also be obtained from the diet, however it is not readily available in many foods so we need to be proactive about making sure our bodies are getting enough. The best food sources of vitamin D are the flesh of fatty fish (salmon, tuna, and mackerel) and fish liver oils. Small amounts can be obtained from eating beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks. Due to the difficulty of getting adequate vitamin D in the diet, some foods are now fortified with vitamin D to help Canadians get enough. Fortified foods often include milk, baby formula, margarine, cereals, orange juice, and yogurt. Read labels carefully to determine if the foods you are buying have added vitamin D. Another useful way to get vitamin D is to supplement with either tablets or drops. This is a great way to ensure that your needs are being met, especially through the winter months. Supplementation is especially important for those on vegan or vegetarian diets as they will not be consuming many or the natural or fortified sources of vitamin D.
So this winter be sure to include fortified foods in your diet and consider supplementing with vitamin D. If you have any questions about vitamin D deficiency or would like to purchase vitamin D supplements come visit us at Williams Chiropractic today!