During summertime, people get sufficient amounts of vitamin D with as little as 10 to 15 minutes of daily sun exposure. With that short of a time of sun exposure, the body is able to convert solar energy into the vitamin D necessary for optimum health. However, when the winter season arrives, the days grow shorter and people are not able to get as much of the sunshine vitamin as they need. During the winter months, the sun’s angle sinks lower and lower into the southern hemisphere, making it hardly possible for people to get enough vitamin D from this source.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin manufactured by the body. It's metabolized by the kidneys and liver before it's converted into the hormone calcitonin. This hormone regulates the levels of calcium in the blood to ensure that bones and teeth remain strong and healthy. When UV rays from the sun are absorbed by the skin, a substance is transformed into vitamin D, which is then converted to the calcitonin that metabolizes calcium.
A person who has a light complexion requires only 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure two to three times a week. A person with darker skin needs longer hours to get the same amount of vitamin D. Since this vitamin can be stored by the body, the vitamin D manufactured during summer can be used in the winter season. The Institute of Medicine released a report in November 2010 regarding the recommended daily intake of this vitamin D. It recommends 600 to 800 IU per day for people living in the United States and Canada. The report also stated that increasing the upper limit to 2,000 to 4,000 IU per day posed no evidence of harm.
It’s unfortunate, however, that deficiency in this vitamin is common in all continents. According to some surveys, 50 percent of the world’s population has inadequate levels of vitamin D. It can be blamed primarily on the sedentary lifestyles that prevent most from going outdoors to absorb sunlight. This is very alarming since this vitamin is essential in maintaining proper health as well as preventing and fighting a broad range of diseases and mental disorders like depression.
Since vitamin D helps in the absorption of important nutrients such as calcium and phosphorus, people who are “D-ficient” are at an increased risk of bone diseases, such as osteoporosis, as well as dental problems. Various studies also show that this vitamin can minimize the growth of cancer cells, meaning that people deficient in vitamin D are more likely to develop a form of cancer than those who are not. This nutrient also plays a critical role in preventing infectious diseases such as the flu.
Because of this, it’s imperative to get sufficient amounts of vitamin D - especially during the winter months. It would help to spend as much time outdoors as you possibly can. Take advantage of the little sunlight there is. Whenever the sun comes out, go out for a walk or play with the kids at the park. You can also eat lunch in the patio or garden if the weather isn't too bitter. You must maximize the little amount of sunlight that you can get during this time so you should avoid sunscreen and try to expose as much of your skin to the sun as possible.
It’s also a good idea to consider sun showers. These are vertical tanning units that you’ll often find in beauty salons and health clubs. The purpose of these devices is to increase the amount of vitamin D in your body. Just three minutes inside a sun shower would give you the right amount of vitamin D you need for the day. Of course, tanning is very closely linked with skin cancer so trading vitamin D sufficiency for an increased risk for cancer may seem counterproductive; however, indoor tanning has been proven to prompt vitamin D production in the body.
Don’t forget to eat foods that are rich in vitamin D. Mackerel, egg yolks, cod liver oil and salmon are among those that have high amounts of vitamin D. Be sure to eat plenty of these during the cold season. See to it though that you choose fish that come from clean waters to avoid consuming toxins. One of the cleanest fish out there is the Alaskan wild salmon. As for the eggs, choose those that are organic so you can save yourself from harmful chemicals and antibiotics. Other foods that contain vitamin D include tuna, sardines, milk, beef liver, Swiss cheese and vitamin D fortified breads and cereals.
Moreover, taking vitamin D supplements also help a lot. Apart from ensuring that you get this vitamin from dietary sources mentioned above, taking vitamin D supplements every day ensures your body won't fall victim to the wintertime deficiency dilemma.