This post was written by Austin Harris, PharmD, Parkview Health.
With winter upon us, the days have grown shorter and colder temperatures have many people spending more time indoors. Even when we are outside, we’re usually bundled up in layers of clothing to stay warm, which lowers the amount of sun exposure we receive. Our bodies produce vitamin D when sunlight hits our skin, so as a result, we may end up with a deficiency this time of year. Unfortunately, being deficient in vitamin D can have some negative consequences for our overall health, so it’s important to make sure we are supplementing, if necessary.
A boost to our immune system
It’s well known that vitamin D helps fight off infections from various bacteria and viruses. For this reason, adequate levels of vitamin D are especially crucial during the winter, when illnesses such as the common cold and influenza tend to be most prominent. Maintaining a sufficient intake of this important vitamin can help us stay healthy.
Preventing the winter blues
Fewer hours of daylight and more hours spent indoors can lead some to develop what is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or the “winter blues.” This is thought to be due, at least partially, to vitamin D deficiency. As a result, we may experience symptoms such as decreased energy, sadness, or sleep and appetite changes more frequently. Keeping our vitamin D levels high may help prevent some of these seasonal symptoms.
How much vitamin D do we need?
The recommended amount of vitamin D for most adults is 600-800 IU (international units) per day. We can work to sustain this amount through a variety of sources, such as:
- Sunlight – Be sure to wear sunscreen on exposed skin, even during the winter
- Diet – Fatty fish (salmon, tuna), milk, eggs and yogurt are great options
- Vitamin D supplements
Contact your provider
If you have any questions about your vitamin D intake, or if you are feeling any symptoms of illness or seasonal depression, be sure to contact your primary care provider.