Wednesday, January 10, 2024

How to get enough vitamin D in the winter

Vitamin D plays a large role in overall health according to medical experts. (Courtesy Pexels)

Winter isn't coming, winter is here. With that comes the concern for what some suffer from called the winter blues or seasonal depression. 

Medical experts at Baylor College of Medicine are sharing tips on how to maintain your vitamin D intake in the winter. 

"Vitamin D is well-known to support bone health, but it also plays a role in the health of your heart as well as your (general intestine) tract," said Dr. Mike Ren, assistant professor in Baylor's Department of Family and Community Medicine. "It's tougher to get it because a lot of the absorption and how the vitamin gets transformed to usable substance in our bodies is from the sun. You need the sun high in the sky, not when it's rising or about to set, for your body to effectively absorb sunlight to absorb the vitamin D."

Experts say that some fatty fishes and seafood naturally contain some vitamin D, but that it's not commonly found in other foods, therefore causing a lack in vitamin D in people's diets. Sun exposure helps, but in the winter months, a lack of sunlight persists. 

A typical adult needs 800 units of vitamin D a day, which translates to 15-30 minutes of good, direct sunlight. No need to put on a bathing suit just to get sun. Experts say that you can be fully clothed with the sun shining on your face or hands to get sufficient exposure. One thing is to make sure you get your sun exposure during peak sunlight and not at sunrise or sunset. 

If you're one of the work-from-home population group, Dr. Ren suggests taking an over-the-counter vitamin D supplement. 

"Some new students are also finding that vitamin D is important for proper muscle function, like your constantly beating heart, as well as lower risk of getting a variety of cancers," said Dr. Ren. 

The doctor added one caveat: be sure to get your vitamin D levels checked as certain health conditions could affect side effects. Vitamin D is touted for calcium absorption and bone health. 

"These are new studies, so I don't want to overestimate their importance, but on the flip side, I don't want people to trivialize it and say it's not important," he said.

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