Jack Frost and friends are settling in mighty fine this winter and what a dreadful toll their return has had on my skin. All the usual festive foes (including the villainous wind and rain) have pillaged my summer glow replacing it with a sad symphony of beige and grey. Whilst dull skin is obviously unwelcome, Uncle Fester face is only one of the shady side effects of daylight savings. Aside from doubly depressing Monday mornings and gloomy commutes home, lack of sunlight can cause myriad distresses to our mental and physical health. Let’s take a second to consider Vitamin D, the ubiquitous sunshine chemical.
I was recently introduced to Dr Rhonda Patrick’s always-helpful website foundmyfitness.com. Here she demonstrates via a handy infographic the disagreeable side-effects that extended periods of darkness and not clocking in enough time al fresco can cause.
So what‘s the deal?
Vitamin D doesn’t have the same chemical composition as other Vitamins we’re used to (Vitamin C and E for example) and is actually more akin to a hormone in many ways. It helps the body to absorb phosphorous and calcium, both of which are essential for bone growth. According to Dr Rhonda, roughly 1 billion individuals have inadequate levels of it – this is where your problems, including insufficient bone density, fatigue and muscle aches begin. Though lack of sun exposure is a patent culprit, those who are darker skinned, pregnant or obese are also more likely to be affected.
What are the side effects?
Whilst aches and pains are definitely unwelcome, it’s not just your physical self that lack of D will distress. Maybe your case of the ‘Monday Mornings’ isn’t just an Instagram meme – Vit D activates genes that regulate the immune system and release neurotransmitters (including the happy chemicals dopamine and serotonin) affecting brain function and development. Researchers have found Vitamin D receptors on a handful of cells located in regions in the brain – the same regions linked with depression. To sum it up, your desk job could quite literally be depressing you!
So aside from unemployment and migration, where do we go from here?
Am I D-ficient?
If you live in a seasonal country featuring extensive winters – the answer is almost certainly yes. Symptoms include the aforementioned aches and pains, tiredness and Sunday blues but can also be expressed through brittle bones, infection and a compromised immune system – not ideal when you’re constantly battling a cold. Consider getting yourself tested by a professional though as too much Vitamin D can also be a bad thing.
How do I get more D?
Though a healthy, omega 3 laden diet is always helpful, your D-deficiency-deliverance won’t be resolved by food alone. Consider taking a daily multi-vitamin supplement – specifically D3 (ergocalciferol if we’re being fancy). Not only will this negate the internal effects of a long dark winter, it will also lead to brighter skin and a springier start to the darker mornings.
So ladies and fellas – let’s laugh in the face of greige, sallowness and Grim Reaper hues and treat ourselves to some much needed D. Your DNA will NOT be disappointed.
My Vitamin D Tips
- Too much Vitamin D can be harmful so it’s best to get yourself tested to see exactly how deficient you are. Until you can, avoid taking more than 1,000 IU per day.
- Opt for gel/liquid capsules over coated ones. These are absorbed into our bodies far better as the latter often don’t break down completely.
- As mentioned before, opt for Vitamin D3 as this is made naturally by our bodies and is therefore more readily absorbed. Vegans should take D2 – this is made with yeast or mushrooms; D3 is made from a derivative of sheep’s wool.
*Here’s a holiday snap of Vitamin D and I having a lovely time in Phuket last week.