Daylight Savings Time ends this weekend. Hooray for that extra hour of sleep, right?
But there’s a downside: fewer daylight hours plus winter weather can lead to vitamin D deficiency.
This is because sunlight is our main – and best – source of this nutrient which, among other things, helps keep your teeth, gums and bone healthy and strong. It also helps prevent cavities – possibly due to antimicrobial effects of cathelicidin, a polypeptide produced along with vitamin D in response to sunlight – and helps remineralize the teeth.
Symptoms of D deficiency, on the other hand, include fatigue, chronic backache, depression, hypertension, weight gain, rickets and weakened bones.
Here are a few tips for making sure you get enough of this essential nutrient through the winter:
- Make the most of the sun you have – or make your own “sun”
Here in California with our relatively mild winters, it’s not too tough to still get plenty of sunshine between rainy or foggy spells. But wherever you are, when there’s sunshine, try to get out in it for a while, if only for a short walk. If sunlight is especially scarce (such as in the far north), try using a sun lamp or safe tanning bed. To find out how much sunlight you need at any time of year, use the online tool we describe here.
- Eat your vitamins
Vitamin D can be found naturally in fatty fish (e.g., catfish, salmon, sardines, tuna) and eggs. It’s also often added to milk and other dairy products.
- When all else fails, supplement
If you can’t get enough D through sunlight and diet, you may find it helpful to take a supplement. Make sure it’s the right kind of D – D3 (the kind our bodies make in response to sunlight, also called cholecalciferol) – and whole food sourced (not synthetic).
- Make the most of the D you ingest
Your body makes the best use of vitamin D when it’s accompanied by vitamin K and calcium. As with D, these are best consumed naturally, through whole foods rather than pills. See our previous post for info on good dietary sources of these nutrients and why they belong together (even more info here).
And enjoy that extra hour of sleep! After all, quality sleep is key to good health, too…