Winter in the Pacific NW generally means very little opportunity for sun exposure. When you're talking about a nutrient that is made in the body when skin gets exposed to UV light, the lack of rays can be a problemo grande. I've been checking my patients' Vitamin D levels this winter with surprising results. I have yet to get a normal result back. The normal range isn't even all that high. People still have symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency at the "normal" level. Symptoms like: lethargy, decreased mood, body aches, soreness, headaches, decreased libido. Any of this sound familiar?
When I was in medical school, a family member called me with what sounded like a classic case of fibromyalgia. She was having difficulty sleeping, had lots of pain in her body, and was tired all the time. One of my mentors at the time suggested Vitamin D. She got her levels checked and they were extremely LOW. She started taking 1000 IU/day. Her levels have been in the optimum range now for years AND she doesn't feel like she has fibromyalgia.
Aside from feeling good in the winter, Vitamin D is important for long-term health issues. Check out this article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It talks about how Vitamin D appears to delay aging and diseases of aging by slowing the turnover rate of white blood cells.
Taking a high quality Vitamin D supplement daily is a good idea if you live somewhere gray. It's also a good idea to get your nutrients from food sources whenever possible. The best sources of Vitamin D are:
- Herring, 85 g (3 ounces (oz)) provides 1383 IU
- Catfish, 85 g (3 oz) provides 425 IU
- Salmon, cooked, 100 g (3.5 oz]) provides 360 IU
- Mackerel, cooked, 100 g (3.5 oz]), 345 IU
- Sardines, canned in oil, drained, 50 g (1.75 oz), 250 IU
- Tuna, canned in oil, 85 g (3 oz), 200 IU
- Eel, cooked, 100 g (3.5 oz), 200 IU
- One whole egg, provides 20 IU
*amounts provided by Wikipedia.*
Women of childbearing age and children should not eat mackerel or more than 6oz of tuna per week due to mercury content.
There are rare cases of people overdosing on Vitamin D. You should always consult with your doctor before adding anything new to your daily intake of nutrients. It is advisable to have your Vitamin D levels checked to assess the proper dosage for your body.