The fall is my favourite, favourite season. I am always in my element each year when the leaves begin to change, and I can finally layer with scarves and boots. Although I will admit that I love cloudy days (sometimes even more than sunny days), I do reach a point here in Southern Ontario where I feel pretty deprived of some bright, warm sunlight, and some good ol' Vitamin D. Because truthfully, we need it!
Vitamin D is made from cholesterol when our skin is exposed to sunlight, but those of us living in the cooler climates with limited sun exposure need a bit of a boost, and can benefit hugely from supplementing with the sunshine vitamin this time of year. This little vitamin carries out some pretty big roles in our body, including influencing over 2,000 genes. There is a Vitamin D receptor in every nerve cell in the body!
Vitamin D has a significant impact on brain, bone, and immune health:
- Immunity: Vitamin D supports our immune system, and actually activates the T cells in our body which seek out and destroy different bacteria and viruses that can cause colds and flus.
- Brain health: Vitamin D helps to effectively activate our "feel good" neurotransmitters, like serotonin and dopamine. This can be especially helpful for those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), where a lack of sunlight can adversely effect our mental health. Vitamin D also maintains our nervous system, heart function, and normal blood clotting.
- Bone health: Vitamin D helps to absorb calcium into the bloodstream, increases absorption of calcium from our intestines, helps put calcium and phosphorus in teeth and stimulates the resorption of calcium and phosphorus from bone.
- Vitamin D works synergistically alongside vitamin K2 and magnesium for optimal bone health, where D ushers calcium into the bloodstream, and K delivers it from blood to bones and teeth, and out of soft tissue. I like to take this Vitamin K & D supplement here.
Dry skin, cracked heels, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), lowered immune function (frequent colds and flu), osteoporosis, nervousness, inflammation, and conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer, can be signs of low levels of vitamin D.
Supplementing with Vitamin D
There are two kinds of vitamin D you can take as a supplement: Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) and Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol). Vitamin D3 is derived from lanolin, the oil found in sheep's wool. D2 is a plant-based source and is therefore popular amongst vegans, however I recommend opting for D3 as it is much easier for the body to absorb and doesn't require your body to do any converting.
You can take vitamin D in a liquid, soft gel, or tablet form. Liquid and soft gel are the most easily absorbed and assimilated, as vitamin D is fat-soluble and absorbed better when taken in liquid or encapsulated in an oil, as opposed to a hard, chalky tablet. It is shown that you absorb much more vitamin D when taken with a full meal, so be sure to take your vitamin D with your biggest meal of the day.
Dosages vary depending on individual needs, but a safe amount to start with is 1,000IU, although many people require much more than that (2,000-4,000IU and higher). Be sure to speak with your natural health care practitioner for the right dose!
Where else can you get Vitamin D? Food sources include fatty fish, cod liver oil, and grass-fed butter.