The sun is shining…hopefully? Spring is almost here and holy crap are we ready. Okay fine I’m exaggerating, I’m in San Francisco and it’s 68 and sunny…but I have been in Minnesota twice this winter visiting my partners in crime, Katie & Anna, and let me tell you, they aren’t joking when they say Minnesota is cold. -18 F cold. Frankly at that point you can’t tell the difference in temp, all that you know is that there are icicles in your nose.
So what’s the sun gotta do with me? Everything. We’re talking the power of vitamin D today. Many of you likely know that this is an important one, as it’s been a hot topic the past few years. The basic fact is that we evolved living more outdoors, and today many of us spend the majority of our days indoors, working or perhaps watching 5 back to back episodes of House of Cards (or Scandal if your name is Katie). Where’s that leave us? Over 50% of the population is deficient in vitamin D. While we know we need to exercise caution with the almighty sun, we also know we need it – our body synthesizes vitamin D in the presence of sun. So why does vitamin D matter? This isn’t any old vitamin. It’s a steroid hormone that plays a big role in our overall health – it’s crucial to protect against cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease, and infections. It also greatly supports and repairs gut health, immunity and even your mood.
Lack of sun isn’t the only thing that can mess with our levels of D. These present problems as well:
- Not eating enough fat (hello!) can reduce levels because it’s a fat-soluble vitamin. Knew I liked this vitamin.
- Inflamed GI tract, leaky gut or IBS – Why? So glad you asked – vitamin D is absorbed in the small intestine.
- High cortisol levels and low cholesterol. Say what? Vitamin D and cortisol production depend on cholesterol, and the body will respond to stress before it creates vitamin D. Priorities, ya know?
- Obesity – vitamin D gets taken up by fat cells.
- Inflammation of any type impairs utilization of D. So, sugar, refined flours, alcohol, stress…they’re all blocking D.
So what to do? Plain and simple, get more D. We can get vitamin D from two sources: food, and sunshine. Seafood is the only real significant source of D, and you have to eat quite a bit to get enough, in fact you’d need to eat it daily to maintain adequate blood levels. You can get a bit from grass-fed dairy and eggs as well.
A simple way around this is to take cod liver oil. You also need to make sure you get enough vitamin K2 and vitamin A to properly utilize D.
Sources of vitamin K2 include:
- fermented foods like sauerkraut and kefir
- egg yolks
- dairy from grass-fed cows
Sources of vitamin A include
- organ meats
- cod liver oil
- full-fat dairy from grass-fed cows.
What about sunlight? Mid-day direct sunlight will produce 10-20,000 IU of vitamin D, but not always, it depends on many health factors – and we must be mindful of not overdoing sun exposure. For that reason, many may need to consider supplementing with vitamin D, especially during winter and for those living in areas with less sunlight. With that said – it’s important to test your levels, begin supplementation, and then re-test a few months later to determine the correct maintenance dose. Your doc can help you with this! A great, natural place to start is with a good quality cod liver oil, as it contains A, D and E. Supplementing with pill form you’ll want to look for a good company that uses no fillers, and always go for vitamin D3.
Now go catch some rays. Or fish. Or both.