Winter break is over, the New Year has kicked in, and school is finally back in session! Like most, you may be avoiding the chilly winter weather in the midst of your hectic syllabus week. Unfortunately, avoiding the outdoors comes with some forgotten consequences.
Over 75% of teens and adults are low in vitamin D, also known as the “Sunshine Vitamin.” This is a big problem in the hazy winter months of November to March when there is a lack of the UV-B rays that help produce vitamin D. This unique vitamin is produced through a nutritious diet and sun exposure to allow your body to absorb calcium. Research has shown that those who do not get enough of this key vitamin are at greater risk for heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, and weakened immunity. Yikes!
Here are 10 signs that you may need more vitamin D:
- Covered head to toe
Do you look like Randy from The Christmas Story any time you go outside? If the answer is yes, then unfortunately you may be having a difficult time absorbing sunshine.
- Living in the northern United States or Canada
If you happen to live in the north, then you may be at risk for vitamin D deficiency. During the winter months people who live in Virginia and further north can not produce enough Vitamin D because they simple cannot soak up enough sun.
- Living in the city
It may not totally be your fault. Living in the city may actually be an obstacle to getting enough vitamin D, as large buildings and pollution block sunlight.
- Vegan or Vegetarian diet
Although not all vegans and vegetarians are deficient, these diets may make it hard to get enough vitamin D. The main vitamin D powerhouse foods are animal-based; these include fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, sardines and cod liver oil, along with milk, eggs, yogurt, margarine, and cheese. Vegan and vegetarian foodies may need to eat more fortified foods such as cereal, orange juice, and a variation of plant-based milks (hemp, oat, almond, soy).
- Crohn’s disease or celiac disease
If you have one of these diseases, then you most likely know about the issues when it comes to digestion. Problems digesting and absorbing fats can pose a serious threat to vitamin D absorption, since fat in the diet helps you absorb it.
- Darker skin
People with darker skin have a harder time absorbing vitamin D. Some studies show that people with darker skin, mostly black and Hispanic individuals, may need to consume more than the daily recommended amount of vitamin D.
- Feeling blue
Besides feeling down after staring at your upcoming test schedule, having emotions of being sad, cranky, or mentally shut down may mean you’re missing vitamin D. Research has shown that vitamin D may enhance serotonin levels to brighten up your mood!
- Difficulty sleeping
Perhaps your tossing and turning throughout the night may be a vitamin D deficiency. Recent studies show that vitamin D may actually help maintain sleep cycles.
- Joint, bone, and back pain
The bone-chilling weather might have your body feeling achy, but if you have muscle, bone or joint pain, it may be associated with a lack of vitamin D.
- Weakened immunity
That stubborn cold that never seems to go away or those ever-present pesky infections may be a result of a vitamin D deficiency. Your immune system needs this vitamin in order to ward off viruses and bacteria.
If you need to take a walk after processing all that information, please do! You will be able to successfully absorb enough sunshine within 15 minutes (depending on where you live and what you’re wearing) for your body to produce vitamin D. Besides soaking up the sunshine, eating dairy, fatty fish, mushrooms and eggs, along with fortified foods such as cereal and orange juice will help you get enough. If you feel that your daily sun exposure and diet aren’t cutting it, then taking a multivitamin is the next best option!
Jackie Parker is currently a junior nutritional sciences student on the dietetics track at Texas A&M University.