Vitamin D: Revitalize Your Life.

The winter blues are no joke. Lately, I’ve noticed an overall feeling of flatness in my life. I’m not sure if it’s the constant medical testing, appointments or lack of physical exercise, but I just don’t feel like my spunky self. If I could, I’d curl up in a “man cave” and hibernate until the trees and grass bloom again. That’s sounds ridiculous, but I think everyone can agree on one thing: sunshine makes you feel alive.

I’m not advocating that you go bake under the sun, but research has shown that sunshine – or the production of vitamin D from the sun – is very important when it comes to our emotional and physical well-being. For one, it can help the body modulate serotonin, which affects many important psychological and bodily functions such as sexual desire and function, appetite, sleep, memory, and most importantly, moods. Secondly, evidence has shown that low vitamin D levels can contribute to cognitive decline, an increased risk of heart disease, and even cancer.

Because of the dangers associated with skin cancer and prolonged periods under the sun, sitting out in the sun or not slapping on a pound of SPF has become a sin. Our lifestyles have also contributed to lower levels of vitamin D. “Most of us sit at a computer all day, then walk to and from our cars when the sun is too low to produce UV,” says Robert Heaney, an endocrinologist at Creighton University. It doesn’t matter where you live either; Heaney and his team have found that hospital workers in Alaska and even Hawaii are low on vitamin D, too.

Without wearing suncreen, it takes (on average) between 10 to 30 minutes of midday UV exposure to produce 10,000 and 20,000 IU of vitamin D.

Dieting and aging can contribute to a low vitamin D status, as well. As we begin to age, our bodies synthesize vitamin D less efficiently. A report from the Berkeley School of Medicine reported that, “a 70-year-old man synthesizes only about a quarter as much vitamin D as a 20-year-old who gets the same sun exposure.”

If you think you’re covered because you consume a lot of vitamin D-rich foods, think again. “Even vitamin D–fortified eggs and milk are basically useless,” Cannell says. “You would have to drink 50 glasses of milk per day to get enough.”

How much do we need: First of all, because vitamin D is fat soluble, it is important to pair your supplement with food. ConsumerLab reports that by doing so, your body may be able to absorb 50% more vitamin D. Dr. Robert Heaney says, “As a rule of thumb, get 30 to 35 IU per pound of body weight per day.” If you’re 165 lbs, that would equal 5,000 IU.

Research recommends that you supplement with Vitamin D3 (not D2), which is the same version made from the sun, because vitamin D2, takes longer for your body to convert to a usable form. The experts caution against chugging back megadoses of vitamins – like I used to. JoAnn Manson, an epidemiology professor at the Harvard School of Public Health explains that too much vitamin D will can cause excess calcium to build up in the blood vessels.