While you may have your eye on the biggest spring trends, the fact remains that weather-wise, you've still got a bit of winter left to get through. And that may have more of an effect on your health than you realize. When you can't figure out how to get your vitamin D in the winter — something most people soak up through sunlight — on the daily, you could be experiencing symptoms like fatigue, a weakened immune system, and muscle pain. But even if you're living somewhere that isn't seeing much sunshine lately, there are ways to stave off these symptoms and feel as healthy as possible.
In addition to how it benefits your bone health, vitamin D is also a natural energy booster, a mood-enhancer, and it's even a buzzy skincare ingredient because of it's anti-inflammatory and skin-repairing properties. And something else you might not know about this essential nutrient? It's not even really a vitamin at all. "Vitamin D is a hormone that our body produces" explains Monica Ruffo, Well Told Health's CEO and founder. "It was inaccurately dubbed a 'vitamin' in the 1920s and the label has stuck."
Call it whatever you want, just make sure you're getting enough vitamin D, because as it turns out, your body needs it to function at its best. "Vitamin D is an essential factor in the maintenance of overall good health both physically and mentally," Ruffo says. "It helps in the development and maintenance of good bones and teeth, aids in the absorption and use of phosphorus and is also essential for the absorption of calcium, which, when with a healthy diet and regular exercise may reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis." And besides the aforementioned symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency, new research shows that women who aren't getting enough might be at a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
So how do you know if you need more? Well, first take a look at where you live. "If you live north of the 37th parallel – which is anywhere north of San Francisco, California on the west and Richmond, Virginia to the east, including all of Canada – it’s simply impossible to get enough vitamin D," explains Ruffo. "Even if someone lives in peak-sun southern regions, our modern lifestyle of desk jobs and indoor work limits our ability to produce vitamin D."
If you're truly concerned about your levels of vitamin D, seeing your doctor for a blood test is your best bet. And the good news is, even if you are deficient, it's not the end of the world. Ahead, learn the two simple ways to get a more vitamin D in your life ASAP — even in the middle of winter.
"The best way to get your body to produce vitamin D is to spend 20 minutes a day with your skin directly exposed to sunlight," Ruffo explains. If you're currently living somewhere that gets regular sunlight, even in colder months, this is the simplest solution.
But unfortunately, that might not be the case for everyone. "If you live in the above described areas, even if you're willing to brave the cold to expose your skin to sunlight, the sun is not strong enough to trigger vitamin D production in our bodies," she adds. And if the lack of sun is an issue where you are — the next source is perfect for you.
Try A Supplement
Unlike with many other vitamins, you're very unlikely to get the vitamin D you need just from altering your diet — which is where supplements come in handy. "Since vitamin D is actually a hormone that is made is reaction to the sun, it’s essentially impossible to get through food – at least from whole food sources that have no additives or in manageable quantities," shares Ruffo.
And while there are plenty of options for supplements on the market, most all of them aren't friendly for those who avoid animal products. "Vitamin D supplements are virtually all animal-based and harvested from sheep wool lanolin – that’s the oil of the skin of sheep," she explains. "They are sheep hormone no more, no less." But if you're looking for a vegan solution, Well Told found a unique way around this problem. "Someone thought to take a Portobello mushroom and turn its gills to the sun and voilà — it makes vitamin D much like animals do," the brand's founder says.