Vitamins & Minerals

Vitamin D: How It Keeps The Body Healthy And How Many Are Actually Deficient.

“They’re called Happy Lamps!” she exclaimed.

“How exactly does a lamp make you happy?” I asked, staring at this giant plastic dish that looked like the top of a storage container.

“The lamp gives off a similar spectrum that you’d get from the sun. Since everyone’s indoors this time of year, people tend to get pretty depressed.”

“Ah. So, happy lamp equals artificial sun, equals happy people. Got it.”

She seems happy enough. Photo courtesy of Brookstone

I had flown into Boston to visit my girlfriend during one, particularly chilly winter. The city had just begun to shake off a record storm season that had dumped over 100 inches of snow, blanketing the entire Northeast.

With howling winds blasting a chilly 8 degrees below zero, the city ground to a halt. Basic services like waste management, all the way to emergency services, were temporarily suspended. Even the city’s metro or “T” shut down for a few days.  

As a result, most people stayed indoors for most of the season. An old college friend of mine who was also studying in the city claimed that at one point during this winter, he didn’t see the sun for 10 days.

Our brief dose of sunshine.

“I felt miserable,” he said. “Everyone here feels depressed or tired. It’s a struggle getting outta bed, you just don’t know what to do with yourself.”

mylabfax-boston0winter-2015
Taken right before I ran back inside the restaurant.

Not surprisingly, many who live in areas with frequent rain or snow tend to have similar symptoms. Seattle’s a notorious city that suffers from “Winter Blues”. Despite the commonality of this condition, it's not uncommon for folks to brush off these depressed feelings as normal. After spending so much time in an often-sunless environment, residents may see their symptoms as an inevitable part of life.   

Those who do seek medical advice, however, will usually discover that their feelings of depression actually stem from a lack of Vitamin D.

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in some foods. Many dairy products, orange juice, and cereals are fortified with vitamin D.

Eating fish is one of the best ways to get the vitamin D you need; six ounces of salmon can provide you with 360-700 IU’s, right about the daily dose recommended by doctors.

However, the most beneficial way to produce Vitamin D is As little as 10 minutes is enough to generate 10,000 IU’s of Vitamin D!

Vitamin D is also available as a dietary supplement. One drop of a Vitamin D supplement can provide you with 2,000 IUs, a great option for those who work indoors or stay out of the sun most of the day.

mylabfax-vitamin-D-supplement
My go to supplement for Vitamin D.

As for those people living in the Northeast, a few might purchase Happy Lamps, although I can't say for sure if these lamps actually supply the right light to produce Vitamin D.

What Is Vitamin D Good for?

When it comes to Vitamin D, the benefits border on fighting off cancer or avoiding heart disease. It can even elevate mood and libido in some men, which isn’t surprising, as it's often described as being more like a hormone than a vitamin. If you’ve read my previous articles, you know how important hormone regulation can be.

How Much Vitamin D Do I Need?

The recommended daily allowance of vitamin D is 600 IU for children and adults. Senior citizens should get 800 IU per day to fight osteoporosis. People with autoimmune diseases or an increased risk of cancer may need a larger dose.

During the winter, doctors often recommend 2,000 IU’s. Remember to speak with your doctor before adding large amounts of vitamin D to your diet, as any healthy person going overboard with this vitamin (10,000 IU + for long periods of time) can become unhealthy.

How Do I Know If I Have Enough Vitamin D?

A simple vitamin serum test can verify whether or not you are in the healthy range.

If you’re below 12ng/ml, you may be deficient. Normally doctors will prescribe 4,000 IU’s per day until

If you are not getting the proper nutrients in your diet, you may choose to take a multivitamin supplement. Many multivitamins include the proper dose of vitamin D, but be sure to check the label to be certain.

What If I Do Not Get Enough Vitamin D?

The role vitamin D plays in health is complex. Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption in your stomach—Without sufficient vitamin D, bones can become thin, brittle, or misshapen.

Children with Vitamin D deficiency may contract rickets, a painful condition that causes weak bones. Vitamin D and calcium are essential for older adults to prevent osteoporosis.

In my case, I was ready to hightail it back to the West Coast. A week in that cloudy, frigid environment left me sluggish and moody. It took a few days of being back in the sun to feel like my normal self, but the trip left me with a greater appreciation for how important it can be to have sufficient amounts of vitamins in your body.

More and more studies are coming out that suggest the root cause of many illnesses actually stem from certain vitamin deficiencies. In light of this information, it’s becoming apparent that we should all keep a closer eye on how we feel on a day-to-day basis, and if we see irregularities in our moods, ask ourselves if we're getting enough nutrition in our diets. The health of the body and health of the mind go hand in hand. In other words, Healthy equals Happy.

mylabfax-vitamin-d-absorption-in-sun
Happy minus the lamp.

Until next time,

Dimitri

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