Why do you need more Vitamin D in the winter?

Health, according to the World Health Organization, is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity”.[1] A variety of definitions have been used for different purposes over time. Health can be promoted by encouraging healthful activities, such as regular physical exercise and adequate sleep,[2] and by reducing or avoiding unhealthful activities or situations, such as smoking or excessive stress. Some factors affecting health are due to individual choices, such as whether to engage in a high-risk behavior, while others are due to structural causes, such as whether the society is arranged in a way that makes it easier or harder for people to get necessary healthcare services. Still other factors are beyond both individual and group choices, such as genetic disorders.

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If we spend more time indoors, how will we get enough Vitamin D? Get some tips to get your daily dose of the sunshine vitamin in place.

Winter chills make us shiver, and being tucked inside blankets and shawls is our way to beat it. But this season increases the risk of vitamin D deficiency and infections. Getting enough vitamin D is essential to your long-term health. It may be relatively easier to get it through sun exposure most of the year, but that can change when it’s wintertime, unless you have the time to soak in the sun!

Sunscreen creams, darker skin pigmentation, full sleeves clothing, and less sunlight exposure lead to reduced vitamin D intake, says Dr Sudha Menon, Director of Internal Medicine at Fortis Hospital, Bengaluru.

vitamin D needs in winter
Don’t let yourself run short on the sunshine vitamin! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Getting due sun exposure in the winter months can be difficult and that’s why you need to be very careful with your vitamin D daily intake during this time. So how much should we take? Should you go for supplements? And if not, where to get vitamin D in winter?

First, let’s find out why you need vitamin D

Calcium is well-known for its importance in maintaining healthy bones. As a result, calcium alone is insufficient. Vitamin D is needed. “Your bones’ health may be jeopardized if you don’t get enough Vitamin D. Vitamin D is required to absorb calcium from meals and beverages,” says Dr Menon. 

Vitamin D has a variety of functions in your body, including:

  • It can help you strengthen your immune system.
  • It is beneficial to your mental health and aids in the management of depression symptoms.
  • It is needed to keep bones, teeth, muscles healthy
  • It also plays an integral role in skin protection and rejuvenation. 

Why are Indians suffering from vitamin D deficiency?

Vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency affect 76 percent of Indians, according to a study published in the International Journal of Research in Orthopaedics in 2020. This is a significant and concerning figure.

Dr Menon says, “Indian skin has a higher level of melanin, which limits the body’s ability to absorb Vitamin D. Then there’s the issue of inadequate solar exposure, which leads to Vitamin D insufficiency.” 

Another reason could be related to diet, as most Indians are vegetarians, notes Dr Menon. “There aren’t many vegetarian foods that are vitamin D-rich. As a result, vegetarians are in greater danger. A primary source of concern is an unhealthy body weight. Obese adults, according to multiple studies, have a higher risk of Vitamin D insufficiency,” she adds.

Is there anything that can be done?

You can include milk and milk products, fish oil, mushrooms, and egg yolk in your regular diet when it comes to food. Apart from food, sunlight exposure should be your top priority. A minimum of 15-20 minutes of early-morning sun exposure is required.

vitamin D needs in winter
Get the ‘sunsine’ vitamin via natural sources rather than supplements. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Do you require additional supplements?

Vitamin D insufficiency causes several undesirable side effects. Bone pain and back discomfort (clearly), lethargy, tiredness, frequent infections, delayed wound healing, hair fall, muscle pain, and anxiety are some of them. If you have a couple of these symptoms, your Vitamin D levels should be examined. 

Vitamin D supplements are typically provided to pregnant women, newborns, women in menopause, and anyone over 65. Supplements should only be taken if your doctor has prescribed them. Finally, maintain adequate quantities of Vitamin D in your body to keep your bones, hair, mental health, and immune system in good shape. All you have to do is eat foods high in vitamin D. Maintain healthy body weight and look out for Vitamin D insufficiency signs before it’s too late by sitting in the sun for at least 15-20 minutes per day.

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