Anna Mixon

Anna Mixon

Question: It seems like when the cold weather and shorter fall days hit I have far less energy and seem to get sick more often compared to the summertime. Is there anything that could help with this?

As the days get shorter, the temperature drops and we start seeing less of the sun, it sure can seem like our energy levels and immune system may take a hit.

One reason for this could be a vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D plays a key role in our immune system, building strong bones and muscle function. Our bodies produce the majority of our vitamin D by absorbing UVB rays from the sun.

During the summer we have no problem producing adequate amounts of vitamin D, but once the long winter hits us Minnesotans, the sun’s rays become so indirect that we are unable to use that for a source to make vitamin D. According to a recent study, 42% of Americans are deficient in this vitamin, which has been shown to be associated with a lack of energy, mood swings and a lowered immune system.

When we are unable to obtain vitamin D from the sun, our food choices become even more important. Vitamin D is only found naturally in a few foods, such as salmon or tuna, some mushrooms and egg yolks. Small amounts are added to foods like breakfast cereals, orange juice and dairy products as well.

Unfortunately, it is hard to get enough of this vitamin from food alone, so the addition of a vitamin D supplement can be beneficial. It is recommended that adults get at least 600 IU of vitamin D each day (with some research suggesting amounts closer to 1,000 IU+ per day). Vitamin D3 with a dosage between 500-1000 IU is a common supplement option.

The bottom line is that many Americans are unaware of how common vitamin D deficiency is. Consulting your doctor to get your vitamin D levels tested could be very helpful for keeping you happy, healthy and strong, especially during the long Minnesota winter. As peak cold and flu season approaches, your immune system may thank you for getting your daily dose of the sunshine vitamin.

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