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Beat the winter blues with Vitamin D

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It’s that time of year again. The lazy days of summer and the memories of natural evening light seem like a distant memory.

The holidays are over and all we have to look forward to are weeks of grey skies and piles of snow. It’s no wonder so many people suffer from winter blues.  

In addition to being cooped up inside for months on end, the lack of sunlight means that many Canadians don’t get enough vitamin D during the winter.   

Some studies have shown that at least two-thirds of people in Canada are deficient in vitamin D, the so-called ‘sunshine vitamin’. Unfortunately, our northern latitude leaves us with very limited amounts of sunshine during winter months. Vitamin D might just be the single most important nutrient for Canadian winters.

Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to increased risk of heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis and chronic pain. Research also shows that low levels of vitamin D can correlate to increased symptoms of multiple sclerosis, psoriasis and asthma. Even more importantly, some studies have suggested a link between vitamin D deficiency and poor mood, hence the winter blues.

Although more research is needed to confirm that this vitamin can lift your mood, paying close attention to your vitamin D intake during the winter months will give you many of the other benefits you may be missing.

These include enhanced calcium absorption and proper bone health, enhanced immune function and cancer prevention. Your doctor can test your vitamin D-3 levels to see if you are within normal or optimal ranges.

So how do you increase your vitamin D levels? The simplest way is to expose your arms and legs to the mid-day sun for 20 to 30 minutes. If you don’t have the luxury of escaping to a warm tropical island, you can ingest vitamin D orally. Foods high in  vitamin D include fish and fish oils, butter, egg yolks, cheese, and beef liver. However, if you are vegetarian or are not able to expose your skin to the sun daily, supplementation may be required.

Current research shows that an adult individual above the 37th parallel should take at least 1,000 IUs of vitamin D per day and possibly more if deemed deficient. However, please consult your health care professional about what dose of vitamin D is right for you before starting any supplement regime as higher doses can lead to other health risks.

Tania Tetrault Vrga is owner and head trainer at CrossFit Winnipeg. Send questions to her at www.crossfitwinnipeg.com.

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