During the dark gloomy winter both our mood and immunity often suffer and you may feel like hibernating rather than embracing life to the full. Lucinda Miller, Founder of NatureDoc tells us why the ‘Sunshine Vitamin’ is so important for alleviating the winter blues.
During the winter months we don’t get much exposure to sunshine in the UK, and sun is needed for us to synthesise an important vitamin called Vitamin D. This amazing vitamin helps build healthy bones, regulates our immunity, supports inflammatory conditions and is also critical for keeping us in a good mood and can help with learning and attention. Without enough vitamin D, children can develop Rickets (bendy bones) and adults can start to get brittle bones which can lead to osteoporosis. Coughs, colds and ear infections may take longer to get over if you have a shortfall in Vitamin D. Pain and autoimmune conditions can also be exacerbated if you are running low in your Vitamin D stores. Seasonal depression can sometimes be lifted when we have the right amount of vitamin D, and that’s why we usually feel better in the summer or after a winter break in the sun.
Vitamin D also has an important interaction with our gut microbiome and is now known to help create a healthier more diverse bacteria in the gut. This has a knock on effect on how efficiently we build our mood hormones (neurotransmitters) like serotonin for a positive cheery outlook and good sleep; GABA to keep us cool, calm and collected; Norepinephrine to help stress response; Dopamine for motivation; and Acetyl-Choline which gives us a good memory and helps us learn.
Some people find it easier to synthesise vitamin D from the sunshine than others. Skin colour is a factor and so is genetics. If you have darker skin and your family tends to be deficient in vitamin D, then you may need more than the average person; and this is where it is best to take professional advice.
You can get vitamin D from some of the foods you eat, and these include oily fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines as well as seafood like prawns. You can also find some in eggs and organic milk, as well as meat from grass fed animals. There is a little in shiitake mushrooms too. Many plant-based “milk” alternatives are enriched with vitamin D, but this is usually in the form of vitamin D2 which is much harder to absorb than the natural D3 from the sun or food.
Because it’s hard to get enough through diet, the UK government encourages everyone to boost up their vitamin D intake throughout the winter from October to March through supplementation. Luckily these are usually easy to take – simple sprays or drops with specific dosing variations for each age group.
So if you are feeling a little blue this time of the year and need a little boost, try adding some wonder foods to your diet and speak to your GP or a naturopath about Vitamin D supplements.
Why not try Lucinda’s Vitamin D boosting recipe? Aromatic Lemony Fish Pie
Lucinda Miller is the founder of NatureDoc which offers UK-wide clinics specialising in women’s and children’s nutrition.
She also runs an online health shop www.naturedoc.shop which stocks a large range of vitamin D supplements.
PHE publishes new advice on vitamin D https://www.gov.uk/government/news/phe-publishes-new-advice-on-vitamin-d
Vitamin D and Otitis Media https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11882-019-0866-2
Vitamin D and microbiota: Two sides of the same coin in the immunomodulatory aspects https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31877495
The Effect of Various Doses of Oral Vitamin D3 Supplementation on Gut Microbiota in Healthy Adults: A Randomized, Double-blinded, Dose-response Study https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31892611
Vitamin D is a potential antidepressant in psychiatric outpatients https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30336806
Low vitamin D is associated with negative and depressive symptoms in psychotic disorders. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27595553