Winter is already here and it has painted the environment white several times. It is cold, sometimes even wet, but most of all it is dark outside.
And this darkness can lead to some problems. Which problems that are and what you can do about them is the topic of this week’s Tutorial Thursday.
Caution: winter blues!
I am not talking about the newest hit single by Bob Dylan. And I don’t want to talk about certain types of music or genres. But many of you have felt the blues when it got dark and cold outside.
Why is that so?
Why do many people fall into a depression? A very important factor is vitamin D. And the majority of our vitamin D comes from sunlight. Our skin has the magnificent talent of transforming UV-B rays into vitamin D, isn’t that awesome? Strictly speaking, vitamin D is a hormone. A prohormone, to be precise.
So what’s happening in winter?
The sun’s missing! It simply doesn’t shine long enough. It does give a little dose of light now and then but it is just not enough. In addition to the limited office hours the sun has to offer in winter it also hangs in a suboptimal angle for our latitude – it is too far away and hangs too low.
That’s why we can’t produce enough vitamin D in winter.
But nature is pretty clever! Thus, it has given our bodies the possibility to store this hormone in fat tissue.
The only problem is that even people that made the most out of their summer and seriously stocked up on some sunshine won’t last all winter with their reserves.
So what’s the harm? Why do we even need vitamin D?
Vitamin D is involved in many metabolic processes. One of the most important is to regulate the transport of calcium to and from the bones. Thus, a vitamin D deficit can be in direct correlation to osteoporosis (bone atrophy). Many interesting studies have shown a strong divide between the northern and southern parts of Europe, with northern Europe having significantly higher numbers. This reinforces the assumption that sufficient sunlight, next to other factors, is very important for our bone health. Suffering from depression is also more likely in winter. Several studies have proven that a lack of sunlight can tarnish the mood. By the way, the commonness of depression is the highest in Scandinavian countries.
Additionally, according to new findings vitamin D is also involved in the energy balance of the cells. Amyosthenia, frequent infections, a weakened immune system, and skin diseases can be further indicators for a vitamin D deficit. Statistics say that more than 75% of Germans have a vitamin D deficit at the end of winter. You might be thinking: deficit? Me? No way! Just go ahead and let yourself be tested by your family physician or buy a little test kit from the internet. You will probably be surprised.
Maybe we often simply can’t assign the symptoms to the correct cause.
To prevent a vitamin D deficit you should stay outside for as long as possible. Since most of us spend their whole work day inside and during our free time it isn’t much different (it is sooo cold outside…) we can’t get enough sunlight. In summer you should at least sunbathe for 20 minutes (depending on latitude and your skin type) and show as much skin as socially acceptable. Yes, I am giving you permission to move your workouts to the park and do them naked… Not!
Nutrition plays a role as well, in winter even more so. Unfortunately, there aren’t many vitamin D rich foods. If you aren’t exactly into fish innards a supplementation is definitely reasonable. You should, however, pay attention to the quality and form. Our body can ingest organic, highly-dosed vitamin D most effectively.
You can quickly see how complex our metabolism is and that we are more of the sun worshipper type. There is a way to do without enough sun, though, if you know what you have to look out for. We don’t have to migrate to the south and spend the rest of our lives underneath palm trees on a beach. Well, now that I think about it…
Remember: get functional!