It’s officially autumn. Tree leaves are starting to change colour, days are becoming shorter and cooler. It won’t be long before it starts raining, in some European countries for days on end. I lived in Brussels for a long time, and I remember literally begging for the sun to come out. The sun doesn’t just have a positive effect on my mood; it’s also how our bodies produce Vitamin D.
We all know about Vitamin C and its immune system boosting power, but Vitamin D has thankfully been getting a lot of publicity lately too, and for a good cause: our bodies need vitamin D in order to absorb calcium and have strong and healthy bones. Recent research has also linked Vitamin D deficiency to a range of other serious conditions such as depression, colon cancer, cardiovascular disease and hypothyroidism.
Unfortunately, many people are not getting enough of this vitamin. A 2016 study showed that as much as 40% of Europeans are vitamin D deficient. That’s 4 out of 10 people reading this blog post.
I come from Cyprus, a southern country with 326 days of sunshine a year. You wouldn’t expect Cypriots to be vitamin D deficient, right? And yet lately I’ve heard of many Cypriots whose levels were extremely low, even during the summer months.
You actually need direct exposure to the sun (without sunscreen!) for a substantial amount of time in order to give your body the chance to make vitamin D. And who sits under the burning sun when it’s 40 degrees Celsius outside? Not to mention the skin cancer risk you would be taking. So, even if you live in a sunny southern country (lucky you!), you should still get your vitamin D levels checked and yes, you will probably need to take supplements. Simply ask your doctor to check for vitamin D next time you have a blood test. He/she might look surprised, but the test is pretty straightforward and so is supplementation.
If you’re wondering how you can get Vitamin D from food, here is a list of sources for you. You would, however, need to eat a lot of them every day to get enough Vitamin D (which is why sun exposure and supplementation are so important):
- Cod liver oil
- Sardines and herring
- Beef liver
The best way to maintain healthy levels of Vitamin D is to spend time outdoors, especially on sunny days. For those of you with office jobs and window offices, I have some bad news: Being in the sun but behind a window unfortunately doesn’t count, as windows block UVB rays.
This means that you will need to take some time and go out during your lunch break. Use your time outside to intentionally catch some rays of sun. Go to the sunny side of the street. Turn your face to the sun, expose your hands and arms if it’s not too cold. Go for walks regularly if your job allows you to. You will be doing your body a favor, while clearing your thoughts at the same time.
What else does autumn bring for you?
Vitamin D deficiency in Europe: pandemic, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5527850/
Vitamin D – Why You are Probably NOT Getting Enough: https://drhyman.com/blog/2010/08/24/vitamin-d-why-you-are-probably-not-getting-enough/
Vitamin D Deficiency and Its Association with Thyroid Disease: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3921055/
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