When our eyes don’t take in enough sunlight, we can “experience a serious mood change… sleep too much… have little energy… crave sweets and starchy foods… [and] feel depressed,” according to the National Library of Medicine. Studies link those symptoms to low levels of brain chemicals like serotonin and melatonin. Not only do we need sunlight in our eyes to produce those neurotransmitters, we need sunlight on our skin to produce vitamin D.
We’ve long known that vitamin D is critical for building and maintaining strong bones. But a big surprise in recent years has been that vitamin D also plays a critical role in insulin regulation, making it important for the prevention of diabetes and heart disease. It’s also important for the regulation of your immune system, with studies linking low vitamin D levels to an increased risk of breast, prostate, and colon cancers, as well as to multiple sclerosis (an autoimmune condition).
It’s hard to get enough sunshine during the winter months. And in summer, many avoid exposure to direct sunlight because they’re concerned about skin cancer. In addition, drugs used to treat heartburn, acid indigestion, and ulcers can deplete the body’s stores of vitamin D.
What this means is that you have a good chance of being deficient in this critical vitamin.
It’s easy to restore the vitamin D your body needs. You can get it by spending a few minutes in the sun each day. You can also get it from food sources, especially eggs, fatty fish, and fish liver oils. And if you don’t like fish, there are supplements.
When taking supplements, avoid the old form of vitamin D (ergocalciferol). Vitamin D 3 (cholecalciferol) is the best form to use. Experts are now recommending that we get at least 1,000 IUs per day.