Spring makes us feel good inside and there’s a good reason why. Vitamin D deficiency is a real issue for our hormones and it makes us feel awful.
For us down under, we’ve finally said goodbye to winter and hello to spring. I can feel my insides starting to glow! I get to escape winter thanks to loads of travel but I make no secret of the fact that I loathe the cold and some days, I feel like I never left.
That cold in your core, withdrawn feeling many of us get to experience winter is absolutely real, and in places like Australia, it’s often due to vitamin D deficiency or low vitamin D throughout winter. Even in our typically warm and sunny climate, when it gets cool, we layer up.
But even in summer we can be low on vitamin D due to the overzealous implementation of that 80s and 90s cancer prevention campaign, ‘Slip, Slop Slap’.
Aussie women can be hit hard by low D levels, but misconceptions about what it is, how we use it, and how to get it, are preventing us from fully supporting our health.
Maybe you’ve heard:
1. Vitamin D isn’t a vitamin
Strictly speaking, vitamin D isn’t actually a vitamin!
Because humans typically get most of our vitamin D from UVB sunlight exposure (more on that below), it’s more correctly classified as a hormone.
2. Vitamin D is mainly important for your bones
While vitamin/hormone D is important for adequate calcium absorption and bone density, it’s not the only thing it does in the body.
There are a few functions that particularly relate to women’s health and hormones.
Vitamin D plays a role in regulating our mood… I’m sure you’ve all felt this after a long run of overcast or darker days, then finally getting a chance to soak in some sun. There’s a growing trend in research that is looking at the links between vitamin D levels and mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.
While all of us can experience down days at any point of the year, or noticeably in winter, us ladies can notice times in our cycle when we’re more prone to struggling with mental health. So many of my patients experience stress and mental health symptoms impacting their cycles, I’m sure you can all relate.
Your vitamin D levels, or more specifically – time in the sun during those times of your cycle – might be a factor to consider in your self-care and wellness routine.
Vitamin D is also essential for our hormonal health in a more direct way.
It’s needed for creating our reproductive system hormones, and even in ovary function while developing the follicle into an egg.
Low vitamin D levels are also associated with a reduction in the body’s ability to remove excess hormones from the bloodstream, an important function for preventing a range of unwanted reproductive system symptoms.
3. You can only get Vitamin D from the sun
While it’s true the simplest and most effective way of assimilating vitamin D is from sun exposure, we can also get vitamin D in other ways.
You’ll find some vitamin D in food (though it would be hard to get enough for optimal functioning from food alone). Foods like fatty fish, liver and full-fat dairy (providing you tolerate it) have the most bioavailable sources of vitamin D.
Supplementation is also an option to make sure you’re getting enough. But it can be tricky to ensure you’re getting a good supplement and the right one for your body. I recommend working with a health practitioner to assess your symptoms, possibly arrange blood tests and create the right treatment plan for your body.
Now we are coming into the warmer, sunnier part of the year it will be possible for all of us to get some more D through sun exposure.
As an Australian, you’ll be well aware of the risks of over-exposure to the sun, but we do need to be mindful of not getting enough sun. About 30% of Australians are thought to be vitamin D deficient, which is a huge number.
There are safe times and ways to get safe sun exposure – the Bureau of Meteorology provides daily ratings on the level of UV exposure as part of their forecasts which may be worth a look through summer.
Much like other parts of health, daily mindfulness around your needs and safety is the best approach.
My best recommendation is 10 minutes of unprotected sun exposure, every second day. Allow it to go to work by avoiding a shower for at least 6 hours after exposure too, for maximum benefits.
LET’S CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION
Tell me in the comments or on social media about your relationship with sun exposure, Vitamin D and its effect on your health. I love reading them!