Why is it harder to get vitamin D in the winter?

As the winter months draw near, and daylight wanes, maintaining optimal vitamin D levels becomes an increasing challenge. This crucial nutrient plays a pivotal role in supporting the immune system, bone health, and overall well-being. Our AFC Urgent Care NC team is here to help you get adequate vitamin D during winter and aid with the impact of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in your life.

How to increase your vitamin D intake

  • Embrace Natural Sunlight: Despite colder temperatures, allocate at least 15-30 minutes daily for outdoor exposure. Natural sunlight remains the primary source of vitamin D synthesis. Take a hike in the North Carolina Mountains or go skiing and snowboarding down the slopes as close as 2 to 3 hours from Charlotte.
  • Choose Vitamin D-Rich Foods: Infuse your winter diet with fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna), dairy products, eggs, and mushrooms for a natural vitamin D boost.
  • Consider Vitamin D Supplements: Seek guidance from healthcare professionals to determine the necessity of vitamin D supplements, especially beneficial for those with limited sun exposure or specific dietary restrictions.
  • Indoor Exercise: Engage in indoor activities to stay active and expose yourself to natural light, facilitating vitamin D synthesis. Whether it’s joining a gym, experimenting with home workouts, or participating in indoor sports, find what works for you. Discover the buzz around pickleball, a steadily growing indoor sport in Charlotte. Bring your paddles and friends for a laid-back outing at places like Rally, an indoor/outdoor pickleball venue in LoSo that also offers a relaxed bar, restaurant, and café atmosphere.
  • Check Your Vitamin D Levels: Schedule a visit to your local AFC Urgent Care for a comprehensive vitamin D level check. Regular monitoring ensures you stay on course toward achieving your vitamin D goals.

Daily Vitamin D Recommendations by Age

The required vitamin D amount varies across age groups. Here are the average daily recommendations in micrograms (mcg) and International Units (IU):

Age Recommended Amount
Birth to 12 months 10 mcg (400 IU)
Children 1–13 years 15 mcg (600 IU)
Teens 14–18 years 15 mcg (600 IU)
Adults 19–70 years 15 mcg (600 IU)
Adults 71 years and older 20 mcg (800 IU)
Pregnant and breastfeeding teens and women 15 mcg (600 IU)

Why am I feeling sad during the winter months?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that can affect individuals during the fall and winter months due to reduced exposure to natural sunlight and vitamin D. Recognizing the symptoms of SAD is crucial for your well-being.

Understanding Your Feelings

SAD is characterized by symptoms significantly impacting daily life, including:

  • Low energy and fatigue
  • Changes in appetite
  • Feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Changes in sleep patterns

If you are experiencing these emotions during darker months, acknowledge and address them. Don’t dismiss these feelings as a normal part of the winter season; SAD is a very real condition that can significantly impact your well-being.

The Impact of Sunlight

Reduced sunlight during the fall and winter months plays a key role in triggering SAD symptoms by disrupting your circadian rhythm. This internal clock regulates various functions, including sleep, mood, and appetite. When sunlight exposure decreases, imbalances in melatonin and serotonin occur.

Melatonin promotes sleep, and reduced sunlight can lead to increased daytime production, causing excessive sleepiness. Serotonin regulates mood, and decreased sunlight can result in lower levels, contributing to sadness, irritability, and anxiety.

Understanding sunlight’s impact on your internal clock and hormone regulation is crucial for managing SAD. By increasing exposure to natural light and considering light therapy, you can regulate your body’s rhythms and alleviate SAD symptoms.

Light Therapy

Light therapy, or phototherapy, involves exposure to bright artificial light and is a safe and effective SAD treatment. Used in conjunction with lifestyle changes and self-care, light therapy boxes mimic natural sunlight and are typically used for 20-30 minutes upon waking.

Personalized Self-Care

Incorporate self-care into your routine to manage SAD symptoms:

  • Spend time outdoors during daylight hours.
  • Engage in enjoyable activities.
  • Maintain a balanced diet.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Prioritize sleep.
  • Foster social connections.

Understanding how SAD affects you empowers proactive mental health management. Well-being is a priority, and seeking support is a sign of strength. By combining efforts to boost vitamin D levels and addressing SAD, overall well-being can be ensured. Consult healthcare professionals before significant lifestyle changes or starting new supplements. The dedicated teams at AFC Urgent Care North Carolina locations are ready to support your journey to optimal health.