January 12, 2016

If you’re feeling blue or low-energy this winter, talk to your doctor.

On average, Tennessee has six to eight clear, sunny days in January. The first month of the year brings some partly sunny days, too, but if you don’t happen to be outside during daylight hours — or if you’re too bundled up — you’ll miss your chance for some valuable vitamin D.

A deficiency of the sunshine vitamin can leave you feeling low-energy. You might be tempted to chalk it up to the winter blues, but a visit to the doctor might reveal there’s something more to your cold-weather doldrums.

Vitamin D deficiency prevalence

Almost half of adults in the United States are deficient in vitamin D, according to a study in Nutrition Research. Most at risk are seniors, children, people who are overweight and those with darker skin, the research notes.

Symptoms associated with vitamin D deficiency

Muscle weakness can be a sign you aren’t getting enough vitamin D. If you’re feeling unexpected fatigue during winter workouts, this might be the culprit. The same goes for joint, bone or muscle pain. Those deficient in vitamin D may experience osteomalacia, a softening of the bones. This pain can often be confused for arthritis or simply the aging process. Vitamin D also acts on the areas of the brain that affect mood, but research is still ongoing as to how. Although depression during the cooler months can be linked to SAD (seasonal affective disorder), it might have something to do with vitamin D intake as well.

Plenty of other health issues have connections to vitamin D deficiency. The Vitamin D Council website lists health issues with current vitamin D correlations and recent studies. Talk to your doctor to see if an increase in vitamin D can help you.

Ways to boost your vitamin D intake

One way to get vitamin D is to expose your skin to sunlight. This can be tricky in the middle of January. Getting a little sun on your face around noon, when possible, can help. (Yes, you can still wear sunscreen.) Consuming vitamin D-fortified foods (like milk, cereal or juice) or eating foods with naturally occurring vitamin D (like salmon or tuna) will up your intake, but according to the Vitamin D Council, it’s impossible to get enough from foods alone. Talk to your doctor about whether you should consider taking a supplement this time of year.

Want to get your daily dose of vitamin D, but worried about your skin health? Learn more from an expert about how to protect your skin this winter.