When my father recounts the winters of his youth in northern Saskatchewan he talks about three things – playing hockey on the pond, using an outhouse in -30 degree weather and choking back cod liver oil every morning. His winters as a farm boy were fun, productive and vigourous – and he had never even heard of vitamin D or hygge!
A tradition that goes back to the early days of the Vikings, taking cod liver oil during the winter months fortified our ancestors so that they could survive and thrive during long, cold winters. Of course, they did not know that they were engaging in vitamin D, A and omega 3 supplementation when they took the oil, but that is what they were doing.
Fast forward to the present day. We no longer keep ancient traditions, and despite our advanced technology and research studies that should make us the healthiest people ever, approximately 75% of us have a vitamin D deficiency. This means that many of us feel blue, fight endless colds and can’t wait for spring.
This is a big deal, because there are vitamin D receptors on nearly every cell in our body – which means that a deficiency in Vitamin D3 can lead to the following conditions: cancer, heart disease, diabetes mellitus 2, hypertension, obesity, cognitive impairment, parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, fractures and falls, influenza, age-related macular degeneration, poor immune function, depression – and that’s not even everything!
Okay, point made. We need to take vitamin D3, but especially in the winter when we do not get enough sun exposure..
What form of Vitamin D should we take?
Synthetic vitamin D3 is certainly a very good option. It is readily available and convenient to take. It is not, however, the same form that is naturally produced in our body when we are exposed to sunlight.
Natural vitamin D, which is produced when we are exposed to the sun, is bonded to sulfur and moves freely in our body, whereas synthetic vitamin D fat-soluble and concentrates only in certain tissues. This is why it is important to optimize our natural vitamin D levels during the warmer months.
The form of vitamin D that is present in cod liver oil is another option. Research in the 1930s suggested that there were at least four if not six forms of vitamin D in cod liver oil.
Recent research has shown that fish metabolize vitamin D into at least three other compounds and probably more.
Cod liver oil is probably the ideal form of vitamin D to take during the winter but it is not always tolerated by acne patients as the fatty acids in cod liver oil can be too difficult for their congested livers to break-down. When healing acne, it may be necessary to start supplementing with synthetic vitamin D3, and once the liver has been supported and detoxified cod liver oil may be tolerated.
How much vitamin D should we take?
The scientific community has yet to agree on vitamin D dosing, but it seems to suggest that 2000 IU of synthetic vitamin D3 daily is adequate to maintain levels. And traditionally, 1 tsp of cod liver oil delivers approximately 1300 IU of vitamin D.
But what if you are severely deficient? This is when blood testing for vitamin D levels is critical. Higher doses of vitamin D are required to boost your levels if you are severely deficient, but this should only be done with the guidance of a healthcare professional, because too much vitamin D can be damaging.
Will adequate levels of vitamin D make us more beautiful?
Yes, yes, yes. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with acne, premature aging, and falling hair. It is also associated with eczema, psoriasis and rosacea. It’s not really a surprise considering all the different systems affected by vitamin D.
Vitamin D will also improve your mood (smiles are probably our biggest beauty asset) and your immune system (red noses and sneezing are NOT beautiful).
Okay, at this point I am basically down on my knees, begging you to get your vitamin D levels checked so that you can have a beautiful, happy winter free of colds, flus, the winter blues and just feeling generally ‘blah’.
If you tend to have acne opt for synthetic vitamin D3 (I like Genestra D3 1000 Drops) until your body is re-balanced. If acne is not an issue, check out Rosita Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil to get you through the winter. Note: it is very important to source a clean, minimally processed cod liver oil! And, a trip down south is never a bad thing either.