Many people have heard of SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder – which refers to the low mood often experienced in winter. Short days, lack of sunlight, and a temptation to eat more 'comfort' food can all contribute to feeling low. But is it actually making us ill? And is taking a Vitamin D supplement the answer? We take a look.
Why do people get more ill in winter?
Do you feel like you're constantly ill over the winter? Coughs, colds, and even the flu make the rounds every year and it can really get you down if it feels like it's constant. But why do we get more ill in winter? There are several factors that cause it but there are also easy ways to combat it.
Drinking less water
If you're someone who regularly drinks plenty of water, it can be hard to believe that some people never drink plain water and exist solely on soft drinks, juices, teas, coffees, or just the water their body gets from food.
In summer, the heat causes people to drink more water because it makes them sweat and makes them feel thirsty. However, in winter it can be easy to 'forget' to drink enough water due to not sweating and feeling cold. Your body needs water to stay healthy and as such, a reduced water intake in the winter could be the reason you are always falling ill and catching colds.
Eating more junk food
It's no secret that the majority of us eat a lot more junk food in winter. Comfort food as it's often called helps us feel warm and comfortable in the dark evenings and something like a salad can be very unappealing in winter. However, surviving solely on junk food can mean reduced intake of vital nutrients and as such your immune system will suffer and you'll fall ill more easily.
Lack of sunlight
Vitamin D is an important vitamin that helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body and a Vitamin D deficiency can lead to weak bones and even deformities. In the summer months, we get all the Vitamin D we need from sunlight as our body is able to create this vitamin when we have sunlight on our skin. However, in winter it is pretty much impossible to get your daily intake of Vitamin D. You can supplement your intake with certain foods such as oily fish, red meat, and eggs, however it can be a good idea to take a Vitamin D supplement.
Why you should be taking a Vitamin D supplement
During the autumn and winter, you need to get Vitamin D from your diet because the sun isn't strong enough for the body to make Vitamin D. But since it's difficult for people to get enough Vitamin D from food alone, everyone (including pregnant and breastfeeding women) should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10mcg of Vitamin D during the autumn and winter.
Between late March/early April to the end of September, most people can get all the Vitamin D they need through sunlight on their skin and from a balanced diet. You may choose not to take a Vitamin D supplement during these months, however if you do take one you may well find that you get ill less frequently (if at all) and that your mood is greatly improved.