As days grow dimmer in the Sky Valley, taking the right vitamins can help your body cope with seasonal darkness.
Although recent studies have suggested that taking a standard multivitamin may not have very much of an impact on overall health, at least one vitamin is recommended for Pacific Northwesterners, according to Deb Nalty, a physician at Providence’s Monroe clinic.
“In the Northwest we recommend, from infancy on, that people supplement with 400 IU of Vitamin D daily for infants and children and 1000 IU for adults who can swallow supplements,” she said.
In most climates, humans can synthesize all the vitamin D they need from sunlight. However, in climates where sunlight is reduced in the winter months, or for people who avoid the sun to reduce risk of cancer or skin damage, dietary supplements can help.
Vitamin D is very important to overall health. A deficiency can result in low bone mineral density, and in extreme cases, to the bone disease rickets. There are some studies that suggest that Vitamin D may reduce the risk of heart disease, and low levels of vitamin D are associated with multiple sclerosis, a disease that is unusually prevalent in the Pacific Northwest.
Some cancers are associated with low vitamin D levels, as well. And the vitamin is important for health during pregnancy. It also is believed to help stave off influenza and tuberculosis.
Overdosing on vitamin D can be more harmful than not getting enough, though, so it’s important not to overdo it.
The most any child age 3 and under should take is 2,500 IU per day, and people aged 9 to 71 and older are advised to take less than 4,000 IU per day.
One of the best ways to get vitamin D into the body, as with any vitamin, is through healthy foods. Foods rich in vitamin D include fatty fish such as salmon, which has helped people native to arctic regions survive long periods of little sun, portabella and shiitake mushrooms and, to a lesser degree, whole eggs and beef liver.
If you have concerns about what vitamins and minerals your diet may lack, or questions about the potential benefits of taking certain supplements, discuss them with your doctor.