Winter is dark. You go to work in the dark and come home in the dark. On December 21, the shortest day of the year, people in Miami can expect about 10 ½ hours daytime while people in Seattle will only have about 8 ½ hours.

Short days mean more than just coping with dark commutes. Without enough sunlight, your body can’t produce Vitamin D.

Your body needs sunlight to produce Vitamin D. Vitamin D is important for absorption of calcium and regulating the immune system. It keeps your brain healthy, helps you maintain your weight and helps reduce your risk of cancer and heart attacks.

Low levels of Vitamin D are linked with many health risks. Vitamin D deficiency can cause Rickets, a condition of soft, weak bones, but it also plays a role in heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Studies have even linked it with an increased likelihood of catching a cold.

Scientists disagree about the extent of the problem. Different studies estimate from 10 – 75% of US teens and adults to have a Vitamin D deficiency. But everyone agrees that Vitamin D levels are dropping.

Certain groups have a higher incidence of Vitamin D deficiency. Blacks and Hispanics have the lowest levels of Vitamin D. People with no college education, obesity, poor health, hypertension, low HDL cholesterol or who don’t consume milk daily also show deficiencies.

But everyone should be concerned. Because more and more people use sunscreens, stay indoors, or wear long sleeves, scientists and doctors worry that Vitamin D deficiency will continue to grow.

How to Increase your Vitamin D

Sunlight is the best way to increase your Vitamin D however it’s a tricky balance. Using just a SPF 15 sunscreen cuts the skin’s Vitamin D production by 99 percent. But of course, soaking in the sun without sunscreen may increase your risk of skin cancer.

There are several dietary sources for Vitamin D. Fatty fishes like salmon, tuna, and mackerel contain healthy amounts. Some fortified foods like milk, orange juice or cereal contain high Vitamin D levels. Cod liver oil is also high.

Supplements are another option. Vitamin D3 is the best supplement form to take for those who have deficiencies. Vitamin D requires other fat-soluble vitamins such as Vitamin A and K and certain trace minerals in order to be properly utilized by the body. Use a holistic view when you choose your supplement. Consult with your acupuncturist if you are unsure which is best for you.

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