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How to Get Vitamin D in Winter

On this, the darkest day of the year, I thought it would be fitting to share the best ways to get the sunshine vitamin – vitamin D - in winter when there’s not much sun to be had. Even as I sit mid-day in Southern California, the sun is low and weak, not a great generator for vitamin D in winter.  So in order to stay healthy through cold and flu season my family and I make sure to supplement with non-solar sources.

Until recently, vitamin D has been an under-appreciated nutrient, but in the last several years, research as well as empirical evidence has been showing that vitamin D is essential for immune health, hormone function, healthy bones and teeth, and even cancer prevention.  And while it is believed that the human body synthesizes vitamin D best through regular sun exposure, even with your best efforts it is difficult to get enough D-generating sunshine during the winter months in most parts of the Northern Hemisphere.

You can read more about vitamin D, it’s health benefits, and sunshine here. Aside from moving to the tropics, here’s…

5 ways to get your daily dose of vitamin D in winter…


Fermented Cod Liver Oil (FCLO)

Unlike regular fish oil, cod liver oil is naturally rich in vitamin D, and when you choose fermented cod liver oil you get the benefit of a cultured food which makes its nutrients much more bio-available (easier for your body to absorb and use). Consequently, the daily dosage is much lower than if you were supplementing with synthetic vitamin D.

According to the Weston Price Foundation:
The high-vitamin fermented cod liver oil is sold as a food so does not contain vitamin levels on the label. However, after numerous tests, the approximate values of A and D have been ascertained at 1900 IU vitamin A per mL and 390 IU vitamin D per ml. Thus 1 teaspoon of high-vitamin fermented cod liver oil contains 9500 IU vitamin A and 1950 IU vitamin D, a ratio of about 5:1.

The WAPF recommend the following dosages per day:
Adults –  1 teaspoon
Children -  1/2 teaspoon
Pregnant and nursing moms – 2 teaspoons

Note: Most commercial cod liver oil (including well-respected brands like Nordic Naturals and Carlson) have been over-processed and have synthetic vitamins D and A added in the improper proportions. In light of this, my family takes Green Pasture Fermented Cod Liver Oil. Unfortunately, this supplement is not currently available in health food stores, but you can buy it online and find it on my resource guide.

Lard from healthy foraging pigs

This may come as a surprise: After cod liver oil, lard is the second best source of vitamin D.  The key is getting lard from pigs that haven’t been factory raised, have spent time outdoors in sunshine, and have eaten a healthy diet. Good quality bacon and bacon grease is a great gateway into the wonderful world of lard. And when you’re ready to branch out, try this ahhh-maz-ing recipe for Carnitas.

Oysters

6 oysters contain an estimated 270IU of vitamin D, but keep in mind that your body is able to utilize nutrients from food with far more ease than from supplements. And oysters are oh-so-good!

Fish Roe

You know those tiny orange things you get with sushi that have a salty flavor that bursts in your mouth?  Packed with D. One recent study showed a single tablespoon of roe to contain 17,000IU of vitamin D!

Vitamin D3 Supplement

While it is optimal for you and your family to get vitamin D through food based sources, in particular fermented cod liver oil, there are instances when my patients or I use a vitamin D3 supplement – such as a rare sensitivity to FCLO, a super picky child who can’t swallow capsules, or in the case of an oncoming cold or flu.

The Vitamin D Council and other experts recommend an average of 35IU per pound of body weight per day for those with normal levels and states of health. In the case that one is getting a cold or flu, it is suggested to take a super-high dosage for no more than 3 days.  This dose is 900IU per pound.  Remember, it is recommended to take this for a short period only.

*Be sure to check with your health practitioner before trying this or any other new health regimen. Choose a vitamin D3 that delivers 2000IU per drop for adults or 400IU per drop for infants and small children.

You can find vitamin D here. You can read more about adequate levels of vitamin D and supplementation here.

How NOT to Get Vitamin D?

  • Multi-vitamins – Most aren’t bio-available or even the right type of vitamin D, and none have adequate vitamin D.
  • Breakfast cereal – There are many reasons to skip the cereal, but when it comes to vitamin D, for the same reasons as multi-vitamins it’s a waste of time, money, and a dirty bowl.
  • Fortified milk (or orange juice)- The milk and juice industries have most Americans tricked into thinking their drinks have them covered.  They don’t.  See the same reasons above.
  • Cod liver oil that does not have vitamins A and D in the correct proportion – Spend the extra effort on sourcing fermented cod liver oil.
  • Tanning Beds - I have some conflicting opinions about this one, because I think that individuals with poor gut absorption or Seasonal Affective Disorder can benefit from making vitamin D in the winter months with tanning beds that have UVB rays. At the moment, however, I must suggest that you use caution: nature did not intend for humans to sit in an electrically charged box. I think the risks of x-ray and EMF (electro-magnetic fields) in tanning beds outweigh the benefits.

Wishing you a warm, bright, and healthy winter!

image credit: sapienssolutions

 

Disclaimer

PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. These small earnings make it possible for me to continue writing this blog for you. That said, I will never endorse any product or service that I cannot fully support.

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Comments

  1. Great tips! We take fermented cod liver oil/butter oil blend and also blend a little roe into our smoothies 4+ times a week. We use lard too. I wonder if grass fed tallow contains Vitamin D?

  2. Peggy says:

    For people who are wary of roe, I can heartily recommend salmon roe. It tastes just like salmon! YUM! We take fermented CLO and I encapsulate butter oil that I make at home from cows eating May through August grass. It’s a double whammy of bioavailability!

    The doctor was appalled when he measured my mother’s vitamin D level and found her critically low after a bout of breast cancer. Good thing I told her to get it checked! I only wish i’d known sooner.

  3. Great suggestions. I STILL have not had much luck finding pastured lard in my area. It always sounds so good to me, my body must be telling me something….

  4. [...] How to Get Vitamin D in Winter By Holistic Kid [...]

  5. [...] How to Get Vitamin D in Winter By Holistic Kid [...]

  6. [...] in kids and fortifies their immune systems.  The average person needs about 10-15 minutes of direct sun exposure daily to meet this [...]

  7. [...] essential to maintain immune function and as the days get shorter there’s less opportunity to get D from sunlight.  5,000 IU for adults, 2000-250IU for children, and 1000IU for [...]

  8. [...] Vitamin D may be able to help protect against the flu. One recent study showed that lower levels of Vitamin D during the winter months are one reason the flu virus is easily transmitted during “flu [...]

  9. [...] the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D, when there’s not much sun to be had during winter? Swing by the Holistic Kid to find out [...]

  10. [...] it is winter and we’re all needing Vitamin D these days, Emily’s post on How to Get Vitamin D in the Winter is a great read! I have a huge freezer full of 3 pigs’ worth of meat. These are from pigs [...]

  11. [...] For the Vitamin D, be sure your child gets at least 20 minutes of sunshine per day when it is warm enough to play outside with skin exposed. The top food sources of vitamin D include lard from pastured pork, oysters, and fish roe. A small spoonful of fish eggs can be added to food for a salty hidden punch of vitamin D. You can read more about Vitamin D here. [...]

  12. [...] This said, for those who must avoid the sun or those who live in cold, dark climes, vitamin D supplementation is still a must. You can read more about how to get vitamin D in the winter here. [...]

  13. [...] to maintain immune function and as the days get shorter there’s less opportunity to get D from sunlight.  5,000 IU for adults, 2000-250IU for children, and 1000IU for [...]

  14. [...] Vitamin D may be able to help protect against the flu. One recent study showed that lower levels of Vitamin D during the winter months are one reason the flu virus is easily transmitted during “flu [...]

  15. [...] and I know (from blood work results) that I become vitamin D deficient. .  Here are some ways to help get Vitamin D in winter.  Personally, I keep my levels up with D3 supplements, cod liver oil and a UVB light box from [...]

  16. [...] Read more about how to get Vitamin D in winter here. [...]

  17. VK says:

    I have always wondered if you can get any vitamin D from sunlight if you are indoors next to a window. I figure that you could, since plants in greenhouses get adequate sunlight for photosynthesis that way. Just a thought.

    • Emily says:

      Hi VK – no, unfortuntely glass blocks ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation which is the type that stimulates vitamin D synthesis by the skin.

    • Diane says:

      I am diabetic and my doctor regularly tests my “D” level. It is usually 1 but it has been as high as 7. The levels are supposed to be between 40-90 +/- I wondered about that too because I am drive a lot. Apparently shade blocks the necessary rays for Vita D.

  18. [...] previously mentioned most dietary sources do not have sufficient Vitamin D (read here for the exceptions including cod liver oil and lard).  Here’s how to get your vitamin [...]

  19. [...] #6 – Get enough vitamin D – The best way to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D is to have your blood levels tested. The most effective way to get this essential, fat-soluble vitamin is with regular sun exposure. If 20 minutes per day on most of your skin without sunscreen is not a option, read more about getting vitamin D here. [...]

  20. […] and I know (from blood work results) that I become vitamin D deficient. .  Here are some ways to help get Vitamin D in winter.  Personally, I keep my levels up with D3 supplements, cod liver oil and a UVB light box from […]

  21. MaidMirawyn says:

    I’ve been looking into vitamin D for a while, and it never occurred to me until this week that my mom and grandmother are almost certainly deficient. Both have compromised health; my grandmother can’t leave her room, except for special occasions. (And those take half the day to get her moving, and leave her very tired.) My mom does get out some, but not very much.

    Thanks for this; my mom has agreed to take D3 drops, and sneak them into my grandma’s drink. (She can be very difficult about medications . . . ) Hoping to get them a little stronger before flu season hits in earnest!

  22. […] The best way to get vitamin D is through daily sun exposure, and you can read about how to get vitamin D in winter here. […]

  23. […] You can read more about how to get vitamin D in winter and proper dosages here. […]

  24. […] Radiological health expert Daniel Hayes, Ph.D. advises that Vitamin D can be used as a preventative measure to protect yourself from radiation exposure in the long-term (source). This nutrient is essential for many functions in the body, especially immune system health. The most effective way to get Vitamin D is from direct exposure to the sun, though there are some dietary sources and supplement options as well. You can read more about how to get enough Vitamin D in this post. […]

  25. […] In my family we try to get plenty of sunshine, so that our bodies can naturally produce vitamin D, but even in our climate in the winter it can be hard to get enough. For most people in the Northern Hemisphere, a supplement is the best way to build up your immunity, and there are many delicious food sources for getting enough vitamin D as well. Read more about raising your vitamin D levels in this post. […]

  26. Tamika Anderson says:

    I just went to a naturopath Monday, she said I need to supplement vitamin d. We drew blood to see just how low I am. I hate supplementing, and I kind of wish I understood which vitamins are created decently. I dont want gmos, junk and all that nonsense. How do you pick a decent vitamin?

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