De Pere Wisconsin’s Vitamin D Problem: How To Get Enough Vitamin D In The Winter

De Pere Wisconsin's Vitamin D Problem: How to get enough Vitamin D in the winter

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As those picturesque rays of fall sunlight peak through the technicolor trees, it’s hard to imagine a more beautiful season in Wisconsin. But if you’re like most Wisconsinites, the turn of the leaves and a new chill in the air might leave one nagging little notion in the back of your mind - winter is coming.

In Wisconsin, we know that sunlight is a precious resource in the winter, and with our 40+ hour workweeks, school schedules, extracurriculars, and other hobbies and obligations, it can be hard to soak up enough sun during the colder, darker months of the year. Unfortunately for us northerners, we get most of our intake of Vitamin D, an essential nutrient key in supporting healthy bones in De Pere WI (among other benefits), from exposure to sunlight.

Vitamin D deficiency in De Pere Wisconsin

Because of the long months of less sunlight, Wisconsin residents have a uniquely midwestern problem - we can’t get enough Vitamin D! In fact, it’s so hard for us to get enough sunlight in the winter months that Vitamin D deficiency is actually endemic in Wisconsin.

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D, despite its name, is actually a hormone! When exposed to UVB rays from the sun, our skin goes through a conversion process, changing cholesterol in the skin into D3. Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for our bodies because it promotes the growth of healthy bones and teeth.

Vitamin D also plays a major role in our immune health, and research suggests that there is a link between long-term Vitamin D deficiency and autoimmune disorders like arthritis, lupus, and multiple sclerosis. Wisconsin has one of the highest amounts of MS patients in the country, with three times the normal rate than the rest of the Midwest, and many researchers believe an underlying culprit could be a lack of adequate Vitamin D. Lastly, low Vitamin D levels have also been linked to depression, so getting enough D is important for both our physical and mental health.

How do I get enough Vitamin D from the sun?

Realistically, unless you’re planning on moving down to Florida for the winter, you are likely not going to be able to get enough sun during a Wisconsin winter for your body to produce 100% of your Vitamin D needs. 15-30 minutes of the daily midday sun is needed to produce an optimal level of Vitamin D, and that time commitment goes up the darker your skin is, with the darkest complexions requiring 2+ hours for maximum absorption.

And it’s not just about the time spent in the sun - to reach your daily Vitamin D needs, you’ll also need to expose at least a third of your skin during your daily sunlight break. We may be pretty tough up here on the frozen tundra, but spending 30 minutes a day lounging in a bathing suit in mid-January doesn’t sound like the most fun.

Lastly, we can’t forget to balance the desire for D with our skin health. Most traditional sunscreens contain chemicals that reduce our skin’s ability to produce Vitamin D, with some studies estimating that SPF 30 or higher reduces Vitamin D production by 98%.

So now imagine you’re not only spending 30 minutes every afternoon in your beach chair, in the snow, in your bathing suit, in mid-January - you’re also getting a sunburn.

So how do I get enough Vitamin D in the winter?

Though there are some food that contains natural levels of Vitamin D, its natural presence in food is relatively rare. And even though we’ve taken to fortifying many types of food with Vitamin D (milk and cereals, for example), it’s hard to eat enough Vitamin D-rich food each day to get your body’s necessary amount.

Some foods that are natural sources of Vitamin D are salmon, tuna, beef liver, and mushrooms. But unless you’re planning on eating a steady diet of beef liver and tuna salad sandwiches for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you still won’t be getting enough Vitamin D.

Next to sunlight exposure, Vitamin D supplements are the best way to make sure your body is producing enough of this essential nutrient. A good Vitamin D supplement taken daily can keep your Vitamin D levels healthy all winter long.

Choosing the right Vitamin D supplement

Before choosing a Vitamin D supplement, research which dosage to take or consult with your doctor. Vitamin D is measured in micrograms (mcg) or international units (IU), and the recommended dosage for people ages 1 to 70 years old is 600 IU (15mcg).

Dosage recommendations do vary by age. Check out the list below for the recommended dosages:

Infants 0-12 months
400 IU (10 mcg)

People up to 70 years
600 IU (15 mcg)

People over 70 years
800 IU (20 mcg)

If you’re browsing the supplements section at the pharmacy, you may notice Vitamin D bottles with dosages far exceeding the ones listed above. That’s because optimal Vitamin D intake varies widely based on age, skin color, season, and latitude. So an adequate amount of Vitamin D for someone deep in a Wisconsin winter would be higher than someone getting their tan on near the equator. During the winter months, you may want to consider upping your dose of Vitamin D to make up for the lost hours of sunlight. The upper limit for recommended Vitamin D intake is 4,000 IU per day, and you should consult with a medical professional if you think you need to go beyond that dose.

Though rare, Vitamin D consumption in excess can lead to high blood calcium levels, which causes bones to calcify and hardens the blood vessels, kidneys, lungs, and heart tissues. This serious reaction to an overdose of Vitamin D is unlikely to occur with dosages under 10,000 IU a day, but it’s still important to speak to a medical professional before going higher than the average recommended dosage.

Should I get tested for Vitamin D deficiency?

It’s no stretch to say that if you live in Wisconsin, your Vitamin D levels are likely on the lower side. Even those who don’t qualify as “deficient” can still feel the effects of low Vitamin D, like fatigue, poor sleep, bone pain, depression, hair loss, and pale skin. These symptoms can also become much more prominent in the wintertime.

It’s safe to begin taking Vitamin D supplements without having your levels tested; however, if you’re taking Vitamin D supplements regularly and still noticing symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency, then it’s a good idea to talk to your primary care doctor about getting tested. After you get your test results back, your doctor will be able to recommend a suitable supplement dosage.

Don’t let winter stop you from soaking up the sun!

While Vitamin D supplements are a great way to boost your Vitamin D levels, especially in the winter, don’t forget to still get outdoors! Wisconsin winters can be brutal, but they can also be beautiful. Our state has tons of great opportunities for getting outdoors and feeling the sun on your face, even during the coldest months.

If you live around the De Pere and Green Bay area, there are tons of outdoor winter activities to enjoy. From sledding hills to snowshoeing trails to ice skating and tubing right in the city at Titletown, there is so much winter fun to be had right in our own backyard.

Visit us at Integrity Health & Wellness

If you’re gearing up for another northeast Wisconsin winter and looking for additional ways to keep your immune system healthy, visit us at Integrity Health & Wellness and learn how regular visits with a chiropractor can help support a healthy immune system.

9:00am - 12:00pm
3:00pm - 6:00pm

9:00am - 12:00pm
3:00pm - 6:00pm

9:00am - 12:00pm
3:00pm - 6:00pm

9:00am - 12:00pm
3:00pm - 6:00pm

9:00am - 12:00pm

By Appointment Only


Integrity Health And Wellness

1680 Mid Valley Dr Ste C
De Pere, WI 54115

(920) 658-5040