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Low levels of Vitamin D can increase your risk of seasonal affective disorder.

Low levels of Vitamin D can increase your risk of seasonal affective disorder.

From asthma to cancer, this little vitamin can make a big difference in your health.

Vitamin D is often known as the "sunshine vitamin," because our body produces it when our skin is exposed to UV light. Unfortunately, many Midwesterners head indoors once the temperature drops, which greatly decreases their daily dose of vitamin D.

If you are one of the many who seldom see light during the winter months, you may want to talk to consider taking a vitamin D supplement or altering your diet to eat foods rich in vitamin D. Why? Because researchers are learning just how important this vitamin is for the body to function at its best.

Studies have linked a vitamin D deficiency to an increased risk of:
•    asthma
•    cancer
•    heart disease
•    migraines
•    chronic pain

A new study by the University of Georgia linked low vitamin D levels with greater risk of SAD, or seasonal affective disorder (a type of depression affecting up to 10% of the US population though the fall and winter months).

The onset of SAD commonly occurs in early adulthood, and 3 out of 4 individuals with it are women.  Light therapy, antidepressants or a combination of both have been used to treat SAD.  

If you suspect you are not getting enough vitamin D, it is worth discussing with your provider. Or make a point of bundling up and getting outside each day, even if it's just for a short while.

Types of Vitamin D
There are two types of vitamin D, which are D2 and D3. D3, also known as cholecalciferol, is most like what your body makes when exposed to sunlight. It can be found in supplements, fortified foods and animal-based foods, including fish, eggs and liver.
Vitamin D's recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is:
•    600 IU/day for ages 1 to 70
•    800 IU/day for over 70 years of age
•    600 IU/day for pregnant and lactating women

Vitamin D is also found in many multivitamin. However, if you have concerns about a D deficiency, symptoms of SAD or you are considering making a change to your vitamin intake, talk to your provider about the most appropriate course of action for your individual needs.