At the beginning of January I was coming up with ideas for future Shareposts I wanted to write. One of them was going to be about how the cold weather and shorter days of winter make IBD symptoms worse. In preparation for writing this Sharepost I sent out emails to fellow IBDers asking them if this was the case for them. I also thought back to my past 10 winters of living with ulcerative colitis to see if this was the case for me. And I did some research of medical journals to see if anything has been written in the medical community linking winter and a worsening of IBD symptoms.
You know what I found out? There really doesn't seem to be any grand correlation between colder days or shorter days and a worsening of the symptoms of IBD.
But, what I did find out is this: The shorter and cloudier days of winter tend to make people feel a little grumpier, sadder, and less energetic. When I spoke about this to my own doctor he mentioned that these winter doldrums are most likely caused by a lack of vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is kind of like a happy vitamin, he explained. We make this particular vitamin when sunshine is absorbed by our naked skin - that is, skin without sunscreen. And it is becoming more and more apparent to doctors that humans are not getting enough vitamin D3 because of our obsessive use of sunscreen at all times, and it is being suggested that this could be affecting our mood as well as our overall health.
While I understand the risks of skin cancer, I also understand by own body and know that I will feel happier and better if I sit in the sunshine, without sunscreen, for 20 or 30 minutes each day. I have used this treatment when my gut is unhappy, when I have diarrhea or abdominal cramps. And honestly, after just sitting in the sunshine for 20 minutes my gut calms and I actually feel better.
In the spring and summer months when it's warm I sit in the sunshine on a daily basis. Not only does my vitamin D3 stay at a healthy, constant level when I get my dose of sunshine, but my gut feels happier, my mood is better, and I actually feel more energetic. In the fall and winter, though, when temperatures are a bit too chilly to sit outside in a short sleeved shirt I can actually feel myself getting more moody, my gut gets a little less regular, and my energy level plummets. And, if my doctor does a blood test, he'll actually see my vitamin D3 levels fall below the optimum levels I was able to keep up in the summer months. It's during this time of year that I add a good quality vitamin D3 supplement to my daily regime and my mood and gut tend to be happier.
You all know I'm not a doctor, and so I'm not going to get into what the right dose of Vitamin D3 is for you to take - it varies from person-to-person and season-to-season. So, if you choose to look into taking a vitamin D3 supplement I highly recommend that you do it under the supervision of a doctor who understands this nutrient and will follow you with appropriate periodic blood tests to monitor your vitamin D3 levels. As with any medication or supplement, the right amount is a good thing, but too much, or too little, can be problematic.
In my case, I now know from past experience that I'll have to supplement my vitamin D3 levels in the winter months, but not in the summer months. And when I am taking vitamin D3 I am sure to have my blood levels regularly checked as indicated my doctor.
The good news is, winter is almost over and the warmer temperatures and sunshine will beckon us all outside once again. But, in the meantime, you may want to talk about Vitamin D3 with your doctor.
Elizabeth Roberts is the author of Living with IBD & IBS: A Personal Journey of Success - www.ibdandibs.com.
Published On: January 27, 2010