If you lived in the northern latitudes of Europe during the industrial revolution, you’d have seen a common but unnerving sight: children with bowed legs and knock-knees, who looked almost “twisted”. That crooked appearance led to a label derived from an old English word for twist: rickets.
Back then, rickets was running rampant across parts of Europe, especially England and Scotland. Scientists were working on the problem—along the way they discovered solutions like cod liver oil—but it would take until the 1930’s before a deficiency of a newly discovered substance called Vitamin D would be clearly identified as the cause.
The Sunshine Vitamin
What scientists chasing a cure for rickets in the 1700’s and beyond didn’t realize was that the substance they were chasing, Vitamin D, was unique.
Cities in Europe during the industrial revolution had become large and heavily polluted. The combination of smog, and increasing amounts of time spent inside, had reduced people’s exposure to sunlight. And Vitamin D, we would eventually discover, is made from sunlight.
Unlike other vitamins, like vitamin C, which we get exclusively from our diet, vitamin D doesn’t occur in food in very high levels. We get the bulk of our vitamin D through exposure to sunlight—our bodies make it. It’s why you might have seen news articles touting the “return of rickets” because of our reduced sun exposure.
What Vitamin D Means for You
So why does vitamin D matter today? Vitamin D has many actions in the body. In fact there are receptors for it on every cell in your body. And while you’re not likely to suffer from rickets, low levels of Vitamin D are linked to a host of conditions ranging from psoriasis to thyroid conditions and osteoporosis.
For this darkening time of year, what might be most relevant is that researchers have linked low vitamin D with seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.
In our deficient patients at the clinic, an increased oral dose through the winter (or a trip to the sunny south) can make their symptoms a lot better. Vitamin D with the use of light therapy helps even more. You can read about our favourite light therapy tool in our January newsletter.
If you have concerns about SAD, or want to learn more about vitamin D testing and supplementation, you can contact the clinic at 705-444-5331.