Nebraska Project WILD


The Dark Days January 8, 2015

Well here we are folks.  The beginning of January in Nebraska with consistent “feels like -15 degrees” and extremes as far as “feels like -36 degrees”.  Many schools here in the northeast were canceled yesterday due to cold, not snow or ice, but BECAUSE IT WAS TO COLD TO GO TO SCHOOL!

After the excitement and momentum of the holidays I make a concerted effort to embrace winter here in my homeland.  It can be kinda tricky being cooped up inside more during these dark days and I’m sure many of you can relate to the impending winter blues.  I’m already seeing family, friends and coworkers dropping like flies.  There are stories of 19th century settlers going mad during prairie winters.  I think there is a new movie,’The Homesman’, depicting such.

Friends, we still have a huge chunk of winter left.  Looks like we are gonna have to be proactive here if we are going to maintain our sanity on this barren winter landscape. If you have trouble keeping yourself and your family on more of a positive note this time of year, read on, if you are a little snow bunny all winter, stop reading and get out there. 🙂

Currently we are receiving only about eight hours of daylight a day compared to about 15 hours of daylight in July.   That’s a seven hour difference!  Lack of sunlight doesn’t just affect our tan it actually affects our health and mood. I’m talking about Vitamin D.

There are two main forms of Vitamin D, D2 and D3. Vitamin D2 can be found in some foods, mainly yeasts or mold, and is rarely found in nature.  Vitamin D2 is the type that many foods and baby formulas are fortified with.  Vitamin D3 on the other hand, is synthesized in our bodies. Ultraviolet B radiation from the sun activates a sterol, a type of steroid naturally occurring in plants and animals, in the dermis of our skin which is then converted to Vitamin D3.   It is then transport and metabolized in the liver and kidneys to produce the hormone calcitriol.

Vitamin D is the only vitamin that is also a hormone.  In its converted hormone state Vitamin D, working with other hormones, is responsible for the absorption of calcium in our blood, bones and gut and helps cells all over our bodies communicate properly. BUT THAT’S NOT ALL FOLKS.

Every tissue in our bodies has Vitamin D receptors, our brain, heart muscles, and immune systems.  There are 36 organ tissues in our bodies that respond biologically to Vitamin D.  Vitamin D also regulates 1000 types of genes in our bodies. That’s 5 percent of the human genome!

Doctors are continually working out how Vitamin D works in the body and how it affects our overall health but  studies link Vitamin D deficiency to a list of ailments.  Are you ready…rickets in children, cancer, asthma, type-II diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, Alzheimer’s, autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s,  type-I diabetes, fatigue, muscle pain or weakness, muscle cramps, joint pain, weight gain, high blood pressure, restless sleep, poor concentration, headaches, and bladder problems.

Now, to bring it all back to making it to the thaw.  Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a seasonal type of depression called, Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD which usually effects people during the months with less daylight.  There are studies to support that Vitamin D activates genes which regulate the enzyme that converts the amino acid tryptophan into serotonin.  Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for maintaining mood balance.   MOOD BALANCE PEOPLE!  In one study tryptophan was restricted in human subjects and their ‘long-term decision making shut down…they became impulsive, aggressive, unhappy and angry.’  In another experiment Vitamin D contributed to an increase in serotonin anywhere from double to 30 times as much.   Less daylight, less vitamin D, less serotonin.  Guh, no wonder we get cabin fever!

Even though we are still learning about the effects of Vitamin D in our bodies  the connection I’m trying to bring forth here is getting outside and under the sun will help us to embrace or just flat out make it through this Nebraska winter.  While there will be little skin exposed to the sun in this kind of weather the evidence that contact with not just sunlight but fresh air, open sky and room to run positively affects our physical and emotional health.

Stay tune this month for tips and ideas on getting out and making the best of our prairie winter.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s