Saturday, April 21, 2012

Milk: A Personal Story

If you knew me when I was little, you'd know that 1) I was the pickiest eater on the face of the earth and 2) I was always very sad.  Quick to cry, I was possibly the only little girl to see Phantom of the Opera and turn, hysterically crying to her mother after the show saying, "I'm the Phantom.  I know how he feels."

Heartbreaking, I know.  Admittedly, I still get that sadness from time to time, but it wasn't until I had a rather thorough blood panel done this year where we found the culprit.  All my other tests came up perfectly normal except my vitamin D.  In women my age, vitamin D levels should be between 30-50.  My level was 6.

I actually laughed out loud when my doctor told me.

How did my levels get so comically low?  Well, look at my diet.  I never eat dairy or cereal, rarely intake fish oil, and the tests were done during the winter so there was no sun to absorb ultraviolet rays.

"...high levels of vitamin [D] help the body maintain high levels of serotonin." (TLC) Serotonin is a monoamine neurotransmitter "thought to be a contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness." (Wikipedia)  Thus, being deficient in vitamin D prevented my body from maintaining serotonin levels, leading to a constant feeling of malaise.

It's moments like these that make me realize just how important diet really is to our lives.  The "nutrition" I was taught in school was basically, "Don't eat fatty foods or else you'll get fat and then you'll feel bad about yourself."  I had no idea how diet, or physical health, actually related to emotional health beyond flabbiness and acne making you hate yourself.

Our bodies are machines that need the right raw materials input in order to function the way we need.  As Johnny 5 would say, "Need input!"

For anyone living with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or with a severe vitamin D deficiency (though these two conditions are generally linked) you can buy a special light to sit under during the winter months so that your body can get the right amount of vitamin D.  Changing your diet and taking supplements is one way to increase your intake, but for some reason my body isn't a fan of the pills, so that wasn't really an option for me.  Our bodies also get 90% of our vitamin D from the sun.  Very few foods contain vitamin D naturally and the foods fortified with the vitamin generally don't have enough.  Milk, for example, does not naturally contain vitamin D, but it is fortified with it.  One glass of milk contains 10% of your daily recommended intake of the vitamin, so you just need to drink 10 glasses of milk a day.  Or you could sit in the sun for 15 minutes.

Source: TLC, Wikipedia
Picture: Ben Mills

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