Book Review: The Vitamin D Cure by James E. Dowd, M.D. and Diane Stafford
Every winter I, and many people I know, start to feel depressed, tired, and fat. We crave comforting carb-laden foods like mashed potatoes with gravy and stop wanting to go outside in the cold, which just makes things worse.
What I always knew as SAD (seasonal affective disorder) is not necessarily a psychological disorder, according to Dr. James Dowd, but is in fact caused by a simple nutritional deficiency. Hence, The Vitamin D Cure. After all, my symptoms were much better when I lived in the Caribbean, even though we still changed the clocks in Turks and Caicos and it got dark at 5pm. At least the rest of the day it was warm and, most importantly, sunny.
In the cities we have less direct sunlight, fewer locally grown fresh foods, and generally we move less. According to Dowd, these factors contribute to a large-scale vitamin D deficiency, stating,
"An unbalanced diet, vitamin D deficiency, and the medical problems they cause affect more than two-thirds of the US population (about 200 million people)."
Despite the name, Vitamin D is actually an anti-inflammatory hormone that the body needs to function well. Obesity, lack of exercise, and lack of exposure to sunlight are the biggest culprits here (and wearing sunscreen negates the positive effects of sun exposure).
Almost every week I read a story in the news about vitamin D deficiency being linked to asthma, Crohn's Disease, MS, arthritis, and numerous other diseases. Dowd learned the hard way himself when he left his native Texas for dark and chilly Michigan. Soon after, he started experiencing joint inflammation and pain, sleep disturbances, weight gain, muscle cramps, and fatigue which were all a result of vitamin D deficiency from less sun, less exercise, and more processed foods.
Dowd offers some quizzes to help you figure out how much vitamin D you need and then sets out to help you get that amount via sun, supplements, a low-acid diet, and more exercise. Any doubts I may have had about this theory were eased when I flipped through the 36 pages of references backing him up.