No, This Isn't the Best Way to Stay Healthy This Fall

You've probably seen lots of articles claiming to have the best ways to stay healthy for the fall.

And many of them include a prime example of uninformed and potentially deadly "health advice."

"Start taking vitamin D."

Look, I'm not against taking vitamin D – depending on the person and their circumstances.

Here at Health & Wealth Bulletin, we have readers from all over the world, of all ages, with different health and wellness needs.

That's why, even while I've warned that most folks don't need vitamin D, some might...

Some people may benefit from occasional small doses of vitamin D supplements – especially those living in low-sunlight areas during the winter, a very cloudy environment, or an area with dangerously high levels of air pollution. But they should only take lower doses (no more than 600 to 800 IU a day) or take just one a week.

The trouble with taking supplements is that they're often packed with far more than you need. Some vitamin D supplements have more than 5,000 IU – definitely not something you'd want to take every day. Recall that vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means it builds up over time in your fatty tissues. This is dangerous because it becomes much easier to overdose...

For most folks, a few minutes out in the sunshine is enough to get what they need.

You might live in the Arctic Circle where there's no sunlight part of the year and you need some vitamin D help. Or maybe you live in Florida where it's warm and sunny all year long. That's why I always encourage readers to find evidence-based medical research. Only you know your specific circumstances. And be wary of sites that appear to be dedicated to health but make their money by selling you test kits and supplements.

And make sure you don't take more vitamin D than your body needs.

My Top Three Ways to Stay Healthy

Here are my own recommendations for health this fall... with no risk of dangerous overdosing.

1. Move at least 20 minutes every day

A recent study out of the University of Texas at Austin had participants spend 20 seconds of every hour for eight hours sprint-cycling on a stationary bike. Those folks biked for less than three minutes in total... yet they experienced a 31% decrease in triglyceride levels (liquid fat in the blood) and broke down 43% more stored body fat after eating an ice-cream shake the following day.

You don't need to sprint, though. Do what I do and get your daily movement through a variety of activities. I enjoy cycling, walking briskly in the late-afternoon sun, and stretching and strengthening my body with yoga.

Exercising for 20 minutes a day is a great starting point. Even if you have mobility issues, any movement counts. If you're feeling unsure about moving on your own, ask someone you trust for assistance.

2. Sleep when you're tired

Make the time to take a nap...

A 2021 study in China observed 2,214 people aged 60 and older... Participants who regularly took naps outperformed non-nappers in cognitive tests of orientation, language function, language fluency, and digit span (remembering a phone number, for instance).

When we nap, the right (creative) side of our brain remains active while the left (logical) side rests. The right brain uses this "alone time" to do some housekeeping... clearing out your temporary-memory storage by pushing information into your long-term memory.

Napping also helps to regulate the body's immune response to inflammation through the release of cytokines. Cytokines help our cells communicate with each other to repair areas of the body experiencing inflammation, infection, or trauma.

The optimal napping time is typically 10 to 20 minutes. Five minutes is too short, and 30 minutes is too long. Longer naps allow your body to enter deep sleep, causing you to wake up groggier.

3. Seek out sunshine

Seeing sunlight every day naturally balances your mood, sleep cycle, and immune system.

Sunlight triggers receptors in your retinas (at the back of your eyes) to release serotonin and reduce melatonin.

Serotonin makes us feel calm and happy by cueing our nervous system to "rest and digest" (as opposed to "fight or flight"). Melatonin is the hormone our body releases to make us sleepy when it gets dark. We rest and recharge at night when our melatonin is high and then awaken refreshed in the morning when melatonin is low.

As sunlight comes in contact with our skin, we produce natural vitamin D. In addition to strengthening our immune systems, vitamin D is essential for things like...

  • Maintaining strong bones and teeth
  • Moving muscles
  • Triggering neurons to communicate
  • Moving blood through vessels
  • Releasing hormones and enzymes
  • Maintaining a strong overall immune system

So do what I do and aim to get out in the late-afternoon sun each day. And if you're stuck inside for some reason, get your daily dose of sun through a window – and, if not, through foods that contain vitamin D or a carefully dosed supplement.

How do you plan to stay healthy this fall? Let us know... [email protected].

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
September 22, 2022