Spread GF Sunshine: Feb 08

Spread a little sunshine this winter…All about Vitamin D

In the winter months, most of us aren’t getting much sunlight. It’s still dark when we leave our houses and often dark by the time we get home. When we go outside, we’re usually bundled up from head to toe. Not only does this tend to affect mood, but we also depend on sunlight as a source of Vitamin D. Even if someone were to go out dancing in the snow in a bathing suit in the winter months, in many areas it’s still impossible to get all of the vitamin D needed for good health. Skin pigmentation, age, sunscreen, and geographic location all play a role in determining how much vitamin D the body produces from sunlight.

When people think of vitamin D deficiency, they tend to think of rickets, or the bowed legs seen in children. Actually, the problem is much more widespread and affects most systems in the body. Researchers are increasingly learning that most people have Vitamin D levels are below the ideal, and this seems even more common in people avoiding gluten for various reasons. Recent studies are reinforcing the importance of vitamin D, showing that deficiency can cause joint pain and bone weakness, and lower vitamin D levels are linked to higher rates of cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, increased fall rates, lowered immune function, depression and more.

Vitamin D is especially important to people with Celiac disease, gluten intolerance and people following a gluten free/casein free (GFCF diet). Celiac disease often causes great damage to the small intestine, and the small intestine is where our bodies absorb vitamin D. Osteoporosis and osteopenia are frequently seen in Celiac patients, and Vitamin D is an essential component to both calcium absorption and the formation of healthy bones. Additionally, untreated Celiac disease also may lead to fat malabsorbtion, and vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin.

Fortified milk and milk products are one of the few commonly eaten food sources of vitamin D. However, many gluten free folks are lactose intolerant, or avoid dairy products due to following a gluten free, casein free (GFCF) diet. The NIH just released a statement about a study showing that autistic boys tend to have thinner bones.So regardless of why you are GF, it is important to speak to your doctor and have your vitamin D levels tested.

There are several ways to get vitamin D in the winter months:

  • Eat vitamin D rich foods: fortified dairy, cod liver oil or other fatty fish, are good sources. For vegetarians or vegans, there are small amounts found in eggs, or some in mushrooms exposed to UV light.
  • Take vitamin D supplements: Many doctors recommend high doses of vitamin D initially to normalize levels in people who are deficient, but since Vitamin D is fat soluble and stored in the body, too much can be dangerous. It’s important to have a doctor monitor your levels.
  • Take a vacation to somewhere warm and sunny: totally self explanatory, and my personal favorite way of getting vitamin D. However, this doesn’t mean that you need to sunbathe all day. Experts say that15-20 minutes of sun in most warm areas 3-4 times a week is usually all that is needed. However, this does differ by season and latitude.

Healthy (or healthier) GF recipe contest:

We’ve had a lot of great entries, and you can still submit your recipe until Feb 20th! Click here for more details. There are fabulous prizes.

Even if you aren’t into creating your own recipes, try some of the recipes submitted, rate them and leave comments to let us all learn from your experimentation.


The Art of Living Gluten Free

Saturday, February 9th, 11:00-12:30

Food and mood: Eat better, feel better!

Saturday, March 8th, 11:00-12:30

Baking and Cooking Gluten Free

Saturday, March 29nd, 11:00-1:00

Each class is taught by Cheryl Harris, MPH, RD and is held in Alexandria, VA. For more information or to register, see the classes page.

Healthy GF fare on the web:

January has been a great month for GF and healthy blogging. Here are a few that caught my eye:
Ginger Lemon Girl has been exploring GF, sugar free and healthier living.

Brenda at Book of Yum has a gorgeous looking Buckwheat Gallette and other great recipes.

Gluten free by the Bay always has great recipes. Check out the Spicy Black Eyed Peas and Collard Greens recipe!

Gluten Free Mommy has a wonderful primer on GF flours for people who
like to color outside the lines and mix it up a little.

A little love for Valentine’s Day:

Here are some suggestions from AllergyMoms.com for a safe Valentine’s Day party for children. The same advice works well for children who are gluten free.

Harris Whole Health offers individual sessions, family sessions and group classes to help people eat healthier and feel better! Whether you are dealing with Celiac Disease, food allergies, picky eaters, children on the Autistic spectrum, chronic illness, or if you just want to feel and look better, Cheryl can help you achieve your goals. For an appointment with Cheryl Harris, Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist, please click here or call 571-271-8742.