Autumn Health

The holidays are upon us. The sun sets earlier, and right around this time of year, blood levels begin to run low on Vitamin D. This impacts mood as well as the immune system. Many wonder, “Is there a way to compensate for lack of Vitamin D?” and “Is it still important to drink the amount of water/tea I did during summer? If so, what’s a healthful choice?”

Sunlight and Vitamin D

Mood: Less sun may affect wellness on multiple levels. Fewer hours of sunlight sometimes puts people in a sad mood. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is an actual diagnosis. It represents a physical/emotional reaction to insufficient sunlight. If you tend to get more depressed during months with shorter days/longer nights, you might ask your primary healthcare provider about the possible benefit of increasing your intake of probiotics, the possible value of vitamin B-complex, and you might even consider exploring the possibility of purchasing a special full spectrum lightbulb. The key here is to mention this to your primary healthcare provider (or feel free to call directly or email questions to me and I’ll try to help).

The Immune System: As we get closer to January, people begin to think about colds, coughing, sneezing and all sorts of respiratory illnesses, including “the flu.” Why is that? Blood levels of Vitamin D are low, and the air is dry. There are things we can do to help ourselves stay well.

Proper Vitamin D supplementation, appropriate handwashing, avoiding sugar, and drinking enough of the right fluids can go a long way. For those who depend on sun exposure for Vitamin D production, less sunlight means there is less Vitamin D in the blood. Some primary healthcare providers recommend Vitamin D supplements for patients who live in the Northeast United States – particularly during the autumn and winter months. If you are interested in discussing this with your provider, you might ask about Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) and/or Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) – two different forms of this important hormone (although we call it a vitamin).

Vitamin D3 is the more absorbable form, but large doses need to be taken along with other specific vitamins and minerals. Bottom line: Before deciding on the form and dose of Vitamin D3, ask your primary healthcare provider. The right form and amount may help prevent the flu (and, studies show, may cure the flu within three days), but the wrong amount or form can be bad for the health of your heart. Consult your primary healthcare provider before taking mega (larger than recommended) doses.


The air is dry. We need to drink the right fluids. Soups, such as those made from winter squash (butternut and acorn, for example) are rich in beta carotene (a form of Vitamin A) – healthful for the eyes and respiratory system – for most people. Teas may include organically grown ginger root and green tea, peppermint, and to help sleep at night: chamomile. Be certain to ask your primary healthcare provider about these choices since, even though they seem harmless, teas from herbs must be treated with caution. They may (especially peppermint and chamomile) trigger allergies and/or interfere with medications. Please be careful before adding herbal preparations or supplements to your daily routine. Speak with your primary healthcare provider.

I wish you a healthy, happy and safe holiday season!

Dr. Nancy Iankowitz is a board certified family nurse practitioner and Director of Holistic and Integrative Healing LLC. She is also host of “Marcy’s World”on Pawling Public Radio. Email your questions to: For more information, call (917) 716-6802, or visit online.