Seasonal depression and lack of vitamin D

Alternative Medicine Overland Park, KS

Winter is upon us again, and for those who do not live close to the equator, this season is full of snowball fights, skiing, and sledding. However for others the change in season can also bring a winter gloom, with the long dark days and little sunshine affecting their moods. The “winter blues” also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a form of depression that affects about 2% of the population. Though both men and women of all ages can develop SAD, women are more likely to develop it than men, and younger people are more susceptible than older people.

What is SAD?

According to Harvard Health (https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/seasonal-affective-disorder-when-winter-brings-the-blues), SAD seems to be triggered by a decreased exposure to daylight. This disorder usually starts affecting people around the fall and winter months, while symptoms start to show improvements during the springtime. The symptoms of SAD are very similar to depression and include lethargy, irritability; changes in sleep patterns, changes in appetite, anxiety, unintentional weight changes, and difficulty concentrating. Experts still do not fully understand the exact cause of SAD. However popular theories place the blame on an out-of-sync body clock or improper levels of the hormone melatonin or the neurotransmitter serotonin, which regulate sleep, mood, and feelings of well being.

The main therapy for SAD, is light therapy, also known as, phototherapy. This treatment involves daily sessions of remaining close to a specialized light source. This light is more intense than regular indoor lights, and must enter the eyes in order to work. Skin exposure does not seem to work for this type of therapy. The goal is to mimic sunlight exposure and increase melatonin metabolism. Though a wide variety of people have reported the effectiveness of phototherapy, some healthcare providers recommend a vitamin D supplement as well, since a deficiency in vitamin D has been linked to seasonal affective disorder.

Importance of vitamin D

Vitamin D is very beneficial for the body. Adequate vitamin D has shown a decrease in brittle bones, blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, respiratory illness, and depression. Studies have also found that low vitamin D is linked to seasonal affective disorder. This implies that a deficiency in vitamin D may be one of the potential causes of seasonal depression. Furthermore, another study published in Nutrients (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24732019) found that individuals who took a vitamin D supplement, showed significant improvements in their symptoms. This shows the importance of vitamin D for managing depression, and the important role it may play for preventing seasonal affective disorder as well.

Where should I get vitamin D?

Your body produces vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D deficiency is very common amongst individuals, especially during the winter months. When sun exposure is limited, eating foods that are high in vitamin D and taking a vitamin D supplement may be helpful. The following foods are recommended when you are deficient in vitamin D, fatty fish (i.e. tuna, salmon, mackerel), fortified foods (i.e. dairy products, soy milk, and cereals), cheese, and egg yolks. If taking a vitamin D supplement is best for you a daily dose of 600 IU for adults 70 and younger, and 800 IU for adults over 70 is recommended. As a side note, to put things into perspective, a 4 oz. cooked salmon contains roughly 600 IU of vitamin D.

If you are concerned that you have seasonal affective disorder or are deficient in vitamin D, consider consulting with a doctor of alternative medicine Overland Park KS offers at LifeWorks Integrative Health, who can help you through this difficult disorder.

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