As summer fades and shorter, darker days roll in, many of us experience a noticeable change in our mood and energy levels. This seasonal shift is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), sometimes referred to as the “winter blues.” SAD is a recurring mood disorder with symptoms like increased sleep, overeating, and carbohydrate cravings.
SAD’s defining feature is its cyclical nature, with onset usually occurring in the winter. Some individuals can experience SAD in the summer, especially if they live closer to the equator.
But there’s hope – vitamin D, often dubbed the “sunshine vitamin,” is a potent ally in the battle against SAD. Vitamin D has a significant influence on our mood, in addition to its well-known roles in promoting bone health and regulating calcium absorption.
Vitamin D’s Mood Magic
Vitamin D is more than just a nutrient; it’s a mood regulator. It plays a vital role in synthesizing neurotransmitters like serotonin and melatonin, often called the “happiness” and “sleep” hormones.
Those with SAD have elevated levels of a serotonin-transporting protein called SERT. Vitamin D reduces SERT thus regulating serotonin and melatonin levels, improving mood and reducing the need for excess sleep.
The Sunshine Vitamin and You
Obtaining vitamin D from sunlight might seem straightforward, but nearly half of the U.S. population is deficient. Various factors contribute to this deficiency.
Those factors include modern, increasingly indoor lifestyles, urban living with tall buildings blocking the sun, air pollution, sunscreen use, poor absorption due to gut health and other issues, and melanin.
Geographic location is another significant factor. Those further from the equator cannot produce sufficient vitamin D from sunlight during certain months.
Vitamin D’s Health Impact
Vitamin D doesn’t just brighten your mood – its health benefits include:
Strong Bones and Muscles: It reduces the risk of fractures and enhances muscle strength.
Heart Health: Vitamin D regulates immune and inflammatory cells linked to cardiovascular diseases.
Cognitive Function: Low vitamin D levels are associated with a higher risk of dementia.
Immune Health: Seasonal fluctuations in vitamin D levels may influence cold and flu outbreaks.
Low vitamin D is also associated with various conditions like type 2 diabetes and lower cancer survival rates.
Picking the Perfect Supplement
Considering a vitamin D supplement to combat the winter blues? Here are some guidelines:
Certifications: Choose products with cGMP or NSF certification to ensure quality.
D3 Form: Vitamin D3 is more effective than D2; it’s the form produced by your skin in response to sunlight.
Vitamin K2: Combine vitamin D with vitamin K2 to direct calcium to your bones rather than soft tissues.
Minimal Additives: Check the “other ingredients” on the supplement label to avoid unnecessary fillers and additives.
For the right dosage, consult your healthcare professional. It depends on your current blood levels and daily sunlight exposure.
About the author: Kelin Marquet, a Katy High School alumnus, runs a brand of supplements called Why Not Natural that include clean, bioavailable vitamin D drops and capsules.FDA Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.