Seasonal depressive disorder can be called by a number of other names, including Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and the wintertime blues. This type of depression has been attributed to a number of winter time factors, including lesser amounts of sunlight, lesser activity, foods higher in carbohydrates, and now, it is also linked to a Vitamin D deficiency.
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Vitamin D is the vitamin that is transmitted to the surface of the skin through sunlight and is then absorbed by the skin and processed in the brain. According to some research, studies show a clear correlation between the lower vitamin D levels and the onset of SAD symptoms about eight weeks later.
Research is also indicating that skin pigment levels may also affect the amount of Vitamin D that can be absorbed into a person’s blood stream and brain. The darker the skin pigment, the greater likelihood that the person has a Vitamin D deficiency. This could be a marker from a time when those who lived near the equator, and thus had darker skin, actually needed less Vitamin D due to their high levels of exposure to sunlight. However, for today’s darker skin folks, this could mean that it is even more difficult to battle the winter time blues, as their skin doesn’t allow for full absorption of Vitamin D.
While no one is yet completely sure how vitamin D affects a person’s mood, indicators point to a corollary affect between the amount of Vitamin D in the brain and the chemicals that control mood and mental health. Indeed, it may be possible that a lack of vitamin D may lower the brain’s ability to produce serotonin and dopamine, two of the key ingredients needed for good mood and mental health.
The good news to this research is that if Vitamin D can be artificially induced with supplements before the winter time months set in, some of the depressive symptoms may be prevented. Additionally, it is also possible to eat a diet rich in Vitamin D foods such as milk, dairy products and yogurt, juice, and fish.
Experts recommend taking 400 IU of Vitamin D along with a calcium supplement to help enhance the body’s ability to absorb the vitamins. As with all supplements, these should be taken on a full stomach to help avoid any stomach upset.
It is best to start a diet rich in Vitamin D and take the supplements about eight weeks prior to the onset of winter to help prevent depressive symptoms. These two simple steps could go a long way toward making the winter months far more bearable.