As the days get shorter, there is less sunlight. For many, this can be a tough time of year. According to NCBI, seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects approximately six percent of the US population, mostly in our northern climates. But there are several ways to combat SAD or the winter blues. Nutritionist and owner of Nutrome, Alex Bear, sits down with us with advice on making sure you get your Vitamin D.
Q: Is now a good time of year to start taking Vitamin D supplements? Why?
Alex: Yes! Our main source of vitamin D comes from sun exposure. Beginning in the fall and through most of the winter, we can’t get vitamin D from the sun at all because it is not high enough in the sky. The UVB rays that allow our skin to produce vitamin D can’t penetrate the atmosphere. And without vitamin D, we may be more prone to getting sick and developing the winter blues.
Q: How much should I take a day?
Alex: This depends on the person. The best way to find out is to get a vitamin D3 test at the end of summer at your doctor’s office and work with a qualified nutritionist or functional healthcare provider. Generally, most people do well with at least 2000 IU, although some need 5000 IU or more to maintain their vitamin D levels through winter.
Q: What recipes can help me with vitamin D?
Alex: Sockeye salmon is a great source of vitamin D. If you take cod liver oil and eat beef liver, those are great sources too… Sardines and eggs also have some vitamin D, and surprisingly mushrooms exposed to a lot of sunlight can have a fair amount of vitamin D as well. To get the amount we need in the winter, taking a vitamin D3 supplement tends to be the easiest route. There are kinds of milk and other foods fortified with vitamin D, but they tend not to be absorbed as easily as D3 supplements.
So what other ways can you combat seasonal depression?
Nutrition and vitamin D are essential components to combating the winter blues - but there are other inexpensive ways to keep your mood up this season.
Light Box Therapy
Light box therapy is a handy and inexpensive way to get exposure to artificial sunlight.
Also known as a phototherapy box, a light box mimics sunshine and is significantly brighter than regular bulbs.
According to the Mayo Clinic, sitting by a light box for about 20 to 30 minutes a day can result in a chemical change in your brain that boosts your mood and alleviates symptoms of SAD. The Mayo Clinic also recommends using the light box within the first hour after waking up.
Walmart has one for just $21.49.
Need help getting up in the morning? Try a dawn simulator. This alarm clock slowly lights up 30 minutes before your alarm goes off. Giving you a slow awakening rather than just abruptly being woken up by an alarm. Different models are available, but the best ones to use are full-spectrum light closest to natural sunlight.
Amazon has one for just $37.99.
Even when temperatures dip to the single digits, prioritize social activities. Upstate New York has plenty of fun things to do inside and outside. For the adventurous, there are winter hikes and outdoor ice rinks. However, meeting your friends at your local coffee shop or bar is an option if you like to stay warm and cozy. Socializing can be preventative before SAD takes hold of your mind.
An article by ScienceDirect.com discusses the long-term psychological effects isolation can have. Depression and isolation can certainly feed on one another - one of the best ways to prevent depression from taking over is to reach out to others.
Short on friends? Try MeetUp.com. This website has a wide variety of people in your area with similar interests. From groups who enjoy bar hopping, to knitting, to hiking, MeetUp.com has helped many people looking to expand their social circle.
If you or anyone you know struggles with depression or suicidal thinking, please remember The National Suicide Hotline is available 24/7 at 800-273-8255.
A big thank you to Alex Bear of Nutrome. Alex is certified in nutritionist, nutrigenomics (nutrition + genetics), functional biochemistry, health coach and personal trainer, meditation and stress management, biohacking, and wilderness therapy guide. Check out his business with his significant other Charlotte Christensen at Nutrome.net.