Canada’s long, dark winter brings with it the blahs and symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) for many, however a Canadian doctor is looking to the sunshine vitamin to aid those suffering.
Seasonal depression or “SAD” is a mental condition that develops in some individuals who do not receive enough natural light. Shorter winter days makes Canadians more at risk of the disorder, which can lead to symptoms of decreased energy to difficulty concentrating to feelings of anxiety and despair, among others.
According to Dr. Samantha Kimball, Scientific Advisor for the Vitamin D Society, vitamin D levels change when the seasons do and low times of vitamin D match periods of depression in SAD patients. In her research she has found that increasing vitamin D intake can help reduce the symptoms of patients suffering from SAD.
“SAD is a complex disorder for which there are many contributing factors, however biological evidence suggests that vitamin D can help fight the symptoms in several ways,” said Dr. Kimball. “Vitamin D, which is naturally generated in the body by sunlight and can be replenished through supplements, or artificial UVB, modulates the immune system and reduces inflammation, which is related with depression.”
In some individuals, vitamin D can help prevent the symptoms of SAD and the winter blues by keeping your body and mind in better shape. In addition to helping the immune system, vitamin D can also positively affect mood by influencing areas of the brain where happiness and other moods are regulated. Vitamin D also helps regulate the body’s circadian rhythm, assisting with better sleep patterns.
For Canadians looking to decrease their chances of developing SAD, Dr. Kimball, and the Vitamin D Society recommend reaching an optimal blood level of vitamin D between 100-150 nmol/L. This may require daily supplementation of 4,000 IU or more for adults.
The Canadian Mental Health Association reports that up to three percent of Canadians may suffer from SAD and shift workers and urban dwellers who may experience reduced levels of exposure to daylight in their work environments may be at a higher risk.
Dr. Kimball however does warn that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to combating SAD with just vitamin D.
“While low vitamin D levels have been reported for people with depression and vitamin D has been demonstrated to reduce the symptoms of SAD, due to the complexity of SAD etiology, not everyone will respond to vitamin D treatment,” said Dr. Kimball.
The Vitamin D Society urges all Canadians to have their vitamin D levels checked by their physicians through a simple blood test to ensure they aren’t deficient. Get your test score and compare to the level scientists recommend.
To learn more about vitamin D please visit www.vitamindsociety.org.
About the Vitamin D Society:
The Vitamin D Society is a Canadian non-profit group organized to increase awareness of the many health conditions strongly linked to vitamin D deficiency; encourage people to be proactive in protecting their health and have their vitamin D levels tested annually; and help fund valuable vitamin D research. The Vitamin D Society recommends people achieve and maintain optimal 25(OH)D blood levels between 100 – 150 nmol/L (Can) or 40-60 ng/ml (USA).