Winter is most certainly about perspective - kids jump into snow banks with delight…I sit under the blankets for as long as I can, hoping I had a bad dream… then I realize I have to just get over it :-)
The most important thing about winter blues is it occurs with the change in daylight.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) was reported in about 15% of Canadians in 2020. REPORTED is the important word.
What about those that are unaware of what the symptoms mean?
Mood changes: low mood, depressed mood, irritability
Needing more sleep/ sleep disturbances
Loss of interest in activities usually enjoyed
Low sex drive
Feeling slow and sluggish
Withdrawing from people and social activities
These are some of the symptoms associated with SAD, which are also symptoms of depression.
The difference is that these symptoms coincide with shorter days and resolve when the season changes. SAD is considered a form of depression, which is why in the traditional medical model, antidepressants are more commonly prescribed as first-line therapy.
Should you wish to add a more natural approach to help improve your symptoms, the Functional Medicine approach has helped patients find ways to improve their health before seeking pharmaceutical therapy.
Always discuss your treatment approach with your physician and follow your doctor's advice.
If you know that your mood and energy decrease as winter approaches, we recommend you enhance the lifestyle changes we recommend to our clients for longevity and healthy aging.
Diet: Keep your diet clean and consume whole foods. Processed foods and sugar affect your brain, and mood and have been shown to increase anxiety and decrease focus.
Vitamin D: unfortunately, you can no longer get your vitamin D levels checked at a laboratory in Alberta for routine blood testing. It is recommended that all Canadians take 2000iu Vitamin D and there is no need to test. This is based on the assumption that everyone is the same. We know they are not.
Measuring Vitamin D levels are critical because
it is a fat-soluble vitamin. Those with digestive issues, no gallbladder, or other issues with digestive enzymes will not absorb vitamin D to the same level.
There is a gene that influences the absorption of Vit D. Some people need far higher dosing and others need less. If you take Vitamin D and it ‘doesn't help’ you more likely need your levels tested instead of assuming it doesn’t help.
Form of Vitamin D: tablets require more digestion than liquid. Vitamin D, being fat soluble, needs to be taken with a fat-containing meal to enhance absorption. As a liquid, Vitamin D is suspended in an oil-based formula. Adding it to juice or drinks are not recommended because it will stick to the glass instead of being fully ingested.
Vitamin D does more than help your mood. It helps the immune system function, reduces the risk of cancer and heart disease, and supports bone health.
Order your Vitamin D home test kit here.
Exercise is increasingly shown as one of the most important strategies for healthy aging and longevity. It has long been known that exercise is important for mood. Studies as far back as the 90s show that exercise combined with Vit D and Omega 3 can treat moderate depression as effectively as antidepressants.
Light Therapy: Light boxes or SAD lights mimic sunshine. It has been shown to be effective to elevate the mood of patients who suffer from SAD. It is recommended that you sit in front of the light for 20-30 minutes each morning at the start of your day.
Be Social: Engage in social activities and supportive relationships to help your mood. Try getting outdoors while it is daylight. Enjoy the fresh air, practice mindful walking, or have a warm beverage while walking with a friend.
Acupuncture: The ancient medical system of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture has helped patients improve their mood, energy, and anxiety without medication. It is definitely hard to explain 'how it works' however, many studies are being published to show the benefits of acupuncture as an effective therapy for many medical conditions.
Order your Vitamin D here. It is highly bioavailable. Based on your Vitamin D levels, the average person requires between 3 to 5 drops a day, placed directly onto the tongue or your food.
BEAUTIFUL SKIN CORNER:
Vitamin D and your skin.
Vitamin D is not a commonly talked about vitamin for skin health.
The Linus Pauling Institute has extensively studied Vitamin D and has numerous studies quoted in their analysis of Vitamin D for skin health.
Beyond decreasing the risk of skin cancer and improving bone health (bone health is important to prevent some of the changes we see in facial aging that are not able to be corrected with facelifts and other treatments - prevention is needed to avoid the actual changes in the facial bones that occur. Vitamin D and K are essential for this.
A derivative of Vitamin D is used topically to treat psoriasis.
Vitamin D has been shown to be deficient in patients with alopecia (hair loss).
Vitamin D is also important to protect you from photoaging (sun damage and skin aging caused by sun exposure), helps wound healing, and decreases oxidative stress and pigmentation.
Order your Vitamin D home test kit and Vitamin D drops here.
Dr. Natasha Iyer, MD