Feeling drained? A little sad? You could be suffering from Vitamin D deficiency.
The lack of sunshine and daylight throughout the winter months affects all of us, causing a lack of Vitamin D at best, or even for some of us about of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).
How do Vitamin D deficiency or SAD affect us and how can we tackle these problems to make ourselves feel better?
Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, is activated by the body when sunlight falls on our skin during the summer months. The body generates 90% of this essential vitamin, which helps to keep bones and teeth healthy, whilst only 10% is produced by our diet.
Vitamin D also helps to fight many illnesses and lack of it can cause depression, migraines, joint pain and even Rickets in adults.
With over 70% of people in the UK spending most of their day indoors it is no surprise that many of us feel a little lethargic in the winter months when supplies of Vitamin D are running out.
Why are we are all more cheerful and energetic when the sun is shining?
The answer is because when light hits the back of the eye (the retina) messages are passed to the hypothalamus in the brain that rules sleep, appetite, sex drive, temperature, mood and activity.
If the hypothalamus does not receive enough light, then these brain functions are likely to slow down and gradually stop. Around 7% of people require a lot more exposure to light than others and without it they can develop SAD. This is a type of depression that has a seasonal pattern and is sometimes known as “winter depression”.
The symptoms are more apparent and tend to be more debilitating during the winter months when the days are shorter and sunlight is limited and when we tend to feel sluggish and less enthusiastic and are more inclined to stay indoors, do less work, socialize less and eat more.
These factors can then affect the quality and quantity of light exposure we receive on a daily basis. This is why March is often the hardest month for many of us in the UK as we reach the tail end of all that cold wintry weather.
So what makes the perfect pick-me-up during the winter months?
Vitamin D deficiency occurs when people do not get enough Ultraviolet-B on their skin. So either treat yourself to a break in the sunshine or failing that invest in a light box.
An alternative to using bright lights is to take vitamin D supplements while natural Sources of Vitamin D in Food can be found in: Salmon, Tuna, Sole or Flounder, Milk, Cereal, Pork, Eggs, Mushrooms, Beef liver and Ricotta cheese.
There is also alternative medicine available to help treat SAD symptoms. Herbal remedies and supplements that may help include St. John’s wort, SAMe, Melatonin, and Omega-3 fatty acids (containing Vitamin D).
Mind-body techniques including yoga, meditation and massage therapy may also help alleviate symptoms.
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By exposing yourself to light, being active and eating a healthy and balanced diet, you will be able to fight Vitamin D deficiency, manage SAD disorder and lead a normal, productive life.
It is important that you recognize the symptoms and find the right remedy or treatment so that you can beat the winter blues.
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