As we are approaching the shorter days with colder weather, our bodies and minds must also adjust to these changes. I often hear from clients how tired they feel, how hard it is to get out of bed and how much more they crave and want filling starchy foods. Why is this?
Roles of Vitamin D
We depend on light, especially sunlight for vitamin D and this is certainly in more demand when there is less sunlight. Vitamin D plays a role in many functions in the body and brain. It affects our immune system, supports bones, helps to prevent inflammatory conditions and has recently been linked to auto-immune illness when lacking in the diet. Vitamin D also plays a role in mood as well.
Vitamin D activates genes that regulate the immune system and release neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin that affect brain function and development. Researchers have found vitamin D receptors on a handful of cells located in regions in the brain. These same regions are linked with depression.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a mood disorder featuring depressive symptoms, occurs during the dark times of the year when there is relatively little sunshine and this coincides with the sudden drop in vitamin D levels in the body. Studies suggest that the symptoms of SAD may be due to changing levels of vitamin D3, which may affect serotonin levels in the brain.
Supporting Vitamin D
What can we do to support adequate vitamin D status in the body? I generally begin with looking at lab tests or requesting physicians to order the test when symptoms arise or ideally as a yearly part of the typical lab workup. The normal levels range from 30-100, but ideal levels are 50-80 for the average person and 60-90 in someone with a cancer history. This leaves a huge margin of error for many people who are “normal” with symptoms!
Once lab status is determined, I will either suggest vitamin D3 with K2 (helps the absorption) and I prefer drops, as the absorption rate is a bit better in liquid form. I will also look at dietary sources of vitamin D, which include: fatty fish (see Tangy Topped Salmon in the upcoming recipe), egg yolks, organic tofu and soymilk. Most other foods are fortified since vitamin D is found naturally in few sources.
During the dark days, using a UV light can also be very helpful. Establishing a 15-20minute period each morning under the light can make such a difference in mood, focus and energy. Be sure to check updates on quality lights, as the ratings change over time.
Don’t let the winter blues creep up on you – there is plenty of precaution available.
Here’s to a ClearMind,