Seasonal Affective Disorder & The Sunshine Vitamin

Vancouver is famous for its wet weather. Once the summer ends, it’s bye-bye bikinis and hello to umbrellas and rain gear. The days get shorter, the sky gets cloudier, and for some, our moods change to match the dreary season. If you are prone to getting the winter blues” when the rainy season begins, you may be experiencing what’s known as Seasonal Affective Disorder.

What is seasonal affective disorder?

 Also termed “S.A.D.”, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of depression that typically occurs in the winter months when our exposure to sunlight is limited. Approximately 2-3% of Canadians will experience S.A.D. at some point and 15% more will experience a milder version of the condition.

There is a natural tendency to slow down in winter compared to the high energy lifestyles we tend to carry on in summer months. However, if you notice you are feeling particularly low or experiencing the following signs & symptoms it might be time to consider consulting a Health Care Professional for an assessment.

seasonal affective disorder

Signs & Symptoms

  • Feelings of hopelessness & sadness
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Oversleeping
  • Gravings for sweet or starchy foods
  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue low energy
  • Decreased physical activity
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Increased sensitivity to social rejection – Avoidance of social situations

It is currently thought that a combination of physiologic, psychologic, genetic, and environmental factors play a role in S.A.D., one of them being Vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D – The Sunshine Vitamin

Vitamin D, which actually functions more like a hormone, acts on receptors in every tissue in the body including the brain and immune system. Since it’s a fat-soluble vitamin, we get it through diet from sources such as fatty fish (sardines, salmon, tuna), eggs, and liver; and are also able to synthesize it through our skin when we get sufficient exposure to the sun. As such, Vitamin D levels have been shown to fluctuate with exposure to sunlight. Levels decline from fall to winter, and are naturally lower the further north you live from the equator.

Vitamin D has many functions within the body. It is needed for calcium absorption (healthy bones), healthy immune function, and also has a role in the release of dopamine and serotonin – signalling molecules that, in the brain, are associated with drive, pleasure, and happiness.

How much Vitamin D do you need?

Health Canada recommends a daily Intake of 600-800 IU’s of Vitamin D daily. However, according to their statistics, most Canadians are not achieving this. While we know sunlight does provide Vitamin D, here in Vancouver, our cloudy climate and northern location are presumably inadequate to make up for insufficient dietary intake in the winter months. Vitamin D levels also decrease with age, skin pigmentation, liver and kidney disease, obesity, certain medications, genetic mutations, and other conditions.

How do I know if Im getting enough Vitamin D?

Luckily, there is a test for that! It is important to mention that there can be too much of a good thing, especially when it comes to supplementation. Excess Vitamin D can cause nausea & vomiting, hypercalcemia (which can become lifethreatening), hyperphosphatemia, and calcification of soft tissues. Therefore, it is important to monitor your intake if you are supplementing! We are happy to be able to offer the DSpot test here at Tandem Clinic to assess your Vitamin D status. For more information on the test click here http://malab.com/ sites/default/files/tests/spec sheets WEB VID DSpot Aug2013_1.pdf

If you are experiencing symptoms of the winter blues” or are curious about your Vitamin D or general health status, book a consult with one of our practitioners at Tandem Clinic today to discuss your healthcare options!

Wishing you health, wealth, & every happiness,
Dr. Jacalyn Sieben, ND

References:

1. Bertone-Johnson E. R. (2009). Vitamin D and the occurrence of depression: causal association or circumstantial evidence?. Nutrition reviews, 67(8), 481-92. Retrieved from: https//www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC295060B/

2. CAMH. (2019). Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Retrieved from: https://www.camh.calan health into mental-illness-and-addiction-index/seasonal-affective disorder

3. Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division. (2013). Seasonal affective disorder. Retrieved from: //cmha.bc.ca/documenisseasonal-affective disorder-2/

4. Greenblatt, J.M. (2011). Psychological consequences of vitamin d deficiency – Vitamin d supplementation may help depression. Psychology Today. Retrieved from: https:// www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/the-breakthrough-depression-solution 201111/psychological. consequences-vitamin-d-deficiency

5. Health Canada. (2012). Vitamin d and calcium: Updated dietary reference intakes. Retrieved from: https:M w.canada.calenhealth-canada/services/food-nutritionhealthy-eatin: Vitamins-minerals, vitamin-calcium-updated-dietary-reference-intakes-nutrition him

6. Michael, D.R. (2016). Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Medscape. Retrieved from: //emedicine.medscape.com/article/2500054-overviewda3

7. Psychology Today. (2018). Seasonal affective disorder. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/conditions seasonal-affective disorder

8. Saleh, N. (2015). Vitamin d and seasonal affective disorder. Psychology Today. Retrieved from: https:// www.psychologytoday.com/cablog/the-red-light-district/201501 Vitamin-d-and-seasonal affective disorder-symptoms

9. Stewart, A.E., et al. (2014). Possible contributions of skin pigmentation and vitamin d in a polyfactorial model of seasonal affective disorder. Medical Hypotheses. Vol 83, Issue 5, Pg 517-525. hitps:/ doi.org/10.1016/j.mehy.2014.09.0Vancouver is famous for its wet weather. Once the summer ends, it’s bye-bye bikinis and hello to umbrellas and rain gear. The days get shorter, the sky gets cloudier, and for some, our moods change to match the dreary season. If you are prone to getting the winter blues” when the rainy season begins, you may be experiencing what’s known as Seasonal Affective Disorder.10

You might also want to read our previous blog, Your Microbiome & Your Mood

Want to book an appointment? Just click the link below:
Dr. Jacalyn Sieben, ND

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