Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is defined by the Mayo Clinic as: “A type of depression that's related to changes in seasons. SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year.
“If you're like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Less often, SAD causes depression in the spring or early summer.
“Treatment for SAD may include light therapy (phototherapy), psychotherapy and medications. “
ABC news reported this story last week, and I’ve been doing a lot of ruminating about it ever since.
My husband was affected by SAD. His solution was to take vacations in the sun, which I realize not everyone can do. And I know some people get seriously depressed to the point of contemplating suicide, which most definitely needs medical intervention.
But for the majority of us, who may just feel grumpy and sluggish and lack motivation, why would we take a drug when the reason we feel those symptoms is a lack of sunshine, i.e. vitamin D? Would taking a drug give us the vitamin D our body is craving? Did the TV doctor mention that at all? Of course not. Would talking to a therapist fill our bodies with Vitamin D?
What is the first thing most physicians reach for? Their prescription pad.
Actually, vitamin D is not a vitamin at all but a potent antimicrobial agent, producing 200 to 300 different antimicrobial peptides in your body that kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Suboptimal vitamin D levels not only cause symptoms like SAD, but will also significantly impair your immune response and make you far more susceptible to contracting colds, influenza, and other respiratory infections. *
The best source for vitamin D is direct sun exposure. Even though for many of us, this just isn't practical during the winter, so unless you have access to a safe indoor tanning device, your best option is a supplement. Vitamin D is not expensive, but it needs to be in high enough doses to give the body what it needs.
Based on the latest research, many experts recommend 35 IU's of vitamin D per pound of body weight. This recommendation also includes children, the elderly, and pregnant women. The only way to determine your optimal dose is to get your blood tested. Ideally, you'll want to maintain a vitamin D level of 50-70 ng/ml year-round.
For me, that means taking a supplement of 5,000 IU a day during the winter. No big deal. My go to source is the Life Extension organization, but there are many reputable vitamin sources, and I’d much rather take a natural product than a chemical drug with side affects. But that’s just me. I only wish those TV reports would give people alternative ways of combating illnesses and conditions without always pushing pharmaceuticals. This particular report did make mention of the Light Box, which I was very glad to see.
If you’re one of the many moderately affected by SAD, what do you do to help yourself?