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Beating the Winter Blues

The gloomy and dark days of winter don’t just stop at cold and frigid temperatures. For many people living in the northern hemisphere, it is also the time of year where SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder can disrupt their daily lives, leaving those with SAD looking for a fix.

The lack of sunlight and early darkness can greatly affect our mood and mental health, affecting some more than others, even interfering with their day to day life.

What is SAD?

Known as the "winter blues," seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that happens when the seasons change It usually starts around autumn time so in September, when the days start to shorten and the sunlight exposure starts to decrease. SAD can start in autumn and continue until late spring, even then the weather is dark and rainy so people can continue to experience SAD.

This type of depression affects up to 2% of Canadians, nevertheless milder forms of SAD can reach up to 15% of the general population and the majority of those effected are women. As a matter of fact, research shows that SAD affects females 4 times more than males.

The difference between depression and SAD is usually determined by the timing of symptoms. SAD mainly affects people in the autumn months (Sept, Oct & Nov), it tends to get worse during the winter months (Dec, Jan & Feb) and can last up to late spring. It usually eases up at the end spring and early summer months when the days are longer and there is increased exposure to natural sunlight.

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder can include:

  • depression
  • don't feel like eating / lack of appetite
  • feeling of fatigue / tiredness
  • moodiness / irritability
  • lack of memory or focus 
  • insomnia or frequent sleep problems
  • gaining weight
  • cravings for sweets and carbohydrates

One important method for treating SAD is supplementing with vitamin D3, which most people naturally get from their diet and sunlight (something the wintertime very clearly lacks). Vitamin D is essential for optimal brain function, balancing mood and has been shown to support neural development & cognitive aging in humans.

Research has been done that shows Vitamin D3 can help manage symptoms of SAD, which include a lack of motivation, changes in sleep patterns, increased irritability and sadness.

A study published in 2014 mentioned that low intake of vitamin D could be one of the reasons to the development of SAD in certain individuals who have a deficiency in the vitamin. It was also stated in the study that vitamin D plays a role in the production of serotonin and dopamine, which are the “happy chemicals” to the brain. These "happy chemicals" are often quite low in production when someone has depression or in this case SAD for low intake of vitamin D.

For a complex illness like SAD, experts cannot say that the presence SAD is solely because the lack of vitamin D. However, experts do know that SAD is caused by a lack of light, hence why it is more prevalent in parts of the world (northern hemisphere) where the days are shorter and there is not as much sunlight during the winter.

Taking a Vitamin D supplement (also known as the sunshine vitamin) or getting enough from food is important in the winter time for combating some effects of SAD. Look for a Vitamin D3 supplement that contains fat in the formula for optimal absorption like our Liquid emulsified D3.