Tag Archives: seasonal affective disorder

Have a Healthier Winter with Vitamin D

We have been lucky this January to have so many sunny days, but are we still getting enough vitamin D? I know that most days I am working inside and only see the sun when I am taking care of my chickens in the morning. If we don’t get enough sun and our vitamin D levels go down, we can start suffering from the winter grumpies, or seasonal affective disorder, as it is technically known.

I often encourage my patients to take a low dose of vitamin D during the winter or all year long, especially if they are taking a calcium supplement. I am not necessarily a fan of the higher doses such as 5000 IU once a day, since too much of a good thing isn’t always a good thing. Vitamin D is actually a hormone that regulates calcium metabolism, and as with hormone replacement therapy, there is a normal range for our bodies. Unless someone is deficient, the higher doses might actually reduce some of the vitamin D benefits. Additionally, sometimes we need to dig deeper. If someone is vitamin D deficient, it can be due to excessive inflammation in the body, and this may need to be addressed more than the vitamin D levels

Adequate vitamin D is associated with many health benefits including stronger bones, lower rates of influenza, reduced blood pressure, and reduced breast and colon cancer risk, but some of the benefits go away if people take too much. Therefore, I have been encouraging people who don’t know their vitamin D levels to stick with doses around 1000 IU. One study demonstrated that just 800 IU a day slightly reduced mortality due to any cause in elderly people, mainly women.

So if you are dealing with the wintertime blues, considering adding a little vitamin D to your routine, but remember don’t overdo it.

And get some sun when you can!

Winter Trees at Sunset

St. John’s Wort for the Winter Blues

Though the holidays are a time of joy for many, they can be trying for some. The combination of shorter days and holiday stress can contribute to winter blahs, more technically known as seasonal affective disorder. St. John’s wort is one of the most popular herbs for mild depression, and it can also be a good choice for seasonal affective disorder. St. John’s wort has multiple actions on the brain. It increases the activity of serotonin, one of the main neurotransmitters associated with contentment. St. John’s wort additionally improves the availability of norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter that helps us feel alert and energized. Finally, St. John’s wort may reduce the production of cortisol, the stress hormone that is linked to some types of depression. Because of these amazing actions, many studies have shown St. John’s wort to be nearly as affective as some of the most common anti-depressant medications for mild to moderate depression.

Among its hypericum-perforatumlesser-known uses, St. John’s wort may help other mood issues like anxiety. St. John’s wort might help activated the brain receptors for GABA, a calming neurotransmitter. Because of this calming action, St. John’s wort has also been used for sleep disorders like insomnia. St. John’s wort not only affects the brain, but also can benefit nerves throughout the body.  A common use is for nerve pain, especially when due to injury or from shingles. St. John’s wort has some anti-microbial benefits that particularly help it fight viruses in the herpes family to which shingles belong. But before you decide to try this helpful herb, there are a few warnings to pay attention to. St. John’s wort should be avoided by people with bipolar disorder or any other form of mania. Also, St. John’s wort may interact with some medications to make them less effective, including birth control pills. Finally, St. John’s wort shouldn’t be used with most of the anti-depressant medications because of potentially dangerous side effects.