Fighting Off The Winter Blues

December brings tidings and good cheer, but also a hefty dose of holiday season stress and the dreaded winter blues. We tend to run ourselves ragged with deadlines and responsibilities. The overindulgent nights, lack of sleep, anxiety of holiday shopping and dwindling bank accounts, and complicated dynamics we’re required to navigate during family or office gatherings can be exhausting and emotionally draining. By the time New Year’s Eve rolls around, many of us are battling colds, flus, or the worst holiday hangover of all: sadness + depression.

If you heeded my advice from last month and started meditating, I’m sure you’re already experiencing the positive mood benefits. Amazing! But, even a regular mediation practice can’t entirely protect you from the dreaded winter blues.

Are you feeling them already? I’m here to tell you that you’re not crazy; the winter blues are very real.

Why Do I Feel So Blue?

The lack of sunlight during colder months leaves your body longing for an important nutrient it needs to maintain a sunny disposition all year long. This powerhouse vitamin protects us from SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder – a condition responsible for the loss of vitality and sadness many of us experience during the frigid months. This vitamin also helps maintain proper bone health, regulate the immune system, lower blood pressure and inflammation, reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, dementia and several types of cancer, and boost longevity.

So, what’s the essential nutrient we need to combat SAD and keep ourselves healthy this winter?

The sunshine vitamin: D.

What’s the Deal with Vitamin D?

You’ve likely read or heard countless experts explain the importance of maintaining proper vitamin D levels. It’s a hot topic for good reason: although it’s critical for physical and mental health over 50% of North Americans are deficient.

We get vitamin D naturally from two main sources: food and sunshine. In order to maintain a healthy blood level of D, we need a daily dose of about 2,000IU.

Some food sources containing vitamin D include:

  • milk
  • egg yolks
  • cheese
  • yogurt
  • oats
  • beef liver
  • fatty fish like salmon, tuna, herring, and mackerel
  • shrimp
  • mushrooms
  • fortified beverages like almond milk and orange juice

I believe food is generally the only vitamin and mineral we need, but even if you’re incorporating all of these nutrient-dense foods into your diet regularly, they still don’t contain enough vitamin D to ensure you’re meeting the recommended daily amount. To meet the RDA of 2,000IU using only food sources, you would need to drink about 20 glasses of milk or eat 80 eggs a day. Crazy, right? No way. That isn’t a sustainable or realistic way to supply ourselves with the total daily requirement.

So, most of us rely heavily on the second natural source: sunshine. Our skin produces vitamin D once its exposed to sunlight. If we get 20-30 minutes of direct sunshine per day, and our bodies are healthy enough to convert this sunshine into a usable form, we can easily maintain optimal levels. But Canadian winters are not notoriously sunny. From October to May, it’s near impossible to absorb enough sunlight to hit our RDA of vitamin D.

This is where supplementation comes in.

To Take D or Not To Take D?

If you’re exposing your bare skin to appropriate amounts of direct sunlight and regularly including vitamin D rich foods into your diet, you may not need to supplement during the warmer months. However, I still suggest you consider supplementation from October to May, especially to boost your immune health and protect you and your loved ones from SAD.

Prior to supplementing with vitamin D, I recommend you visit a healthcare practitioner to have your blood levels tested. An optimal blood level for vitamin D is 30-50ng/L. Chances are you will be deficient and require a supplement to increase your levels to within a healthy range. I recommend clients supplement with 2,000-3,000IU of D3 per day for three months before retesting.

What D Should I Buy?

Vitamin D is a relatively inexpensive supplement. As with all vitamin and mineral supplements, you get what you pay for. High quality brands price their products accordingly. Because D is a fat-soluble vitamin, I advise you purchase an oil-based liquid supplement of the most bioactive form, D3, for optimal absorption. Each one of the following products contains 1,000IU per drop, suspended in a different oil ranging from coconut to olive to peppermint. They are either flavoured or flavourless. Find the one that works best for you and start dropping 2-3 drops under your tongue daily.

Genestra D-Emulsion 1000 – $19.57

Adult D Drops – $23.99 (This brand also sells a vegan version)

Metagenics D3 Liquid – $28.25

Give yourself the gift of liquid sunshine this December.

Wishing you and yours a very healthy, happy, SAD-free holiday season!

Lauren Marotta is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN),lifestyle + wellness expert, cook, and writer obsessed with keeping it real. To learn more about Lauren, follow her on Instagram + Twitter @laurenmarotta, visit her website www.laurenmarotta.com, or get in touch with her by saying hi@laurenmarotta.com.