Monday, February 8, 2010

HEALTHY MONDAYS: The Winter Doldrums

This time of year is always hard for me. I live in the Pacific Northwest, where most of the days from October to April are gray, drizzly and dark. Although I grew up around here, I never realized how much the weather affected my moods until I moved to sunny Boise for 9 years. The winters there might be cold, but the skies were usually blue and sunny.

But here…ick. There’s nothing worse than getting out of bed in the morning, opening up the blinds, and not being able to tell you just opened up the blinds because it’s so dark and dreary outside.

About a year ago, I went to my doctor for what I thought was depression: I was always tired, grumpy, quick-tempered, hungry, grumpy, sad. Did I mention grumpy? She suspected my Vitamin D levels were low. And boy were they. Bottom side of “normal” is 25 whatevers. My number was 11. She said it was one of the lowest levels she’d seen. “No wonder you’ve been bitchy,” she said. She diagnosed me with SAD—Seasonal Affective Disorder. According to Wikepedia, “It has been estimated that 1.5-9% of adults in the US experience SAD.”
Symptoms of SAD (according to MayoClinic.com)

  • Depression
  • Hopelessness
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of energy
  • Social withdrawal
  • Oversleeping
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Difficulty concentrating and processing information

After my diagnosis, my doctor put me on a mega dose of Vitamin D, told me to get outside for 20 minutes on non-rainy days, and suggested I order a light box. It couldn’t be one of those cheapy ones you can get at any retail store, but it must be 10,000 lux in intensity. She told me to sit in front of it for 30 minutes every morning.

So, I started doing what my doctor told me to do. I took my vitamins, I went outside more often, and I bought a light box. Every morning, I sat in front of the “happy light” for 30-45 minutes while I drank my coffee and wrote in my journal.

Holy cow. Within the week, I was noticeably less grouchy, had more energy, and no longer required an afternoon nap. This year, I started feeling those tell tale signs again. I didn’t recognize them for what they were at first, until my husband asked, “When was the last time you used your light box?” Well, duh.

Anyway, I’m not a doctor nor do I play one on TV or write about them in my books. I just wanted to share with you my experience. If you have any of the symptoms of SAD –and even if you don’t—you might want to talk to your doctor about testing your Vitamin D levels. My doc said 80% of the women she tests come back deficient in this crucial vitamin.

Benefits of Vitamin D (from the Medicalnewstoday.com website):

• Maintenance of healthy bones

• Regulates the immune system

• May reduce the risk of developing multiple sclerosis

• Linked to maintaining a healthy body weight

• Can reduce severity and frequency of asthma symptoms

• May reduce the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis in women.

• Lower risk of developing cancer, compared to people with lower levels of Vit D



Have a healthy week!

6 comments:

  1. The seasonal blues are never fun. Thanks for sharing those helpful tips to keep them at bay!

    Jaime

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  2. Hey Jaime, you're welcome. Thanks for stopping by!

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  3. Thank goodness you figured it out!
    I've heard that problemthose sun boxes really do help!
    Don't think I have that here in FL. I'll need to find something else to blame it on for myself.

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  4. Mary, if I lived in sunny Florida I'd have no problems. LOL.

    Thanks for stopping by.

    :)Becky

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  5. Hi Rebecca,
    I didn't relize that lack of Vitamin D could cause so many problems. I am on
    vitamin D capsules because my levels are down. I live in Australia, plenty of sun, but being fair skinned, I have to be careful and not stay out too long, so it is a bit of a vicious circle, on the one hand you need sun for Vitamin D, but on the other hand you can risk skin cancer by exposing your skin to too much sun.
    Cheers
    Margaret

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  6. Hey Margaret, I guess I'm surprised that a person living in a sunny climate could have low Vit D levels. Guess it could happen anywhere, eh?

    :)Becky

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