Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin essential for promoting calcium absorption to maintain bone mineralization. Bones can become thin, brittle, or misshapen without adequate vitamin D. It is also involved in immune function, neuromuscular function, and reduction of inflammation.
UVB exposure stimulates the production of vitamin D in the skin. The majority of constructive health effects are related to this vitamin. It has regulatory roles in calcium metabolism (vital for normal functioning of the nervous system, bone growth and maintenance of bone density) immunity, insulin secretion, cell proliferation and blood pressure.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is noticeable by feelings of depression, anxiety, oversleeping, appetite changes, weight gain and lack of energy to the extent if begins to interfere with normal life functioning. SAD occurs most frequently during the winter months, but can also transpire when a person doesn‚Äôt spend enough time in the sun, work night shifts, or during rainy seasons in some cities.
Sunlight is one of the major sources of vitamin D, and many people feel down during the winter months because of the lack of sunlight during the shorter days. Light, especially sunshine, stimulates the production of various chemicals in the body that can prevent SAD. Exposure to sunlight helps the body keep higher levels of serotonin, a brain chemical that helps a person have a sense of well being. When sunlight exposure is limited, serotonin decreases, and thus SAD and other problems can occur.
When someone is diagnosed with SAD, doctors often prescribe the use of light boxes to simulate natural sunlight to help the body produce a vitamin known as vitamin D. Yet, research is now showing that vitamin D taken as a supplement in sufficient doses can help increase serotonin levels in someone affected by SAD.
The recommended dosage of vitamin D varies from person to person, but guidelines indicate that the normal dosage for an average person for vitamin D should be 200 to 400 IU of vitamin D per day, and people over 70 should increase this to 600 IU. But it is best to consult your health care professional for the proper vitamin D dosage for you.
As with any vitamin, the best source is from food. Some natural food sources of vitamin D include: milk, orange juice, vitamin D fortified cereals, pink salmon, sardines, mackerel, tuna, raw broccoli, artichokes, and raw kale all have the high levels of vitamin D per serving. When taken along with vitamin D supplements, eating these foods will help the vitamin D absorption.
Even if you decide to take vitamin D supplements to help with SAD symptoms, it is important to spend as much time in the sun or use a vitamin D light box as possible during the winter months. But consult your physician or health care provider for a specific plan and supplement regimen that is best for you.