Depressed in Mn?

Maybe it's a Vitamin D Deficiency.

food vs supplements

word count: 1436-ish...

Most people get enough vitamin D through direct sunlight and do not have a vitamin D deficiency. However in MN, we get a lot less sunshine here due to the cold and cloudy winters, we simply just aren’t outdoors. That is why those living in the northern states are more perceptible to lacking a healthy amount of vitamin D which can cause some health problems.
Are you over sleeping but still lacking energy to get yourself through the whole day? Have you been experiencing trouble concentrating and basically feeling down in the dumps ever since the semester started this fall at BSU? It could be a number of issues causing this, but one that is often over looked might be due to a lack of vitamin D in your system. Especially if you are a new transfer student from a southern state where you usually got more sunshine before coming here. Or if you’re new to college life and the stress from studying is keeping you indoors more than ever before.

With busy schedules, cold weather, and irregular eating habits (commonalities of college life), your body is likely being starved of the nutrients it needs in order to function properly. Without regular exposure to sunlight (which the average person only needs like 20 minutes per week) you may be lacking in your levels of vitamin D and experiencing symptoms of seasonal depression.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (otherwise known as SAD) is more prevalent in the northern states due to being further from direct sunlight, and the farther away from the equator the more likely it is. I’ve learned after researching this topic that that SAD is also more commonly found in women, and may begin to develop in the early twenties. So although you might never have had a problem with this before, it might start showing up during the college years. It also typically occurs in the fall or winter months, of course, since it is usually caused by lacking enough sunlight.

How it works: The sun, when touching your skin, activates your cells into synthesizing vitamin D. When your body has enough vitamin D it is able to absorb the percentage it needs of dietary calcium that initially keeps your bones healthy and strong. Without sunshine your body just isn’t able to do this and get enough it needs to function properly, causing vitamin D deficiency.

Research shows that those diagnosed with SAD have a few options to boost their levels of vitamin D. People that are now on vitamin supplements, or used light therapy, or changed diets, have improved feelings of energy; better sleeping habits, and less fatigue throughout their day. Simply stated; if you lack vitamin D, then put it back into your system, you’ll begin to feel better. Also these changes aren’t that drastic since a lot of other people also take vitamin supplements every day, are on diets, and tanning salons are common in most cities. Bemidji has at least half a dozen.

About 20% of those with the symptoms of this disorder lacked enough symptoms to be actually diagnosed by a doctor of actually having SAD. So although you might not have SAD entirely, it is likely you might have a lower level of vitamin D in your system. It’s always recommended that when feeling depressed to seek professional help, and if it is being caused by a lack of vitamin D there are several ways to raise it to get you through your day. As stated before there are diets, tanning, and simple over the counter supplements that can do the trick.

But this raises the question, which is the best option for you? Tanning, diets, or vitamin pills? Sounds like a lot of work, but here is what I’ve found.

Rumors have it that tanning raises vitamin D levels in your body and so gives you more energy. However, there are also a lot of health problems that go along with tanning. When looking into the issue more deeply I’ve come to the conclusion that yes over exposure can be harmful with tanning, BUT most things in excess aren’t good for you either. (Such as too much junk food causes obesity however your body does need a small percentage of fatty foods in order to be healthy and function properly.)

The right amount of tanning can actually be good for you and safe too. As research proves, just three times a week can simply double your levels of vitamin D, and within three to five weeks, even triple it. While conversing with those who tan during the winter, I’ve heard claims that tanning feels therapeutic to those who do it. Whether this is due to the availability of more vitamin D in their systems or not isn’t certain since I’m not a nutritionist, but it would make sense that those tanning will have more energy and feel better than before tanning assuming their vitamin D intake is at a healthy level. Those who I’ve talked to that tan and asked why they do it, they say that it “just feels good” and none regret going, although it can be a bit pricey if trying to work with a college students budget.
Diets. The source of vitamin D in foods is scarce and so many manufactures add it into their products. I’ve found that milk, most cereals, yogurt, and orange juice usually have vitamin D added to them. An easy way to boost vitamin D would be is to eat breakfast with one of those foods. With busy schedules it can be very easy to skip that first meal of the day however it really is important to eat breakfast for many other reasons besides needing a little more vitamin D. I also found that it can naturally be found in fish, and more rarely in cheeses, eggs, and some mushrooms. (I would recommend tuna since not only would it contain amounts of vitamin D, it also is good for your hair and skin as well.)

Dietary Supplements. There are two forms of vitamin D, there is D2 and D3. They can be bought over the counter at just about any grocery store. What I’ve found is that vitamin D3 is more effective and has a longer shelf life than D2, and most health professionals recommend D3 and believe that D2 should no longer be a supplement. Although, I’ve also heard that D2 is derived from plants (which might appeal to those on vegan diets) whereas D3 is derived from animal fats. Both pills are typically low in price, and can be taken in a few different forms such as in a capsule or soft gel. The difference between taking the capsule and the soft gel depends on the person’s preference. Such as, the soft gel has a slick exterior and can be easier to swallow since a dry capsule doesn’t go down as smooth. However, the soft gels are typically larger in size than a capsule and so might be harder to swallow in that sense, although easier in sense of texture.

Each option has its benefits and its drawbacks. Tanning can triple your amounts of vitamin D, however can be a little spendy (prescriptions ranging around $40 a month and $180 for a year both should be unlimited packages otherwise I wouldn’t do it), and you would have to be committed to taking the time to go tanning. It can feel therapeutic, and so I suggest maybe going for one month and seeing if that helps, and if not, you didn’t purchase the full years’ worth and wouldn’t be wasting money on something that isn’t for you. Diets are hard habits to get into, although eating breakfast is always good for you on many different levels. And if you have been skipping breakfast, you might have to get into the habit of buying more foods and snacks to have around that hopefully wouldn’t go to waste. Then there’s the dietary supplements; they need to be taken every day and it can be easy to forget that you have them in the cupboard however are the relatively cheapest option to use. Taking too much vitamin D is practically harmless, however needs to be taken into account as well too.

It’s always wise to seek professional help when making any health changes. However it is also common knowledge that it’s very healthy to eat breakfast every day, and that seems like the best option. Every person is different, and so it depends on their personal preference whether tanning, diets, or vitamin pills would be the best option for you.
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