Winter Blues or Something Worse?

Winter Blues

It inevitably happens to many of us.  The winter starts to drag, we start to stay inside, we get unmotivated, sometimes feel depressed.  This is what is often referred to as the winter blues.  But it might be something more.  You might have a Vitamin D deficiency.  Late fall into winter is the time of year Vitamin D deficiency is on the rise.  It’s cold and people aren’t venturing outside as often (at least in the midwest).  The days are shorter and unless you have an outside job, you’re probably stuck in your office or away from windows during most of the daylight hours.  A vitamin D deficiency had never crossed my mind until I found out I had a pretty severe one.  I am curious by nature, so I started researching vitamin D deficiency and was pretty surprised by what I learned.

My Experience

As mentioned in my first post, I have depression.  I have struggled with it for most of my life but I was officially diagnosed with Severe Depression in about 2008.  Twice my doctor and I have to a point where we were comfortable weaning me off of my medicine.  Each time I’ve been able to go a few years and then I spiral down into another serious depression.  After which, I end up back on my medicine.  In September or October 2017, I had a breakdown.  This one was worse than any I  had in the past and back on my medicine I went.  This time I won’t be weaning off.   I’ve decided that being on medicine helps me be consistent and it helps me give the best me to everyone.

After my 2017 breakdown and being back on my medicine for about three months  I was feeling good emotionally.  However, I was always exhausted so when I went in for my annual physical I talked to my doctor about the exhaustion and she had my vitamin D was tested.  I was quite surprised when the results came back and I saw how severely low in my levels were.  The doctor prescribed three months of 50,000 IU of Vitamin D a week and had me return for re-check just before the prescription ran out.  Thankfully, after the initial three months, my levels were within range.  I was, however, advised to continue to supplement with at least 1,000 IU Vitamin D3.

Creating Our Own Deficit

In this day and age, we take a lot for granted.  We are relatively disease free thanks to vaccinations.  Technology has simplified life and brought much right to our fingertips.  We can order meal kits to be delivered, groceries to be picked up or delivered, or even full meals to be delivered to our door.  If we’re not feeling good, most times, a doctor can give us a prescription to fix what ails us.  Because life is so ‘simplified’, we sometimes forget that what we do, or lack of what we do can be adversely affecting our health.  One thing that is very important to our health is Vitamin D and if I were to guess, I’d imagine almost no one even thinks about this vitamin.  But it really is something we should pay attention to for two reasons.

#1- Vitamin D is vital to our bodies functioning correctly

#2- you are likely reducing your exposure to Vitamin D and don’t realize it.

What Vitamin D Does

Originally Vitamin D was linked to the body’s ability to absorb calcium.  It keeps bones from getting brittle, soft and deformed.  Vitamin D is also important to healthy immunity.  Additionally, low Vitamin D is shown to have links to diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, cancer, and autoimmune disease.

Why am I at risk

  • Not eating enough foods with Vitamin D
  • Not getting enough outside exposure to the sun (5-30 min per day- glass blocks what you need from the sun)
  • Using sunscreen (blocks UVB rays of the sun we need a little each day)
  • People with darker skin need 25 times more exposure to the sun than a light  skinned person
  • People with Liver or Kidney issues (The liver stores vitamin D and  the kidney activates it)
  • Living in the North US and Canada because there are fewer daylight hours
  • Elderly- Thinner skin can lead to less Vitamin D production
  • Breastfed Babies- If mom is low on Vitamin D baby may be too
  • Pregnant women
  • Obese persons
  • Some medicines can interfere with the absorption or production of Vitamin D

Symptoms

Not everyone actually shows symptoms of a Vitamin D deficiency.  When they do, some of the symptoms may be:

  • Tiredness
  • General aches and pains
  • Feeling ‘Blue’
  • Depression

More severe deficiencies sometimes show the following symptoms.

  • Bone Pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Getting sick more often

Ways to Increase

There are several ways you can increase your vitamin D.  The easiest thing, in my opinion, is to get outside more and when you do, don’t forget the sunscreen, but give yourself at least 30 minutes with no sunscreen on so your skin can absorb the much-needed UVB rays.  You can add foods that naturally have Vitamin D in it to your diet.  You can eat fatty fish, such as Tuna, Salmon, and Mackerel.  Other foods would be beef liver (although not sure I could eat this one), cheese, mushrooms, and egg yolks.  Adding vitamin D fortified foods is also a good idea.  Milk, breakfast cereals, orange juice, dairy products such as yogurt, and soy products are just some examples.

Additionally, you can supplement Vitamin D3.  This is one method I use.  The supplement I take combines both D and K2 because, in my research, I read of some benefits to combining the two.  In the simplest form, vitamin D is what your body uses to help absorb the calcium, but vitamin K2 is what tells your body where to put the calcium.  I won’t go into the specifics of this as it would be a whole other posting.  The best thing to do is talk to your doctor if you are concerned about your levels of vitamin D.  There is a simple blood test that can be taken to determine if you are deficient or not.  After that if supplementation is needed, you can discuss with your doctor if should supplement with D3 alone or with K2.

For further information regarding Vitamin D and Vitamin K2, please see my references below.  They are a great starting point for your research.

References-

Psychology Today-  Vitamin D Deficiency and Depression

Mayo Clinic- What are the risks of vitamin D deficiency

Very Well Fit-Vitamin D deficiency signs and symptoms

Dr. Alex Rinehart- The Vitamin D and Vitamin K2 Connection: Understanding the Mechanisms, What to Test,  and How Much D3 and K2 to Take

Dr. Mercola- Vitamin D and K2 Work in Tandum to Slow Arterial Calcification.

Reevaluating and Starting New

If you’ve seen my blog in the past, you may notice all my historical content is gone.  I’ve played around with this blog for several years, but the last two have been almost non-existent.  This week I sent out a new post stating I was back and that I’d be writing more often.  This week I spent time trying to get this blog back up and running.  Because of technical difficulties I made the decision to blast the old site and start new.  For all my viewers, old and new, let me introduce myself and share a bit about my life.

About Me

I am a full-time working mother living in the Midwest with my husband and two boys.  At times, I suffer from depression and anxiety.  However, I have been working very hard to learn how to manage these diseases.  I am also, a strong believer in normalizing discussions relating to mental health.   I have a very supportive network of family and friends which has been a blessing when I need it.  My boys and I have a great relationship, but the teenage years are upon us, so I foresee interesting times ahead.  However, I continue to search for the ever elusive work-life balance.

I have boys logo

Family Life

As I mentioned, I have two boys. Currently, one is in sixth and one is in seventh grade. My oldest has a diagnosis relating to perfectionism and anxiety, but I’ll skip the technicalities. He is in three advanced courses and with his diagnosis, the school year is sometimes interesting. Occasionally, the stress causes his anxiety to surface and I help calm his anxiety. My second son is also in advanced classes and we know has a bit of anxiety as well. He handles things pretty well, but he also has he needs to talk too. I am very lucky that both the boys are comfortable coming to me.

We spend our summers at the ballpark with the boys playing baseball. They get their enthusiasm for the sport from their dad and have been learning about the sport since before they could talk. Summer baseball can get hectic, but every couple of years they end up in the same bracket and are drafted to the same team.  But some seasons, like this year, they are in different leagues and we either end up running every night of the week or we have two games on the same night. This is my husband and I we divide and conquer.

My husband has a very stressful job but does his best to get to all the kids’ functions even when work is busy. He is very knowledgeable with technology, which is what he likes to play around with in his free time, but he’s very handy too. He has built a murphy bed in our guest room so I could have a private place to exercise (mental health win!). Recently, he built me some sliding drawers for my kitchen cabinets.

Family Fun

We work hard and so do our boys, so we like to have fun and relax when we can.  Every year we take a family vacation that my husband plans- with our input.  Occasionally, we go on adult only trips and are lucky enough to have grandparents nearby that love spending time with the boys.  Not all fun has to be in the form of a long trip though.  We enjoy many activities as a family.

During the summers we often visit the local zoo.  We bike as a family around some local paths and also have been known to geocache together.  My youngest will sometimes do a 5K with me, though he leaves me in the dust 🙂 .We are usually on the lookout for a fun activity at a fair price.   We can usually find at least one professional baseball game to attend each year.  My parents live near a lake so we often travel up that way during the summer, especially since my oldest has taken an affinity to the sport of fishing.

In the winter, it a little more difficult, but we manage.  We ski as a family a couple of times a year.  Sometimes we go tubing too.  Science museum offers entertainment opportunities when it’s cold out as well.  This past weekend we bought walk-up tickets to the Monster Jam.  So we manage to find things to do.

boys skiingfamily at monster jam

Weekend fun and activities as a family are very important to both my husband and me.  Since both of us work full-time, we consider the weekends very important to connect with our boys.  I believe this is one reason we have a pretty good relationship with them and they are comfortable talking to us about a variety of things.

Moving Forward

I’ve been known to talk a bit too much, so I think this is a great stopping point for a starting over post 🙂 .  Life is interesting and it keeps getting more interesting as the family grows up.  I look forward to sharing with my readers.  This blog is growing and developing, so I’d love to know what interests my readers.  Please let me know in the comments what subject you’d find interesting and I’ll do my best to write on them, be it related to family, current events, ect.