Vitamin D deficiency: Three key ways to beat the winter blues – expert’s top tips

Seasonal affective disorder symptoms explained

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Pushing into winter, the darkness will descend upon Britain earlier and earlier. To help mitigate the effects of a vitamin D deficiency, one expert shared her top tips. Specialist nurse adviser at Bupa UK, Fatmata Kamara, warned of winter depression, otherwise known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). “The darker days can disrupt your body’s internal ‘clock’ and affect the parts of your brain that make mood-regulating hormones, such as serotonin and melatonin,” Kamara explained.

The main symptoms of the winter blues include:

  • Having trouble waking, and sleeping more than usual
  • Feeling tired and lethargic
  • Feeling more hungry than usual and craving stodgy and sugary carbohydrates
  • Gaining weight
  • Finding it hard to stay connected with family and friends
  • Feeling anxious, irritable and experiencing a low mood
  • Having difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Losing interest in sex
  • Feeling heavy, sluggish and moving slowly
  • Feeling helpless or having suicidal thoughts.

The defining factor of SAD is that the symptoms of depression lift during the spring and summer months.

One key piece of advice from Kamara is to “get outside during daylight”.

“Get outside [during daylight] when you can,” she advises. “Even a cloudy day will provide your body with the light it’s craving.”

Another tip is to “brighten up your environment” by making a conscious effort to introduce as much natural sunlight into your working environment as possible.

You can help achieve this by sitting next to a window and having the curtains or blinds open.

“You could also try bringing the outside world in with some indoor plants to feel a bit closer to nature.”

Kamara added: “It’s important to eat a healthy, balanced diet to make sure your brain gets everything it needs to function properly.

“Try to eat little and often, and drink enough water throughout the day to help keep your brain energised and hydrated.”

Kamara also advises to “avoid drinking alcohol” as this can make you feel worse.

In addition to all of these tips so far, if you can exercise outdoors, the better you may feel.

“It doesn’t have to be too intensive, go for a walk or gentle jog or cycle if you feel up to it,” Kamara assured.

Social interaction is also incredibly important, so make sure to schedule in regular catch-ups with loved ones in advance.

The NHS also recommends everybody to take daily vitamin D supplements in autumn and winter.

The ideal dosage, suggested by the health body, is 10mcg daily, which is said to be “enough for most people”.

Experts at Lloyds Pharmacy pointed out that – in the short term – vitamin D deficiency can lead to:

  • Regularly getting sick
  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Bone and lower back pain
  • Muscle aches and pain.

In the long term, vitamin D deficiency can lead to chronic health issues, such as osteomalacia (soft bones).

While sunlight and supplementation are the best sources of vitamin D, your diet can help you get some vital vitamin D too.

Oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring and sardines are regarded as “excellent sources of vitamin D”.

If you are struggling with symptoms of depression, do book an appointment with your doctor.

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