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Can vitamins help with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)?

Can vitamins help with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)?
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In the autumn and winter, it’s normal to experience a change in mood. As the days get shorter and there’s less sunlight, you might start to feel more sad, irritable and tired than usual. For some people, this can be a sign of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Do you have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

Feeling sad, worried or stressed at this time of year doesn’t necessarily mean you have Seasonal Affective Disorder, but it can still be worth speaking to a doctor if you’re concerned. SAD is a recognised mental health condition that can be properly diagnosed and treated, so you shouldn’t worry or feel embarrassed about seeking help.

SAD is a type of depression that is caused by the changing seasons. Most people who have it experience symptoms in the winter and feel better in the summer (although for some people it’s the opposite).

You might have SAD or another type of depression if you’re experiencing any of the following:

  • You’ve lost interest in hobbies or everyday activities that you normally find enjoyable.
  • You’re more irritable than usual, and don’t want to spend time with friends or family.
  • You feel unusually stressed or anxious and worry a lot about your future or the state of the world.
  • You feel bad about yourself and are having feelings of guilt or shame.

Other symptoms of SAD include:

  • Having little energy
  • Feeling very tired during the day
  • Sleeping for longer than normal
  • Finding it hard to concentrate

These kinds of symptoms should always be taken seriously, so if you’re experiencing them it’s a good idea to talk to your GP.

Lack of sunlight

In the winter more people are at risk of vitamin D deficiency because of the lack of sunlight. The NHS recommends that people in the UK consider taking 10mcg of vitamin D per day to help top up their vitamin levels and avoid deficiency.

A lack of sunlight is also thought to be related to SAD; however, we don’t exactly know what causes this condition. During the coldest months of the year, most of us get very little sun on our skin. Scientists believe this can cause problems with the production of hormones that regulate sleep and mood. If you’re struggling to get to sleep read our sleep top tips and speak to your doctor.

Treatments for SAD

If you visit a doctor about your SAD symptoms, you’ll probably be offered some different treatments. SAD is treated in the same way as any other kind of depression, often with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and/or antidepressants.

SAD light therapy

You can also manage your symptoms at home by getting as much natural light as possible, exercising outdoors, and using a SAD lamp. A SAD lamp is a lightbox designed to mimic sunlight. Sitting next to one for up to one hour each day is thought to regulate the hormones in your body responsible for sleep and mood.

The Beurer TL41 lamp features a fold out stand making it ideal for desks or bedside tables. With 10,000 lux of light, this lamp mimics the amount of sunlight found on a bright summer’s day. Helping to boost mood.

Browse our SAD lamps

Can supplements help with SAD?

Some people find that taking vitamin supplements, such as vitamin D helps with energy levels and tiredness. However, the NHS doesn’t recommend vitamins D as part of SAD treatment, so it’s best to speak to your doctor if you think you’re experiencing this mental health condition.

It’s perfectly safe to take supplements in their recommended daily doses, however you should avoid taking them as a substitute for proper medication, a varied diet and active lifestyle. If you’re feeling depressed, it’s important to get the advice of a doctor, and to take any medication you’re prescribed.

Winter health vitamins

If you want to support your health this winter you could consider taking vitamin supplements such vitamin D, iron, and B vitamins such as folate and B12. These can help support energy levels, but also shouldn’t be taken to replace a healthy diet.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that our bodies create when our skin is exposed to sunlight. In the winter, we don’t get enough sun on our skin, which means most of us are vitamin D-deficient at this time of year.  A vitamin D deficiency can make you feel tired, achy, and generally unwell. It can also have an affect on sleep quality. You should aim to take 10 micrograms of vitamin D supplements per day.

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Iron

Iron helps to make red blood cells, which are the cells that carry oxygen around our body. When we don’t get enough iron in our diet, we can develop iron deficiency anaemia. The symptoms of this include tiredness and lack of energy.

As with vitamin D, taking iron supplements may be a good way to keep your energy levels high and support your health during the winter.  You should aim to take no more than 20 milligrams of iron supplements a day. The NHS recommends 8.7mg for men of all ages and women over 50, and 14.8mg for women under 50.

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Vitamin B

There are eight types of B vitamin, and they mostly work by helping the body release energy from the food we eat. B9 (folate) and B12 also help to produce red blood cells.

The symptoms of a folate/B12 deficiency include tiredness, lack of energy, physical weakness, and low mood. Taking B vitamin supplements can be a good idea at this time of year to support energy levels in general You should aim to take 200 micrograms of folate (vitamin B9) per day and 1.5 micrograms of vitamin B12 per day.

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References

www.nhs.uk/conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad/
www.nhs.uk/conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad/symptoms/
www.nhs.uk/conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad/treatment/
https://patient.info/bones-joints-muscles/osteoporosis-leaflet/vitamin-d-deficiency
www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-d/
www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/iron/
www.nhs.uk/conditions/iron-deficiency-anaemia/
www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-b/
www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamin-b12-or-folate-deficiency-anaemia/
http://wlmht.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Vitamin-D-leaflet-A5-8pp.pdf