The Winter Blues

grief-snowAre you suffering from “The Winter Blues?” This is the sadness or increased tired feeling that can occur when the days are shorter and the sunlight is at a minimum.

The link between sunlight exposure and depression can be linked to a decrease in the neurotransmitter Serotonin. The winter blues, officially known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is characterized by a decrease in energy level, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, weight gain, and carbohydrate cravings, among other things. These symptoms are worsened by a decrease in fresh air and exercise that accompany the colder weather.

Vitamin D is naturally made in the body when UVB rays are absorbed in the skin. It is important because it helps calcium get into bones, decreases risks of cancer, autoimmune disease, and infections. It does not take a lot of UV rays to provide a daily dose, only 10-15 minutes of sun expose in a short sleeve shirt and shorts (during late spring and summer) is sufficient. The lighter the skin the less time needed and the darker the skin the less effective conversion. This is not a recommendation to lay out all day sun tanning or going to a tanning bed.

sun mapVitamin D can also be supplemented. A typical dose is 1000-1500 IU/d daily. This is important for people who either have medical or personal reasons for not getting any sun exposure or during the early spring late fall and winter who live above latitudes above 37 degrees north (above Texas…see map).

If you live above that line it is not possible to get enough Vit D from the sun.

Vitamin D is not extremely common in foods but some common sources with good levels of Vit. D are listed in the table below

Selected food sources of vitamin D
Food Vitamin D (IU*)
Salmon, 3.5 ounces 360
Mackerel, 3.5 ounces 345
Tuna, canned, 3.5 ounces 200
Orange juice, fortified, 8 ounces 100
Milk, fortified, 8 ounces 98
Breakfast cereals, fortified, 1 serving 40–100
*IU = international units
Source: Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health


Since vitamin D is fat soluble, taking some form of healthy fat with it will also help optimize absorption. Vitamin A, zinc, and boron are other important cofactors that interact with vitamin D. vitamin K2 and magnesium in conjunction with it.

Other things that can help:

  1. Exercising
  2. Sleep
  3. Avoiding processed foods
  4. Optimizing your gut health.
  5. Increasing high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fats.