Why a vitamin D deficiency can have you feeling down

The winter months seem to put a dark cloud over North Dakota, literally and figuratively.

Psychologists say that winter time depression, or "seasonal affective disorder," is more myth than fact.

However if you don't get enough sunlight, in addition to other factors, it is factual that you can experience some symptoms of depression.

"The sun exposure in the winter months is not high enough to get us vitamin D," nutrition professor at Minot State University, Jane Hirst said.

That's one reason a person can have a vitamin D deficiency and experience things like depression, fatigue, or even osteoporosis.

It can come from a lack of intake or a separate condition.

Kayla Cole, an outpatient dietician at Trinity Health said, "Vitamin D is a fat-soluable vitamin and part of the reason I was deficient was because I was undiagnosed celiac disease and had malabsorption."

In North Dakota, the many months with fewer hours of sunlight don't necessarily cause a deficiency, but can be a contributing factor.

"We don't actually get vitamin D from the sunlight but we get those UV rays that help to synthesize vitamin D in our skin. It helps our bodies to make it," Cole said.

The National Institutes of Health say that the season, length of day and cloud cover are factors that affect sun exposure and vitamin D synthesis.

But it also goes on to say that "geographic latitude does not consistently predict average vitamin D levels in a population."

So a trip to the tanning bed won't solve the problem, but there are other solutions.

Cole said, "All types of vitamin D, whether it's from our food or helping synthesize from our skin or from a supplement can help with deficiencies."

Hirst said your best bet is through a supplement, "There are very few foods that provide us with vitamin D. Milk is fortified with vitamin D but even then we would have to drink 20 cups to get adequate amounts of what we need."

These tips aren't just for adults.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that breast-feeding moms and even their babies take vitamin D supplements.

Formula is even fortified with adequate vitamin D, so the importance of adequate intake goes for people of all ages, all the time.

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