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Vitamin D: A Public Service Announcement

I've been preaching this gospel for two years now, and it goes something like this: Do you live in a place where there's winter? Do you have a job or lifestyle that requires you to be inside much of the time, and/or work at night? Please, please consider taking vitamin D supplements.

Why? Because taking vitamin D not only combats Seasonal Affective Disorder -- hugely important to those of us in northern climates, who see so little of the sun half the year -- but there is some evidence that it may also help prevent cancer and reduce your risk of heart disease, and has recently been linked to a lowered incidence of MS. I will let the CBC tell you more. (And Google can lead you to piles and piles of articles, study abstracts and press releases on this topic.)

Of course, I cannot speak to such claims. What follows is only anecdotal evidence, but it’s mine, and what I’ve experienced is enough to make me preach vitamin D to friends and acquaintances and random passers-by -- enough to make me type this rather than working on my book as I should be.

Physically, I do not respond well to cold temperatures, short and dark days, or winter in general. For years, I experienced symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder -- without really knowing or realizing that that's what was happening. It never occurred to me that the fact that I became convinced each winter, every winter, like clockwork, that I was a poor excuse for a human being, with no one who loved or cared for me, etc., etc., was a sign that something was wrong.

I have spoken in the last few days to friends who have also started taking D regularly (including one who works nights), and their experiences are much the same as my own: it feels like a miracle. I type to you now in early February, a time in years past when I often had trouble forcing myself out of bed at all, felt slow and heavy and lethargic, had trouble laughing or smiling -- had trouble at times even remembering that there were things worth smiling about. Now, with my 1,000 IU a day? I feel fine. Bloody cold, mind you, but not feeling as if I'm an inherently worthless person.

And that, dear readers, is so totally worth the $6.00 I paid for the vitamins.

I'm all for bright lights, and sit (or stand blissfully, like a spaced-out moron) in the sunlight whenever it's here. I'm not saying don't find or use a full spectrum light (unless you’re at particular risk for skin cancer, in which case be careful); I'm saying even if you use a light, take the supplements too. If you're drinking more milk to get the added vitamin D, or eating lots of salmon and eggs for the D there -- yay, smart plan! Still take the supplements.

Vitamin D supplements are very small, cheap, and easily swallowed or crushed. They also sell vitamin D drops these days, which can be added to food or drink. Supplements are easily and widely tolerated, quick to take, and rather difficult to overdose on.

I have no medical background or expertise, but my own experiences and those of my family and friends are what let me say: just try. Perhaps you'll find it's a miracle too.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 10th, 2009 12:58 am (UTC)
Considering that MS is relatively rampant in places like Winnipeg, and much less known further south, I think that link has been made anecdotally for some times and just not tested.

I don't get S.A.D., but I will say your advice is sound.
Feb. 10th, 2009 03:27 am (UTC)
Me too. I started taking vitamin D late last winter, and I've taken it all this winter.

Last winter my season depression was less severe than it had been in years past--at least partly because I wasn't having to head to work in the dark and come home in the dark the way most working folks do, but also very possibly because of the vitamin D.

This winter I've taken it as well and have no seasonal depression at all--you have to go back to my childhood to find the last time that was true.

As I say, could be the job situation more than the vitamin D, but I'm sufficiently inclined to credit the vitamin D that I'm going to keep taking it.
Feb. 10th, 2009 04:11 pm (UTC)
Preach it.

My mom also theorizes that even if you can get the sunlight at our latitudes, it's approaching from the wrong angle and is too weak when it reaches us to be as effective as it should be.
Feb. 10th, 2009 05:20 pm (UTC)
I haven't been taking D, but this past autumn I started St. John's Wort and I must say, the difference is undeniable. February used to be the worst month of the year for me. Now it is merely ... well, it's tolerable, anyway.

Hooray for chemical balance!
Feb. 26th, 2009 07:41 pm (UTC)
Vitamin and the common cold
To be transparent, I work on some projects with The Ddrops Company. They recently released a press release talking about a link between Vitamin D and the common cold. You can take a look at it here; http://www.ddrops.ca
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )