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Fall Is Here, Are You SAD?

Autumn, SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder

Submitted by Dena Kemmet, Extension Agent/Family and Community Wellness

Fall Is Here, Are You SAD?

We've reached the point in autumn when many of us leave home for work in the dark and return to our homes in the dark. That's just how the seasons work in the Midwest.

You may be aware of a condition known as "SAD," or Seasonal Affective Disorder, which has symptoms that appear in the fall and can become more severe in the winter. A person with SAD may feel depressed, have low energy or trouble sleeping, or experience changes in appetite.

Be sure to discuss persistent SAD symptoms with a health-care provider to access appropriate treatment. Special lighting and other interventions are available.

Our lack of regular sunlight in the Midwest can have other effects on our health, too.

Without access to sunny days and adequate food or vitamin supplements, we may become "deficient" or at least "insufficient" in vitamin D. Vitamin D is known as the "sunshine vitamin" because sun exposure causes our skin to go into "vitamin D manufacturing mode."

People in the northern U.S. are more likely to be vitamin D deficient than people in other parts of the country, especially from October to April.

Vitamin D is produced in our body by the action of sunlight on our skin. The process also requires naturally occurring conversions by the liver and kidneys to become active. In general, depending on where you live and the color of your skin, getting adequate vitamin D may take only 15 minutes of sunlight exposure in the summer and 30 minutes in the winter.

Standing outside with bare arms in the winter in North Dakota is not advised, though.

In the meantime, when sunlight is sparse, make efforts to get adequate vitamin D all year through food or supplements. The Food and Nutrition Board recommends 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D for ages 1 to 69 and 800 IU for people over the age of 70. However, the Vitamin D Council and the Endocrine Society recommend higher daily doses.

Check with your health-care provider about taking a vitamin D supplement, particularly during winter months. Taking a vitamin D supplement certainly won't hurt you and probably will help maintain your vitamin D status. Stay within the limit of supplementation recommended by your health-care provider or pharmacist.

New nutrition labels that include the amount of vitamin D per serving in foods will be appearing in 2020. Some companies already use the new format.

Unfortunately, few foods naturally contain vitamin D in high amounts. Fatty fish such as swordfish, salmon, tuna and mackerel are among the best natural sources of vitamin D. A 3-ounce portion of cooked salmon, for example, has 447 IU. An egg has about 41 units of vitamin D. Fortified foods, such as milk and some types of orange juice and cereal, have added vitamin D.

Source: By Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Food and Nutrition Specialist

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