DIPS IN MOOD GETTING YOU DOWN? LEARN WHAT YOU CAN DO TODAY
By: Dr. Alison Gottschalk, ND
Dips and lows in mood can be common this time of year. We’re past the holiday season, back into the grind of work, and most of us are spending less time outside.
It is important to know that although low mood can be common this time of year, it doesn’t need to be, nor should it be. There are steps we can take to support your mood throughout this time, including important tests we want to run, to ensure there is not a physiological reason for this lull.
The main message with this post, is to seek help when needed, and get the care you are so deserving of.
Where do I start?
The first thing I ask patients with changes in mood, or seasonal affective disorder, is when was the last time they had their vitamin D status assessed. Unless you’ve had your vitamin D status tested on blood work recently, you may be someone who has low vitamin D, and not even know it.
Although called a vitamin by name, vitamin D can be better classified as a steroid hormone, with the functions it has within the body being so vast, and ever so vital for optimal health. Of particular note, its association with dips in mood and depression.
What should I be testing?
We want to be testing for 25-Hydroxyvitamin D. On your blood work report, the reference range says 75 – 250 nmol/L, however at least above 100 nmol/L for optimal health. Remember – season, race, sun exposure and supplemental dosage all affect levels.
This test is no longer covered under our OHIP system, primarily due to the notion that living in Canada, most people are deemed to be deficient. With that said, this is a test we as naturopathic doctors routinely run, as we still need to assess and correct for deficiencies for optimal health.
Although deficiencies are common, the daily dose best suited for you is determined by how deficient you are. It’s also important to note that in contrast to a vitamin like B12 for example, vitamin D isn’t easily excreted if we take too much, as we’re not going to readily urinate excess out, rather our bodies retain it. For this reason, we want to make sure we’re maintaining within the correct range over time by testing annually.
I’ve had my vitamin D levels tested and am supplementing appropriately, but what else can I do today?
There are lifestyle strategies we can implement, to ensure you are being supported in the best way possible.
- Connection. We know that social isolation can be one of the most detrimental factors for overall health, trumping even dietary habits, lifestyle factors including lack of exercise and smoking (wow!). For this reason, the first thing you should be doing – especially if you are someone who lives alone – is connecting with others, and carving out the time to do so. Go for coffee or lunch dates, find a gym buddy. When appropriate, the benefits of physical touch including a simple hug should not be undermined, as this fosters that sense of connection.
- Quality sleep. If you’re not sleeping well, with troubles initiating or maintaining sleep, find ways in which that can be addressed. As naturopathic doctors, this is one area we excel at, whether it is changing the nightly sleep habits, tackling those daily stressors, the incorporation of herbal medicine such as a lavender tea, or supplementation with magnesium or melatonin, if indicated and safe for you.
- Exercise. Moving your body via hiking, weight lifting, yoga, snowboarding or skiing this winter. Any activity that you enjoy, that gets your blood pumping.
- SAD Light Lamp. Benefits with mood are thought to be due to its effect on sleep-wake cycle, inhibiting daytime melatonin production, while increasing the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin.
- Correcting for other deficiencies on blood work. Low iron or B12 could be a source for dips in energy, which could certainly make dips in mood seem worse.
When in doubt, get yourself properly assessed. We want to make sure that there aren’t any underlying factors needing to be addressed, and we do all that we can to support you.
Have a question? I’d love to hear from you.
Book an appointment to get find out what you can do to start feeling better now!
-Dr. Alison Gottschalk, ND