I was born in Calgary, Alberta – home of epic snowstorms and hail in July – so I’m no stranger to dismal weather.
But it wasn’t until I moved to Toronto, 5-odd years ago, that I started to feel the gloom in a big way. Winters have been hard on me, the past couple years in particular. In university, I lived near campus and walked pretty much everywhere. I found ample ways to be outside, soaking up sunshine at its prime hours; however, when I graduated and started working full-time, I began to miss out on those critical sunshine-y hours. Like many others in my situation, I chalked up my sudden blues to work-related stress and not enough sleep.
Vitamin D3, also known as a the “sunshine vitamin,” helps with the absorption of calcium, ultimately affecting things like nail and hair growth, and general energy levels. Its other key purpose: Fighting those winter blues.
As it turns out, light-skinned people tend to have higher levels of circulating vitamin D than dark-skinned people. Those of us with medium to dark complexion are naturally prone to seasonal depression because the dark pigment in our skin, melanin, blocks UV. Evolutionarily, the darker your skin tone, the closer to the equator you were most likely to reside – the result being, more sunshine and more exposure to natural sources of vitamin D. Evidently, this is not the case anymore, leaving those of us with darker complexion starving for the vitamin D our bodies so badly need, but aren’t able to get where we are situated.
Seasonal blues, weakness, and general aches and pains as are all signs of vitamin D deficiency – unfortunately, these symptoms can be attributed to almost any other ailment, so only a blood test can tell you for sure if you’re lacking.
Despite your walk to work, and the foods you’re eating, you’re probably not getting enough vitamin D. In Toronto’s overcast winters, you can’t really count on natural sunlight, and most foods don’t have enough to restore levels that have been plummeting since the fall.
It took me years of coaxing from my mom, and several trips to the doctor, to figure out a very simple fix to what felt like a much bigger problem. Depression has the tendency to manifest itself in dramatic ways, whether that be tears, or fatigue, or a dismal outlook on life. Regardless, I know from experience how much of a mental toll that persistent gloom can take on a person, and I realize it’s never an easy fix. Taking supplements by no means remedied all my bad days, but it helped, and its a start.