How to take the correct vitamins for a happy and healthy lifestyle

Photo by Gabriel Mantione-Holmes

The rain is coming and sunny days will soon be only in daydreams and fond memories. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a mood disorder related to season changes, will soon be making its rounds. Students, faculty and staff will be at greater risk of experiencing SAD from lack of sunlight exposure with the rainy season moving in. According to the Mayo Clinic, SAD may be affected by lowered serotonin and melatonin levels.  

This is not a normal rainy season. The vast majority of people have been quarantining and socially isolating themselves over the course of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Quarantining and social distancing can lead to lower levels of vitamin D due to prolonged hours indoors. 

Vitamins should only be used if there is a deficient level in your body. To avoid intaking potentially hazardous levels of vitamins, the National Institutes of Health recommend following dietary reference intakes (DRI). The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences issued the DRIs as nutritional intake guidelines; the most notable DRI is the recommended dietary allowances which look at sufficient nutrient requirement intake. For those living in Portland and performing proper COVID-19 isolation techniques, you should look into taking at least some form of vitamin D. 

You can also work around the rainy season by investing in a sun lamp. The Mayo Clinic advises that you position your face 1.25 to 2 feet from the lamp for 20 to 30 minutes. Another option is to take a vitamin D supplement with a liquid after you eat, another strategy that does not take half an hour of your day.

There are two different forms of vitamin D; vitamin D3 is made by animals and is naturally produced by humans, while vitamin D2 is made by plants. While vitamin D2 is cheaper to manufacture, vitamin D3 is better absorbed by humans, according to the National Library of Medicine.  

An international research partnership between the University of Georgia, the University of Pittsburgh and the Queensland University of Technology in Australia conducted a review of over 100 articles and found a relationship between vitamin D and SAD.

According to Professor of Psychiatry Alfred Lewy at Oregon Health & Science University, 5% of the Portland metropolitan area’s population is severely affected by SAD and another 15% are moderately affected.

Vitamin D is not the only vitamin or supplement that you could benefit from. Iron deficiency is the most common deficiency worldwide and is especially prevalent in people who menstruate. Hormonal birth control can help with iron-deficiency anemia. Along with iron deficiency, students suffering from sleeping or following a plant based diet might want to look into melatonin or vitamin B.  

The University of Georgia Health Center reports that most college students get 6 to 6.9 hours of sleep per night. If you are having trouble sleeping or want to change your sleep schedule, using melatonin supplements can help. You can help promote sleep by taking one to three milligrams two hours before your desired bedtime.

If you have bad reactions to melatonin try incorporating lavender or magnesium into your nightly routine instead. Both have large bodies of scientific work that link them to better overall sleep. With lavender, studies show that smelling or taking 80 mg of a lavender oil supplement in the evening will improve sleep. With magnesium, 500 milligrams taken daily improves sleeping. 

Plant-based diets have been linked to vitamin deficiencies due to their more restrictive nature. According to the Mayo Clinic, if you follow a plant-based diet you are at a greater risk for deficiencies in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B-12, iron, zinc and iodine. The Harvard Health Publishing Staff warns that vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to deep depression, paranoid delusions, memory loss, incontinence, loss of taste and smell and more.

Vitamin deficiencies are a serious matter. Waiting too long to get the proper vitamins may be detrimental to your health. Most Lewis & Clark students are already at risk for a vitamin D deficiency due to the campus’ location and the time of year. If you think you might be deficient it is worth your time to purchase vitamins.

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