I have always been effected by SAD (seasonal affective disorder), ever since I was a kid. November and December were the “Heart of Darkness” where I struggled to stay awake, think straight, or get much of anything done.
Today I just realized that it’s “that time” and for the first time in my life, I am totally unaffected. Yesterday, I turned the compost pile, pulled up a bunch of plants, did laundry, got some computer stuff done with a minimum of idle surfing, took Ms. H to her doctor’s appointment and then the park, chased some wayward chickens through the neighbor’s yard, and made 5 turkey pot pies. I went to bed tired, but not feeling like I might be slipping into a coma. It’s and odd feeling, being chipper and energetic in the middle of winter! So what changed?
Well, a little less than a year ago, I stopped using soap to clean my body. I had read a fascinating article on Food Renegade about rickets being seen again in our kids, despite sun exposure and supplements. I wondered – why? – and did some research. As it turns out, your skin takes a good long while to synthesize vitamin D from sunshine. Lathering up? Well, it strips your body of oil – including the vitamin D being produced. My decision to stop using soap on myself and Ms. H (aside from hand-washing) stemmed out of this reading.
Today, here’s my 3 step routine to beat the winter blues:
1. Daily sun exposure. I try to go out for 15-20 minutes in the middle of the day, with as much skin showing as possible. Brrrr! It’s easier here (weather in the 50-60s) than other places, but even 10 minutes on your arms and chest will make a difference. If sun is not present at all (again, it doesn’t happen that often here), you could even see about finding a tanning salon with a UVB bed. Ask if they’ll let you use it for just 15 minutes. This is not to tan at all, just to get the UVB needed to start making some vitamin D.
2. Avoid soap (other than washing your hands). Your skin needs about 2 weeks to process the UVB rays in your skin and synthesize vitamin D. The vitamin D is then synthesized as an oil on the surface of your skin. As the oil is absorbed over time, vit D levels go up in your bloodstream.
Instead, try a very dilute solution of tea tree oil (1 tiny capful in a cup of warm water) on a washcloth. You could also try other antiseptic essential oils diluted – lavendar, eucalyptus, or oregano oil. I have bathed this way for almost now, and honestly I smell better than ever. I think my underarms have been also able to reestablish good bacteria, meaning that my pits are less stinky too! Another bonus – no winter scaly skin. Even my elbows are baby-soft.
3. Cod liver oil, 2 tsp a day. It’s less gross than it sounds, plus you’re getting all those healthy Omega-3s. I buy the fermented kind – it has the most bioavailable vitamin D. In terms of bioavailability in general, CLO beats out most synthetic vitamin D supplements.
For a rundown of the importance of vitamin D for mood and health, this is a great summary.
Still, I can hardly wait for spring to come again. But in the meantime – here’s to happy, energetic winters!