If you find yourself experiencing low mood, fatigue, irritability, and struggling to get up in the morning, you may have seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
According to NHS Inform, it affects around 2 million people in the UK and more than 12 million people across northern Europe.
The NHS recommends keeping active, getting outside where possible, having warm food and drinks, seeing loved ones, joining support groups and trying new hobbies as ways to tackle these symptoms, if they’re mild to moderate.
However, scientists at supplement brand Vegetology also recommend ensuring you’re taking the right vitamins to combat symptoms of fatigue and even boost your mood this winter. Here’s what they suggest.
Vitamins and supplements that might help
For fatigue and tiredness, take magnesium
Around this time, a lot of us are feeling generally more tired and lethargic. The obvious choice here is to reach for a cup of our favourite caffeinated drink but the effects of that are short-lived and the crash can be hard. At Christmas, especially when we tend to be socialising more, we need long-lasting energy.
This is where magnesium comes in. Magnesium helps with the production of ATP, which is the primary energy in our cells and is crucial for energy metabolism. Additionally, an insufficient amount of magnesium can worsen feelings of fatigue.
For an energy boost, take Vitamin B12
If you’re low in vitamin B12, taking a vitamin can help boost energy levels, leaving you feeling revitalised. It also supports our nervous and digestive systems while keeping our blood cells healthy.
If you have a deficiency in B12, you might experience symptoms such as fatigue, feeling faint, breathlessness and headaches. Vitamin B12 can also be found naturally in meat, fish, eggs and dairy products, according to Healthline.
For an immunity boost, take vitamin C
Of course, with colder months come seasonal illnesses such as colds and flu. Vitamin C is an essential throughout these months to keep the immune system in check, as well as preventing and alleviating inflammation.
If you find you’re more social than usual during the festive season – especially with all the winter markets, parties and family gatherings to attend – make sure you’re taking vitamin C to help protect you from the worst effects of lurgy season.
To improve your mood, take omega 3
When it’s dark and cold outside, it’s hard to keep yourself motivated to do the things you usually enjoy – and even get out of bed some mornings. Omega 3 can help you to get the little kick you need to keep going and can have a positive effect on mood.
Omega 3 is commonly found in seafood, nuts and seeds which are all foods that we tend to consume less of in the colder months as a result of seasonal changes and fish availability.
It’s crucial to note, though, that our bodies can’t naturally produce omega 3 in the way that it can for other vitamins so taking supplements, particularly at this time of year, is essential.
Improve wellbeing with vitamin D
Did you know that in the UK, we are advised by the government to take daily vitamin D supplements during the autumn and winter months? This is because vitamin D is the ‘sunshine vitamin’ and we get a lot more of it naturally from sunlight during the warmer months.
Of course, during autumn and winter we see a lot less of the sun and, as a result, we’re at risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Not only is it vital to our wellbeing, vitamin D is also essential in maintaining normal function of the immune system and blood calcium levels. This is important to keep our bones, teeth and muscles healthy.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health in the US, very little research has been done on dietary supplements other than vitamin D for seasonal affective disorder.
In what has been done, low levels of vitamin D have been found in people with SAD, but it’s not clear whether supplements can help to relieve symptoms. That said, some NHS doctors still recommend it for beating the ‘winter blues’.
Chris Smith, founder of Vegetology, commented: “It is common for people to feel like winter is getting the better of them and to feel lower in energy and mood. Although no vitamin is a cure for this, it has been shown that a lack in certain vitamins can cause this to worsen.
“So, it is incredibly important to make sure we are looking after our bodies, especially at this time of year.”
While vitamins can be helpful in giving our bodies a boost, if you’re struggling with your mental health this winter and it’s impacting day-to-day life, it’s best to speak to your GP who can offer further support.
Help and support:
Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393.
Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill).