During the cold dark days of winter, is it hard to get up in the morning? Do you always feel fatigued in the winter months? Is it difficult to concentrate? Feel less frisky in the romance department? These are symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. Other symptoms might include sweet and starch cravings, weight gain, irritability and anxiety. There may also be other symptoms such as guilt, hopelessness, and headaches. SAD symptoms return year after year and tend to come and go about the same time each year.
SAD may affect as many as half a million people in the US. Another 10% to 20% may experience mild SAD. SAD is more common in women. It is uncommon in those under 20. SAD is more common in northern regions such as the Pacific Northwest.
Some scientists believe SAD may be a biological response to less winter sunlight. Melatonin is involved in setting your biological clock. Morning sunlight tells your brain to begin your daily rhythms. Although Sad’s exact causes are not yet understood, it is likely that serotonin levels in the brain are disrupted leading to depression and other symptoms.
There are several ways to address SAD naturally. One of the easiest ways is light therapy. Light therapy uses a special light box to expose your face to light for 30 minutes in the morning simulating summer morning light.
Fight carb cravings, and eat healthy protein such as nuts, eggs, meats, and beans with each serving of carbohydrates. Choose complex carbohydrates from whole grains and vegetables.
There is a link between low levels of Vitamin D and SAD. Most data supports a daily dose of 2000 IU of D3. Other sources of Vitamin D are cod, salmon, herring, sardines, fortified cereals and milk. Adding supplements of omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, melatonin, St John’s Wort and amino acids such as 5-HTP may be useful too. There may be potential drug interactions with these therapies, so check with your health care provider.
Exercise is an important in addressing depression. Get out and walk for 20 minutes regularly.
Acupuncture shows promising results in treating SAD by releasing serotonin and other hormones and has no side effects. Acupuncture is also an effective treatment for insomnia and fatigue. A treatment plan created with your acupuncturist can improve mood and energy by restoring balance to your body’s systems. Don’t be SAD this winter. Consult your Naturopathic Doctor or Acupuncturist if you believe you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder.