Beating Seasonal Affective Disorder

Beating Seasonal Affective Disorder

Now that we are in the midst of the winter season, many people have started suffering from the winter blues. This is more commonly called Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.). 

Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that tends to occur as the days grow shorter in the fall and winter and there is decreasing amounts of light. People of all ages can develop seasonal affective disorder.

What are the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder?
Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder include depression, fatigue, decreased energy, crying spells, irritability, trouble concentrating, body aches, loss of sex drive, poor sleep, and overeating, especially of carbohydrates, leading to weight gain.

The symptoms of seasonal affective disorder typically tend to begin in the fall each year, lasting until spring with the more intense symptoms occurring during the darkest winter months.

What is the Naturopathic approach to treating S.A.D.?

Diet
Diet is an important factor when dealing with depression and lowered seratonin (a mood enhancing hormone in the brain) levels. It is important to eat foods that promote seratonin production and also increase the function of your immune system. Complex carbohydrates will keep seratonin levels stable. Some foods that are good sources of complex carbohydrates are fruits, raw vegetables, soy, and brown rice.
 
Foods that are high in protein will also improve your mood. Most meats will provide a sufficient increase in protein. However, fish and turkey are high in protein and will often provide a relief from anxiety and a renewed sense of well being. Foods to avoid are anything high in sugar and alcohol. These increase anxiety and can increase the risk of more serious depression.

Physical activity
Being physically active during the daytime, especially first thing in the morning during the winter, may help improve energy levels and relieve depression. Moderate exercises like walking (even in a brightly lit mall), stationary cycling, and swimming are a good way to start an exercise routine. Performing these types of exercises helps increase endorphin levels and therefore helps to enhance the mood.

Supplementation

Vitamin B Complex

B vitamins are an excellent support for metabolism and energy production. They are effective for supporting the nervous system and help relieve symptoms of stress and anxiety.
 
Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is obtained from sun exposure, foods, and supplements. Vitamin D helps the body maintain increased levels of serotonin during the winter. Getting enough vitamin D from sunlight during the winter months is very difficult so taking a vitamin D supplement is recommended.
 
Essential fatty acids (DHA)

Omega 3 fatty acids, especially DHA, a constituent of omega 3 fatty acids, helps to enhance focus, concentration, and mental clarity. It is energy for the brain! Fish oil supplements are especially high in DHA and can therefore be used to treat symptoms of S.A.D..

St. John’s Wart

This herb has been highly studied for its beneficial effects on depression and anxiety. This must be used with caution. You should not take St. John’s wort if you are taking other antidepressants. Also, St. John’s wort may cause light sensitivity. If you are using light therapy, you may not want to begin taking this herb. Please consult a health care practitioner before starting this.

Always check with a health care practitioner before trying these complementary therapies, as they may interact with other medications you are taking.

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