S.A.D. makes people sad. Wintertime means depression for 35 million Americans. S.A.D. symptoms manifest after the autumn equinox as sunlight hours lessen. Unusual appetite and low energy aspects of S.A.D. show our ancient ties to seasonal rhythms as they affect our behavior. Over 80% of people affected are women (experts think women produce less serotonin, a mood enhancing brain chemical, than men). Work productivity noticeably declines; relationships suffer. S.A.D. disorder is latitudinal - in Mexico, Florida and Texas, only 1.4% of the population suffers from S.A.D. In Canada, over 17% of the population suffer from acute S.A.D. In the Northeast U.S., up to 50% of people have noticeable winter mood shifts.
Do you have winter S.A.D.? • Do you: oversleep or struggle to get out of bed, even if you get enough sleep? feel lethargic or have poor concentration during the day? suffer from eyestrain or headaches? feel overwhelmed by simple tasks? have unusually strong cravings for sweets or carbs? gain weight in the winter (up to 10-15 lbs.), even if your diet hasn’t really changed? feel more anxious, or low-energy? Do short periods of sunlight lift your spirits? Do you experience a “summer high” where you feel elated and full of energy? What causes S.A.D.? Not enough full spectrum light in winter months (the pineal gland doesn’t get enough light to stop secreting melatonin), hormone and body rhythm imbalance.
1. Conscious diet improvement is the key to reducing S.A.D. symptoms. A diet for hypoglycemia has been effective, low in fats and sugars. Make sure your diet is balanced, with natural foods, rich in complex carbohydrates, (to shift the distribution of amino acids in the blood). Add spirulina, with B-complex 100mg to balance sugar use.
2. Include B-vitamin and mineral-rich foods, like brown rice and fresh vegetables. Whole grains, legumes and soy products help control sugar cravings. Take Nutritional Yeast as a source of B vitamins and chromium.
3. Eat more vitamin D-rich foods: eggs, fish, seafoods and sea veggies (2 tbsp. chopped dry seaweeds or 6 pieces of sushi a week). Vegans may be at a higher risk since they don’t eat serotonin-enhancing foods like poultry, dairy foods and eggs.
• Light therapy is a widely accepted treatment for S.A.D., more effective than antidepressant drugs. Try to get 20 to 30 minutes of early morning sunshine to balance your serotonin levels. Otherwise, be aware that indoor or fluorescent light is not effective. Only full-spectrum light shuts off melatonin secretion to reduce S.A.D. symptoms. Exposure for 2 to 3 hours of light therapy offers up to 60% reduction in symptoms in 1 week.
• Though not approved by the FDA light boxes have shown definite effectiveness, if used from mid-fall until spring. Depression typically begins to lift a week after “photo-therapy” begins. Consider Environmental Lighting Concepts Ott-Lite.
Herb & Supplement Choices (choose 2-3)
1. Ease symptoms: • SAMe 400mg daily; • Depress-ex (Sunny Mood) caps with • St. John’s wort extract and Lemon Balm tea through the winter.
2. Normalizers: • Relax Caps or • St. John’s wort extract. • Gotu kola helps restore nerves to overcome mental dullness.
3. Vitamin D is a key: Take natural • vitamin D 400 to 1000IU daily all during the winter; or • Now Foods A & D 25,000/1,000IU.