If you typically feel the winter blahs or the February blues, then you might be experiencing SAD, or seasonal affective disorder. SAD is a type of depression that affects people in the winter months because of the darkness from shorter days and grayer skies. It is more common in women than men and in the north than the south.
Symptoms of SAD can be low energy, anxiety attacks, weight gain, sleeping too much, and decreased libido, all of which typically begin in the late fall and alleviate in the spring. But here is the good news. People with SAD often respond very well to light therapy (phototherapy) and vitamin D supplementation as well as other forms of natural medicine. Be sure to talk to your doctor about symptoms you are experiencing, for a proper diagnosis.
Start taking a vitamin D supplement now. Even better, have your levels assessed at your doctor’s office using a simple blood test known as serum 25OHD. Vitamin D3 is now known to be useful for not only bone health, but also immune system health, inflammation, against all forms of cancer, and of course mood.
People with SAD have higher levels of melatonin, the brain chemical that induces sleep. Light therapy is helpful for SAD because full spectrum lighting regulates the production of melatonin. Melatonin regulates daily patterns. Full spectrum light bulbs and light boxes are available.
Other things that you can do to stay ahead of the game are:
- Regular outdoor exercise
- Proper rest
- Enjoyable mental activities
- Deal with stress in positive ways
Dietary treatment of SAD begins by an assessment of nutritional status and toxin levels. Nutritional deficiencies can alter the functioning of the nervous system.
B vitamins are known as the “stress vitamins.” Taking a complete B-complex formula can help both your brain and your adrenal glands function effectively; the adrenal glands produce hormones that enable our bodies to fight stress. B vitamins are also needed to optimize neurotransmitter production – in particular vitamin B6. Also ensure that you are supporting your adrenal glands.
Whenever anyone is depressed it is important to maintain stable blood sugar levels. Balancing blood sugar is important because fluctuations can aggravate SAD. Avoid caffeinated drinks, alcohol, tobacco, saturated fats, artificial sweeteners, wheat, refined flour products, refined sugar products, and any foods for which you have a sensitivity. Eat a whole foods diet, including fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains (especially oats) and nutritional yeast.